British students = provincial?

by jguiver on 19/12/2011

A number of reports in recent weeks claim British students lack a ‘global outlook’, and as a nation we risk being “left behind by emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil” because our students are reluctant to leave home even for one semester abroad.  The findings of the Next Generation:UK research showed that most British students do not believe having an international experience will benefit their future work prospects.

British business leaders have said they struggle to recruit recent graduates who can ‘think globally’ because they lack an understanding of the wider world.  A separate but similar study by the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) and research agency CFE says that “cultural agility is the most desirable graduate skill cited by multinational employers”.  The same study goes on to say that the “external mobility of UK students is low” and calls for UK HEIs to provide more opportunity for students to gain a global outlook, which includes internationalized curricula and more study abroad opportunities. 

David Docherty, who is the chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education, says “universities need to work harder to turn UK students into global graduates”.  I work closely with colleagues in the study abroad office at my university, and I’m sure my colleague who heads the department would take great offense to David Docherty’s edict.  Short of physically forcing a student onto a plane for a study abroad experience, there is only so much promotion, encouragement and opportunity-providing one can do.  Students list all kinds of reasons why they can’t or don’t want to go abroad: miss my friends, will lose my job, just found a great apartment and don’t want to lose it, too expensive. 

Cost tends to be the main deterrent to study abroad; so if we, as a nation, are falling behind because our students aren’t able to compete in the global race to find good jobs, shouldn’t we be helping them financially to make it possible?  I’ve written about this before in my post ‘Show me the money! (for study abroad)’.  The USA has its ‘100,000 Strong’ initiative.  And Brazil’s much-touted study abroad scholarship programme aims to provide more than 100,000 Brazilian students with scholarships so that they can have an overseas study experience.  Even though a number of challenges remain to achieving that goal, the Brazilian government recognized the necessity of setting up such a study abroad scholarship programme.  Will the UK government be far-sighted enough to dig deep into its pockets and do the same?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Fisher December 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm

One positive from the higher fees in the UK is that more British students (or at least more English ones) may now consider studying abroad; but the ‘fog in Channel, Continent cut off’ mentality is still a pretty strong one here.
Andrew Fisher recently posted..Christmas comes early


jguiver December 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hi Andrew

Absolutely. That’s the hope, at least. I’ve been chatting with some UK secondary school university advisers, and they have said that they are getting more enquiries from their students about studying in Europe and in the USA. So it means that students are thinking about studying in other countries, if not yet taking the leap.
Have a great Christmas!


Zachary Macinnes December 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Great post. I’d be curious to see the numbers are on short-term experiences vs. traditional semester-long direct enrollment abroad in the UK. Is there an English version of “Open Doors” somewhere out there?


jguiver December 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Hi Zac

Glad you liked the post! Unfortunately, there isn’t anything like Open Doors here, although it would be useful. Until recently I don’t think there was a nation-wide record of the numbers of UK students going abroad, although I think some ed orgs are trying to collate that info now. We do, however, record statistics on the numbers of international students coming into the country.

Happy Holidays!


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