Our 2026 Global Education Offer (Erica Arthur, International Relations)

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The case for study abroad is increasingly compelling. Mounting political, economic and societal pressures assert the urgency of globally-connected and interculturally-aware citizens. Since 2011-2012 outgoing study abroad participation rates at UoB have increased by 63% — with 576 students (8.5% of the undergraduate cohort) studying abroad in 2016/17. In the next ten years we can anticipate that a quarter of UoB undergraduates will choose to incorporate an international dimension to their degree study – but what form will this take?

We expect that by 2026 our students will demand a greater degree of choice over how they fit global opportunities into degree study. The current year abroad model is likely to look increasingly one-dimensional and anachronistic. Offering a more diverse suite of both short- and long-term study, work and experiential overseas opportunities will facilitate a more personalised educational experience, enhance our sector-leading employability success, and better equip students for a fast-paced, flexible economy.

By 2026 study abroad should be an integrated and integral part of the student experience. This will require a more flexible approach to curriculum and programme design, for example by offering semester abroad options on three-year degree programmes where possible and adapting our practices to facilitate study abroad experiences rather than requiring exact equivalence where appropriate. It will involve a renewed commitment to reciprocal exchange, to ensure that incoming students receive the same quality of provision as home students. It will mean creating the flexibility within the UoB curriculum for students to navigate bespoke educational pathways that allow for multiple and varied international opportunities. Supporting student choice, whether to study, volunteer, intern or conduct dissertation research overseas, will facilitate equity, inclusion and greater accessibility. Internationalising the curriculum through virtual course delivery with strategic partner institutions will provide a platform for a truly global education offer for all.

3 thoughts on “Our 2026 Global Education Offer (Erica Arthur, International Relations)”

  1. If this is the way forward – and I imgaine it is – we will need to align our modular structure more closely to that of major universiites across the world and also make it easier for stuents to take – for example – a semester abroad. Our current structure makes that almost impossible.

    1. Exactly! A closer alignment of academic structures through semestersiation is essential to the development of well-functioning exchange relationships with partner institutions across the globe. This is critically important if we want to welcome more incoming study abroad students and thereby cater to increased outward demand.

      As long as some UoB modules continue to be offered on a year-long basis, our outgoing students will be limited to year-abroad options, which extend the length and cost of their degree. Conversely, in the US, for example, which remains the most popular destination for UoB students, the traditional Junior Year Abroad (JYA) has long since fallen out of favour, with semester abroad programmes now viewed as the standard ‘long-term’ model, and January-term and short faculty-led programmes taking precedence. In 2014/15, for example, only 3% of US students spent a year abroad, 34% went on semester programmes and 64% favoured programmes that were 8 weeks or less. This disparity in duration of study puts pressure on US partnerships, making it difficult to balance relationships and accommodate existing student demand.

      Moving to a semesterised system of 20 credit modules would undoubtedly help to expand the scope of our US partnerships. Indeed, it would facilitate a more flexible, financially-viable and genuinely reciprocal study abroad model in line with the majority of our global partner institutions and UK competitors.

  2. Thank you Kathy and Erica, your support is extremely welcome as we move towards a more defined mobility strategy. To this extend we must also consider the length and types of the mobility opportunities on offer at Birmingham. It’s not only about 1 year study abroad versus one semester study abroad, but also about shorter term mobilities and varied activities undertaken abroad.

    The Study Abroad and Exchange Office fosters partnerships with premier institutions around the world to enhance Birmingham students’ opportunities for study abroad. The programme enables students to develop and become stronger individuals, by increasing their independence and enhancing cultural awareness – all skills that can be directly linked to greater employability. Our partners are higher education leaders from all over the world, with whom we share international standards and best practice in order to foster a sustained culture of excellence on our campus.
    Our vision is to offer 100% of Birmingham undergraduates a diverse range of mobility opportunities. By 2026 the description of mobility will need to be much wider, ranging from not only study abroad opportunities for a semester or a year, but also incorporating shorter term (ST) opportunities such as summer schools, industry internships, research projects, field trips, competitions, and volunteering opportunities to name just a few. Through these opportunities we will encourage students to aim higher and reach new horizons in order to enhance their employability.
    For many years European and global higher education institutions have not only offered, but embedded, international mobility as an integrated part of their curriculum. And what we notice in the sector nowadays is that short-term mobility windows are available as add-on building blocks as part of any degree. By 2026 we will not only have designed a process to count and report on current levels of short-term mobility, we will have fostered the development of new methods of studying and travelling, and will encourage academic-related overseas experiences from one week to seven weeks to become a ‘must’ in any Birmingham programme. Short-term mobilities will represent 60% of all student travel, and will contribute to generating and fostering those essential relationships we will need to continue growing our portfolio of long-term (one semester or one year) mobility partners.

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