Just in time for the British Council’s International Education Week, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) released new data suggesting that only 1.3% of students traveling abroad are from the United Kingdom.
While the UK itself is considered a hub for international students, with over 400,000 such students choosing to study there last year, only a small percentage of British students, just 1.3% for the 2014-15 school year, are choosing to leave the UK in order to study elsewhere or participate in work placement.
Ian Myson writes for Times Higher Education that international and cross-cultural knowledge is necessary for students to successfully find jobs in today’s world. Myson goes on to suggest that in order to compete on a global level and stay competitive in international markets, it is important to continue to have an understanding of how other cultures operate.
Despite a belief in the importance of employee knowledge concerning cultural diversity, universal business language, and familiarity with globalization, 24% of employers consider employees not to have much skill in this area. In fact, a large number of employers believe that members of Generation Y, those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s, in the UK do not think globally enough to be successful on an international level.
The data released by HESA found only one UK student choosing to study abroad for every 15 international students who decide to study in the UK. It is believed that this could be a possible explanation for why 55% do not think they have strong foreign language skills.
Many employers say the UK education system is partially to blame for this, calling the three-year undergraduate system restrictive when considering other European schools that offer a wide variety of placement options, work experience, and opportunities for international study. European Union Commission data shows that just 0.5% of UK students qualify for Erasmus funding. Meanwhile, the same is true of 1.9% of students from Spain, 1.4% of students from France, and 1.5% of those from Belgium.
A report from the Chartered Management Institute found 26% of business schools stating that despite offering branch campuses abroad, just one institution made use of these campuses to increase the career options of UK students.
Meanwhile, a national initiative made up of advocates for international education recently met in Washington, DC at the annual Generation Study Abroad summit. The goal is to double the number of students who choose to study in other countries by the end of the decade.
Data released from the Institute for International Education found 10% of undergraduates from the US are opting to study abroad, with more than 25% of that number being non-white students.
“For too long we’ve talked about study abroad as an elite activity and we’ve talked about study abroad being inaccessible, and I do think that that is something that we as institutions have the power to change,” said Fanta Aw, president of the board of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.
The initiative suggests that in order to increase the number of US students studying abroad, programs be made more affordable. The cost is currently thousands of dollars over the cost of attending university, with not all financial aid applying, reports Amy Scott for Marketplace.
At the same time, the US Department of State and the Department of Education are working to push studying abroad. In a press release, the State Department noted plans to place emphasis on “encouraging Americans and international students alike to seek opportunities to study abroad, make connections with peers in other countries, and ultimately to see themselves as actors in and shapers of both their local communities and a globalized future.”
In addition, the State Department recently announced a partnership with Diversity Abroad meant to “work toward diversifying participation in international education overall.”
In all, over 300,000 students from America chose to study abroad during the 2014-15 school year, with 32% opting to go to places like the UK, Italy, and Spain. Meanwhile, France, Germany, China, Costa Rica, and Australia account for 22% of US study abroad options, with the percentages dropping off to 1-2% after that.