Within a couple of years, the Australian Government has transformed outbound student mobility with its ambitious New Colombo Plan, and access to a range of scholarships and loans.
Today, about one in eight Australian undergraduate studies overseas. That’s approximately 11% of completing undergraduates in Australian universities.
This is modest compared to the US where about 14% of its bachelor students study abroad.
With an investment of over $100 million over 5 years, the Australian Government’s mobility initiative, the New Colombo Plan, itself has influenced the way universities approach overseas study experience.
Student mobility in Australia is changing in three ways.
Mobility is becoming integral to Australian institutional strategy.
While mobility remains an important component to a university’s “internationalisation plan”, in recent times, its moved from the periphery to the core of institutional strategic planning.
RMIT University has placed student mobility central to its 2020 “Ready for Life and Work” strategic plan.
Monash University have stated that growing mobility opportunities (physical and virtual) as a priority in its 2015-2020 Strategic Plan.
The University of Technology Sydney places student mobility as one of the centrepiece of the UTS model.
Mobility is seen as an important factor to enhancing the student experience and employability.
In a tight labour market, students are looking for an edge.
Employers want graduates with a point of difference – previous work experience, cross-cultural and international experience.
Mobility is also changing the way institutions “sell” and positions themselves in the marketplace.
More are using mobility in recruitment campaigns and market positioning.
Mobility models are evolving.
Student exchange – spending a semester or more abroad – remains the central offering for the majority of universities.
More institutions are broadening their suite of mobility offerings.
Short study programs – whether integrated within the curriculum structure or stand-alone – continues to grow in popularity.
More institutions are exploring ways of internationalising programs such as Work-Integrated Learning (WIL).
Deakin, RMIT and Swinburne, for examples offer WIL international options.
Others are finding new ways of connecting international industry and communities to students.
Some are embedding industry partnerships in program design and assessment process.
Others are preparing students for the global labour market through industry placements.
Virtual industry projects are emerging offerings.
RMIT offers ‘Virtual Global WIL Projects’ in which RMIT students work with students from one or more countries on an accessible industry project.
These projects provide an opportunity for students to work in multinational teams and collaborate on a global project across countries, time zones and cultures, mimicking the manner in which global business operates.
International engagement is more than student recruitment.
International engagement is becoming more research and student focused.
There is a less emphasis on student recruitment underpinning international partnerships.
Institutions are giving more attention to developing research projects and student focused initiatives.
In the Monash-Warwick University Alliance, research and mobility are two important features.
In October last year over 30 Monash students went to Warwick University, the highest number of Monash students accepted by any UK university.