Diversifying outward mobility programmes for UK students

Diversifying education news

Birmingham City University and Universities UK International (UUKi) have come together to better understand the challenges preventing less advantaged students from studying abroad as part of their degree programmes.

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Birmingham City University

The two institutions are co-hosting a workshop in Birmingham on Monday 25 September, where students from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds are being invited to explore existing barriers to participation through focus groups and interactive sessions.

Previous findings show that mobile students have better degree outcomes, lower unemployment rates and higher starting salaries than their non-mobile peers and yet, the UK has a comparably low rate of outward student mobility. For some groups of students further barriers exist and participation in outward mobility is still dominated by those from more advantaged backgrounds.

The workshop at Birmingham City University, therefore, will be focusing on the outward mobility experience of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) scholars, disabled students and those who are care leavers.

Widening participation toolkit

Issues such as finance, communication, application processes, cultural-specific concerns and personal impact will be discussed, and findings will inform UUKi as part of a European Commission funded initiative. The national project will develop a toolkit to support institutions to advance and implement effective strategies to widen participation in mobility programmes.

Katherine Allinson, Policy Researcher at UUKi, said:

“The workshop has been designed to help us better understand the challenges of outward mobility, helping future generations of students benefit from going abroad.

“Alongside the potential to learn a new language, outward mobility helps make a student more attractive to prospective employers, coming equipped with an enhanced global outlook, and we want to ensure that these opportunities are open to everyone, no matter what their background or personal circumstances are.”

As a result of concentrated efforts to enrich its own students with a global outlook as they prepare to enter the increasingly diverse and internationalised workplace, Birmingham City University has gone from placing six students in short-term mobility programmes outside of Erasmus+ in 2015-16 to over 150 in 2016-17.

Birmingham’s diverse student body

The Birmingham City University student body is one of the most diverse in the UK, with 45 per cent of its students from low income households and 48 per cent from BAME backgrounds. Encouragingly, there is now a strong balance of BAME students attending all the summer schools being offered in Brunei, India, Taiwan and South Korea, with the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) Global Discovery Programme particularly attractive to female BAME students.

Maggie Wootton, Head of Operations, International Partnerships at Birmingham City University said:

“As well as offering a programme that is socially-enriching and ideal for developing leadership skills, Brunei also appealed to Muslim students, who were confident they would be able to practice their faith while abroad, with both mosques present and halal food readily available in the local area.

“The link between the students’ cultural background and a new experience in Brunei was highlighted by students who were keen to develop their understanding of their own faith in other contexts.”

Unlike other institutions, places for Birmingham City University’s summer schools are not offered based solely on academic merit and students are asked to discuss the extra-curricular activities they participate in that complement their academic achievement, including Student Union (SU) engagement and commitments away from the University, such as community activities, sports clubs and volunteering.

The inspiration from this approach came from the University’s Graduate+ initiative, which is a brand new extra-curricular awards framework designed to capture and provide evidence to help students grow as a person whilst preparing them for their future career aspirations.

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