For over twenty years the Erasmus Programme has acted as the European Union’s flagship student exchange programme. It’s easy to understand it’s popularity – students have 32 countries to choose from, can learn a new language and culture, gain new freedom and even receive a grant to do it.
But research shows that there is one more good reason for students to consider taking part in the EU programme. According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Erasmus students go on to achieve better degrees and secure better jobs than their less adventurous stay-at-home counterparts.
Studying abroad is slowly becoming the rule rather than the exception – international students increased by 1.3 million between 2002 and 2009 and the growth shows no sign of stopping.
It’s no secret that students from Asia, especially China, now make up an enormous proportion of international students studying in Europe and North America. But what about the reverse? China, Singapore and Malaysia now play host to 12% of the world’s international students and together represent one of the most important emerging markets for international study in the world.
The rising prices of higher education are making many prospective students question whether it will offer them a worthwhile return on their investment. Ever increasing fees generally aren’t reflected in a rising standard in the quality of education. Instead they’re more to do with ballooning bureaucracy and the administration costs needed to serve the constantly increasing number of students. This is leading many people to wonder, what are the alternatives?
One option which has sprung up in recent years is massive open online courses, also known as ‘MOOCs’. This phenomenon sees university courses uploaded to the Internet, where they are freely available to anyone who might want to study them.
With more than 250,000 students opting for an MBA in the US alone, this expensive qualification leaves many in hope they will manage to obtain a high-flying job in the business world.
An MBA graduate degree involves providing business graduates an education in standard business practices, from accounting to marketing, which in turn aims to increase their analytical and problem solving skills.
Fixing pupils to their desks is not the way forward when it comes to teaching, according to renowned foreign schools.
Schools in Asia push pupils through school successfully by emphasising the importance of homework and by adopting a “meritocratic” approach. This is according to teachers, who rejected the idea that long hours in the classroom is the secret to scholarly success.
These comments are a response to recent remarks from the British education minister, Michael Gove, who drew attention to the fact that a longer day at school is normal in East Asian countries.
As reported in The Telegraph, Mr. Gove made the suggestion that this pattern should be adopted by state schools Britain. The current teaching hours are generally 8.30am to 3.30pm.
Some of China’s top universities have scrapped English as a compulsory subject so students can focus instead on their major subject. This begs the question, are emerging economies now realising their status and retreating away from the West?
Enrollment officer, Yu Han at Tsinghua University, Beijing, said that English was made non compulsory to reduce students’ workload and attract talented students who excel in their targeted subjects. Students that study sciences and engineering are now only required to take maths and physics exams and art students are required to take Chinese and maths exams.
Truett Cates from Austin College, Texas noticed the brochures provided by different institutions for studying abroad had almost all women pictured in them. When he questioned the universities on why that was the case, they answered it was a marketing decision; that’s who their customers are.
Regardless of the university, the field of study or even the nationality of women, in higher education, they outnumber men. Women are also less likely to drop out and, in recent years, they outnumber men when studying abroad as well.
For instance, at the University of Florida in 2007-8, 1,408 women went abroad, and 814 men, out of a total of 2,222. In Europe, when looking at the Erasmus exchange program figures for 2009-2010, around 60% of students in the program were women.
One third of young British people think they would have a better job if they had spent time living or studying abroad. The poll, conducted by Populus for the British Council found 79% of British adults had never lived or studied abroad for 6 months or more. Of those people, 34% believe they would have a better job if they had spent time in another country – this equates to 17 million people. Less than a quarter think their prospects would have been unaffected.
It seems young people (under 25) have the greatest sense of regret at not having experienced living abroad, with over half (54%) believing their lack of international experience has held them back. The research was commissioned with the aim of helping young British people compete in an increasingly global workplace.
As markets, multinational companies and economies continue to grow, the competition for skilled employees increases in tandem. But why are British candidates being overlooked, and how are companies suffering?
The answer is simple: The global employability of British candidates is lower than students and school leavers from other countries. This is a globalised world that lacks global-minded candidates. Companies trading abroad find it very difficult to find employees with the skill sets necessary to integrate, and understand a working environment that is multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, and multi-locational. According to the Global Skills Gap, a study from the British Council, more business leaders (79%) agree that awareness and knowledge of a wider world is important than believe that a degree subject or qualification is important (74%).
In times of global mobility and an increasing skills shortage, many European countries have intensified their aims to attract workers from abroad. Foreign students who are already familiar with the country’s language and work culture seem to be a reasonable target. Despite many wishing to stay and work after graduating, international students are often faced with too many obstacles.
Who wants to stay?
According to an online survey of the Sachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen für Integration und Migration (Advisory Board of German Foundations for Integration and Migration) held in five European countries (Germany, UK, France, Netherlands and Sweden) one half (UK) up to two-thirds (Germany) of master’s students and doctoral candidates could imagine searching for a job in the country where they have studied. Family reasons and the desire to help their own country with their new knowledge play an important role for those who want to return. Students who plan on staying are mainly focused on their professional career.