Making the world your classroom
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Making the world your classroom

Making the world your classroom

Universities today offer several pathway programmes for students seeking global mobility

More countries than ever before are actively involved in the internationalisation of higher education. In 2020, the US, the UK, Canada, China and Australia hosted more than 50 per cent of the world’s international students. Additionally, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics had estimated that enrolment in these countries would grow anywhere between 6 per cent and 8 per cent between 2019 and 2030.

Unfortunately, the flow of international students crossing borders to pursue higher education has been significantly affected by the pandemic. Several popular study destinations closed borders abruptly to international entrants, and students and their families themselves did not wish to risk travel. The good news though, is that this is only a temporary state of affairs.

Research from IDP Connect’s International Student Crossroads study found that a majority of international students are willing to vaccinate and quarantine in return for on-campus study and the experience of living abroad. Another study by QS Quacquarelli Symonds stated that leading education destinations are now witnessing a surge in application numbers from international students for study in the 2021/22 academic year.

In the interim, however, higher educational institutions have had to make changes to the way education is delivered, to ensure the same excellence in academic outcomes. They have had to find ways to encourage engagement on virtual platforms, offer training to staff to ensure they are able to harness the full power of technology, and support the mental wellbeing of staff and students. For example, at Heriot-Watt University, we have made learning very flexible with our Responsive Blended Learning model that combines supported online learning with contextually appropriate face-to-face learning opportunities, responding dynamically to the changing external context.

This approach enables students to proceed with their studies alongside their peers and interact online with students around the world, regardless of where they are. And now, we are seeing a definite appetite amongst international students to return to campuses abroad. Reasons include a strong desire to get back on track with academic and career goals after months of disruption, the availability of vaccines and the need to not miss out on the complete university experience.

Finally, given the incredible benefits it offers, it is not surprising at all that global student mobility is set to make a comeback. For students, it gives them a chance to become more aware globally, become more adaptable and enhance their language and communication skills. It allows them to learn about work and life in an international market and promotes personal development. All of this endows students with the attributes that employers look for in candidates. For universities, international students help diversify the student body and attract the brightest of brains, which in turn could improve their global rankings. It creates income for educational institutions, and helps countries foster closer ties with one another.

Universities today offer several pathway programmes for students seeking global mobility, such as foundation programmes which bridge the gap between school and university, as well as pave the way into undergraduate disciplines. Such students can even take an online pre-sessional academic English programme to build their confidence in English and develop study strategies to enable them to perform to the best of their ability on their degree.
The flow of international students ties in perfectly with the mobility theme of Expo 2020 Dubai, which aims to create connections, explore horizons at the core of human progress, and build a harmonious, global society where information, ideas and goods are exchanged faster than ever before.

Higher education institutions are perfectly positioned to drive this theme forward through global student mobility programmes, such as Heriot-Watt University’s inter-campus transfer programme ‘Go Global’. The underlying premise of Expo 2020 is that we all have the power to build a better world and shape the future. Global student mobility is, therefore, our contribution to this goal.

Lucy Everest is the global chief operating officer of Heriot-Watt University

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