21 Mar 2017
As economic, innovation, business and cultural networks stretch across the whole globe, opportunities for students to spend time abroad as part of their studies are more important than they have ever been.
There is evidence that employers value the advantages graduates bring who have spent time overseas, but think they are in too-short supply. The 2015 CBI/Pearson report on employer demand for skills showed that 39% of employers were not satisfied with graduates’ international cultural awareness and 54% were not satisfied with graduates’ language skills, which, while not always necessary for success, indicate an international outlook and foster international partnerships.
For students with limited financial and cultural capital the prospect of study abroad may be daunting. The costs alone can be considered prohibitive. But there is also the lack of tangible credit associated with a period studying overseas which may deter students unversed in the rules of CV-building. Finally, there is the very real issue of loss of contact for a student with their cohort and their friends if they take a year out.
The University of Bedfordshire's Go Global initiative was designed to address these barriers, expanding access to mobility and broadening the horizons of students, some of whom had never left the UK.
The initial scheme in 2013 saw 150 UK and EU students visit the university's partner institution, CAU University in Beijing for an 8 day visit. Since 2013, over 700 students have made similar Go Global visits to other partner universities in China, Vietnam, Malaysia/Singapore, India and the New York organised by their academic partners. Students only pay £350 towards the cost and the balance is paid by the University. During the same period, the University sent 300 international students on Go Europe mobility trips to European capitals. The subsidised cost to these students was only £150.
As part of the trip, the students will visit historic, cultural and heritage sites and local companies, often with partner students. They also receive lectures on the economy and job market.
The university's approach to establishing Go Global opportunities involved carefully picking solid long term TNE partners: China Agricultural University in Bejing and Guandong University of Foreign Studies in Guandjo. For the trips to succeed they need to be based on partnerships where there is a value fit between the institutions, where long standing personal academic relationships provide glue to cement the initiative, where as an institution you are familiar with the environment so as to best support your students. As the scheme has expanded the university has targeted locations in parts of the world which will lead the global economy of the future.
Student feedback has been exceptional. Christian said, “My trip to China was something I’ll never forget. It has taught me that it is more important than ever to have a global focus to achieve both career and study goals.” And Olivia, a Criminology student said, “I do feel like a changed person. It’s opened our eyes.”
Going forward the University of Bedfordshire is planning to make Go Global co-curricular and credit bearing, because the skills and attributes developed by this period overseas are those most highly valued by employers.
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