Mobility = Employability!

On the train back musing about my talk to sectoral colleagues at Coventry University. Provocatively titled: Mobility = Employability! I offer some excerpts here-in case they be of interest more widely.

We know that the skills and mindsets acquired by mobile students are in demand by employers. In fact, 64% of employers in 2015 argue that those with an international experience as part of their degree are more employable – up from 33% when compared with 2006. The first Erasmus Impact Study exploring the value of experience abroad  confirmed this.

Globally, mobility is on the rise with recent projections estimating a total of 8 million internationally-mobile students each year by 2025 (see the Global BU infographic). Yet we also know that we as an economy fare poorly on mobility. Only 4.5% (or just over 10,000) of all students in UK HE in 13/14 were outwardly mobile, whilst Germany and Spain for instance each sent out over 50,000 students abroad.


Infogr to Blog Post v 2.fw

That’s pretty dire-don’t you agree? So can poor mobility be one of the contributing factors to the sectors embarrassing graduate employment rates – I ask? Can we, by inculcating and encouraging mobility in our student experience offers, also tackle the biggest challenge facing universities – our role in shaping a skilled and employable workforce of the future?

We also know the dominant barriers to mobility as collated by a recent British Council study, where the high cost (48%), the lack of confidence with language skills (36%) and perceived difficulties with adapting to a different culture (19%) all contribute to the status quo in UK HE outward mobility.

So what are we doing to respond to these common barriers to student mobility? The University of Nottingham, for example, embarked on strengthening its funding mobility opportunities, where 80% of the students receive funding for mobility. University of Manchester provide a compulsory year abroad on 100+ of their UG and PG programmes, whilst Keele University have introduced a cross-culture module for study abroad aimed at improving the cultural awareness of students on mobility programmes.

Of course Coventry, with its pioneering Global Leaders Programme, is also sector leading in its efforts and offer in this area, but we need more Coventries as what’s at stake is not our Universities but our worsening positioning on the 2015 Global Talent Index, where the UK is currently 14th – two positions down since 2011 Global Talent Index figures (Heidrick and Struggles, 2015). If we agree that mobility = employability then we have to deliver on this to retain and improve our competitiveness in the world rankings on talent development and supply through our graduates into our regions and nations.

I am sure there are strong counter arguments or questions on mobility outcomes data or its significance but if we look beyond the immediate and focus on 2030 then in our hearts we should know that developing our current students as tomorrow’s global talent is a shared responsibility of every staff member in global HE. I can only use my own example here – my own career graph had a steady incline largely owing to my mobility and acquisition of unique skills that come with the territory.

Mobility is not, for me, defined by the places you visit or the planes you take and the people you meet, mobility for me is having a ‘global mindset’ a mindset that is confident in its frame but mobile in its lifelong development.

Of course the danger in all of this is that I get labelled the ‘mobile PVC’ but then again being called by all kinds of names other than yours comes with the senior management territory so why not the mobile PVC – you won’t find me parked selling lunchtime burgers outside your Uni per se but you may find me driving the message “Mobility=employability” at your University next. Do look out for the Global Talent programme that we are developing @GlobalBU to find out more about what we are planning to do.

Dr Sonal Minocha




ICEF Monitor (2014) Summing Up International Student Mobility in 2014. Available at: (Accessed 11 September 2015)

International Unit (2015) Gone International: Mobile Students and Their Outcomes. London: International Unit. Available at:

Heidrick and Struggles (2015) The Global Talent Index. Available at: (Accessed 11 September 2015) Available at:

European Commission (2014) Erasmus Impact Study 2014. Bruxelles: European Commission. Available at:


Leave a Reply

Your details
  • (Your email address will not be published in your comment)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>