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A recently published report on mobility impacts on UK undergraduate students suggests, somewhat surprisingly, that the length of time spent abroad as part of degree studies does not have a significant influence on the perceived benefits of the experience. The study, commissioned by the UK Higher Education International Unit and the British Council, examined what internationally mobile students who have pursued either study abroad, volunteering or traineeship placements have gained from international mobility. The results are based on an online survey of 2 842 first-degree students in 37 institutions and on focus groups in eight of these institutions. The findings reveal that students participating in very short mobility programmes of a few weeks in duration perceive similar benefits associated with time spent abroad as students completing a semester or a full academic year abroad. Specifically, both groups credit their mobility experience for developing independence, intercultural awareness and a greater probability of long-term employment abroad. Moreover, the study indicates that almost all students who have spent time abroad are keen on repeating the experience.
When it comes to their expectations of going abroad, nearly all surveyed students feel they can benefit either professionally or academically from international mobility. Among the main motivations for going abroad students cite the wish for an enjoyable experience, expanding their horizons and a boost to their career prospects and employability. Students´ key considerations when deciding to go abroad are the availability of funding, the expected costs of mobility, personal safety, quality of the host institution and location.
According to the report, the findings could be used to support the idea of funding “taster visits” or summer schools, since these short visits still offer similar benefits to students and at the same time have the potential to encourage them in further international mobility for longer periods.