In my 17 years in the UK, this is definitely the hottest summer I have experienced, and with World Cup fever recently gripping the nation this is turning out to be a memorable summer. Not sure it is the weather or the World Cup effect, but there have also been some more positive signs for the HE sector from Westminster in recent months too, particularly for EU students.
Some clarity at last…
The 2018 QS International Student Survey published in April found that out of 67,172 students surveyed, 39% of prospective students within the EU and 10% of prospective international students were less interested in studying in the UK as a result of Brexit.
Thankfully, the Government has taken steps recently to mitigate these worrying stats: notable amongst these is the announcement that European Union students enrolling in English universities in 2019-20 will pay the same tuition fees as UK students and remain eligible for financial support for the duration of their courses. This announcement was both timely and welcome with applications opening in a just a few months and many prospective students are already attending open days and making their decisions about their future studies. This built on news from June that applicants from 11 countries will have reduced requirements when applying for Tier 4 student visas by lowering the burden of documentation. Of greatest significance was the addition of China in the list, which also included growth markets such as Indonesia, Mexico, and Thailand.
With the rights of EU citizens working and living in the UK also still a hot-topic – not only for the HE sector – the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid underlined that the Government would be “looking to grant applications [for settled status], not refuse them” as Brexit negotiations continued. More good news.
A sustainable future for international students
It was also great to see a new inquiry launched that will look into the landscape faced by international students in the UK. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students will ask industry leaders how the UK can “help map the way forward” for prospective mobile students. Led by Lord Karan Bilimoria and Paul Bloomfield MP, the APPG inquiry is seeking written and oral evidence from experts in education, business, trade, and local communities. I was privileged to be one of the contributors at the oral evidence session on behalf of the sector. The resulting report will hope to answer questions over the sustainable future for international students of all levels in the UK.
Preparing our students for life after graduation is core business for all of us at universities, but as my regular readers may know, at BU, we don’t like to just focus on the ‘goodbyes’ and place equal importance on welcoming our students. So, although the academic year at BU may therefore be coming to a close, we are already gearing up to welcome our newinternational students that will be joining us in September. The date for our fourth annual International Commencement Ceremony International Commencement Ceremony– an event that has become a core part of the University’s and region’s calendar – has been set for the 20thSeptember at the Bournemouth International Centre.
Student mobility remains a top priority
Just last month, we saw the release of the latestGone International report, which compares the academic and employment outcomes of undergraduate students that spent time abroad as part of their degree with those that didn’t. For the first time, the report examines the impact of short-term international placements that last up to four weeks. It also expanded student profiles analysed to include, disabled students, students from low-participation neighbourhoods, part-time students, students who are care-leavers and mature students. The report concluded that overall, there has been an increase in the number of students going abroad and crucially, that mobile graduates were more likely to be in graduate employment or further study, more likely to have a higher starting salary, and had a lower unemployment rate than their non-mobile peers.
At BU, we hit our highest ever percentage of student mobility (7.2% i.e just over a 1000 students) during the last academic year and we continue to provide a huge range of opportunities for students. In terms of group mobility, in the last few months, 24 students travelled with 48 BU staff overseas to China, India, Vietnam and Germany in the delivery of our global Festivals of Learning, and we also facilitated the second Global Challenges Summit, held as part of the Destination Spain programme which saw collaboration between staff and students at BU and Universidad San Jorge (USJ) alongside external organisations from both countries.
At a faculty level, there continue to be fantastic examples of how students can gain an international experience as part of their course curriculum: Professor Rick Stafford, Dr Kathy Hodder, and Dr Anita Diaz travelled to Costa Rica with 19 UG students enrolled in the international residential unit this year, which is only one such example of integration of internationalisation within our curriculum, building on the work we did with HEA a few years ago.
Internationalisation + Employability = Global Talent
As mentioned above, the link between an international experience at university and positive outcomes after graduation are very clear. It is this very connection – between internationalisation and employability – that is the foundation of our Global Talent Programme (GTP) which is now in its third year and, to date, has engaged with around 1,200 of our students. In May, I was proud to join around 100 students, colleagues and employers at this year’s GTP celebrationevent as students who had completed the programme in 2017/18 received their Global Talent Programme Award. Congratulations everyone.
The GTP is a small-scale innovation in teaching and learning which is ultimately there to help prepare the students of today for the workforce of tomorrow. We have been fortunate enough to have worked with some fantastic commercial partners in the development of the GTP, including e-learning career management specialists Abintegro. We were delighted to be invited to present what we have achieved so far at their annual academic conference in July and even more delighted to be named as the winner of the ‘Career Centre Innovation’ award.
Engaging with our partners through the Global Festival of Learning
This year’s series of global Festivals of Learning concluded in May having taken in India, China, Germany and ASEAN. The overarching theme for the Festivals this year was, ‘Global Education 2050: Inspiring Learning, Delivering Impact’. Now in their third year, these events have become a key vehicle of public engagement, building partnerships and profile for BU around the world. This year, around 1,300 stakeholders attended the four Festivals. I was sorry to not be able to participate in all of these myself this year-I was long overdue an oath of allegiance to the Queen hence was not in possession of travel documents for a good part of the year!
During the FOL China though, it was great to receive news that BU was one of three UK universities awarded the China Football Campus Training programme project for summer 2018 as part of an open bidding process. BU was the only university to have been selected three times in a row from since the programme launched in 2016. As part of the FOL China this year, we heard about the impact of the programme from coaches from previous years, and colleagues from SportBU delivered an interactive sports session at a Beijing Middle School where one of the coaches is based. Many congratulations to all the staff involved and we are delighted to welcome our Chinese colleagues back to BU once more.
Every reason to be optimistic
In summary, although change and challenge continues to characterise the UK HE sector, it isn’t all doom and gloom across the policy landscape; it’s great to see the recent changes to visa rules, detail about the UK’s future participation in the Erasmus+ scheme beyond 2020, some clarification about the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK, and of course the recent news about EU students’ fees status.
Nevertheless, regardless of the political and sectoral challenges, at BU we continue to embed and integrate internationalisation and global engagement across the University. In light of the challenges and uncertainty, the UK has been cast as something of an underdog across the HE sector globally in recent times. Using the football analogy: the former champions who are seeing a new generation of global HE players challenge their position as a preeminent HE powerhouse. However, continuing in the same vein as the football, perhaps the UK is due a renaissance by cultivating a new DNA for high education; one that has the internationalisation waistcoat at its very core!