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How Affordable Study Abroad Programmes are Opening Doors for UK Students

Hannah Gordon explores the rise of short-term study-abroad opportunities and increased global mobility funding for students in the UK.

On 6 January 2023, I landed at Vancouver International Airport to begin my semester abroad. It felt surreal to know that after months and months of preparation, I was finally in Canada. The mix of anticipation and excitement is something I will never forget. I had been a Londoner my whole life – I did not leave home for university – and now I was going to be living and studying on the other side of the world. My reasons were simple; I wanted a challenge. Four months was the perfect length of time. I could experience the wonders of Canada and, more importantly, I could afford it.

I am not alone as increasing numbers of students are opting for affordable short-term study-abroad programmes. According to Universities International UK`s 2019 survey, “short-term options of four weeks or less now account for 21.0% of all reported mobility, compared with 15.3% for the previous year’s cohort.  The demand for short-term mobility placements is increasing as students seek affordable ways to stand out in a competitive and increasingly globalised job market. Furthermore, to provide more study abroad opportunities, the Turing Scheme has pledged that in 2023- 2024, most of their study abroad funding will go to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Students of Tomorrow are  ‘Global Citizens’

Universities are looking to capitalise on students’ international interests. In 2019, Forward College created a Bachelor’s degree in partnership with The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and King’s College London (KCL). Students who partake in the degree can live in Lisbon, Paris and Berlin throughout their studies. The founder and CEO of Forward, Boris Walbaum said “Forward College has as one of its core ambitions the aim to train positive leaders who will be able to identify shared purposes and engage people across all fields of expertise, organisations, cultures and social barriers”.

Another notable example of a new international approach to study is Minerva University. Students complete online classes to develop their interdisciplinary skills and solve current problems facing the world today. Throughout the degree, students will travel to Taipei, Berlin, London, Hyderabad, Seoul and Buenos Aires. Netflix’s co-founder, Reed Hastings, has recognised the programme’s distinct international scope, and provided $20 million in funding:

“Minerva students have a depth of global cultural understanding, intellectual skills that cross disciplines, and problem-solving abilities unique to higher education. I see incredible potential for Minerva University to increase its positive impact on the world.”

91% of students secured a graduate job 6 months – showing Minerva does deliver outstanding results

‘Short-Term Mobility, Long Term Impact’

It is clear that students still want to study abroad for the entire duration of their degree, however, in the UK, there has also been a rise in students looking for short-term opportunities to study abroad. In 2019, the report  ‘Short-term Mobility, Long-term Impact’ was published to learn more about the rising popularity of these study abroad programmes. The report summarised its findings in some key statistics:

“The majority (94%) said they were generally interested in further travel following their mobility period, 82% said they were more likely to consider working in another , country after graduation, and more than two-thirds (69%) were interested in doing an internship abroad. Students also reported being more engaged on their home campus following their short-term programme: almost three quarters (74%) said they were more likely to engage with international students on campus, with 43% strongly agreeing, while 72% were more likely to take part in international opportunities on campus, including buddy schemes, language classes and virtual programmes.”

These statistics show a pattern; students who study abroad are positively impacted by their experience and want to broaden their knowledge via more international experiences in the future. They are already at an advantage as “less than 10 per cent of the UK student population study abroad”. Short-term mobility gives more students the chance to gain unique experiences and build their employability arsenal.

The Turing Scheme and the Future of Study Abroad in the UK

While the opportunity to venture outside the UK is open to students of high family income, recent schemes have attempted to open this up to students across generations. One such organisation is the UK’s global programme to study and work abroad – The Turing Scheme. They are looking to improve global mobility prospects as “disadvantaged participants are set to take up two-thirds of the international study and work opportunities approved under the Turing Scheme in the 2023 to 2024 academic year which is up from 51% last year”.

This outlook is clearly promising for future study-abroad students as funding and bursaries are giving a new generation of students the chance to study abroad. The Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said: “young people taking part will benefit from inspirational placements around the world that will build the confidence they need for their future”.

Halfon’s statement reflects the experiences of my own journey abroad; the person who left Canada was not the same person who came home. I became a more well-rounded student with a newfound desire to challenge myself and say yes to more opportunities. In interviews, employers always ask about my time abroad and I am happy to share what I learned. Four months gave me a glimpse into a world of possibilities. It was impactful, enjoyable and most importantly cost-effective. With more students electing to study abroad each year, who knows where their adventures may take them?


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