More needs to be done to promote the benefits of studying abroad, says new research

by Ray Clancy on October 17, 2016

The benefits of studying abroad are often not realised by students who also believe that they are not given enough information about what is actually available, new research has found.

Half of graduates surveyed in the United States, the UK, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, Singapore, China and Brazil felt they had failed to realise the value of international experience.

StudentsEven students who have access to international experiences during higher education don’t realise the value it could have until after they have graduated, according to the study carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit for Kaplan International Colleges (KIC), which prepares international students for studying a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree in the UK.

According to Kaplan’s chairman Andrew Rosen, students are often disconnected from how critical international experience has become. ‘Many come to appreciate the importance of international learning opportunities only after graduating,’ he said.

The research found a gap between availability and participation in international experiences. Although three quarters of the students surveyed had access to international experiences during their studies, only a third took advantage of them.

Some 69% said they were offered the chance to study overseas, but only 26% took up the opportunity while 62% said they had access to foreign language courses with 48% doing to and 55% were offered intercultural experiences with just 22% doing so.

‘International experience is increasingly part of the package that higher education institutions are expected to provide. But with two in five respondents turning down the chance to gain international experience while studying, students themselves need to take a proactive approach to seeking out the opportunities available to them,’ the report says.

It suggests that higher education institutions need to address this gap and work to help students to better understand the benefits of international experience. And they also need to show that it is not just about studying a language. The report says that opportunities can include work experience and internships but fewer know about these chances.

Indeed, only a third of respondents said they had had the chance to work or take up an internship abroad during their studies and the report adds that employers also have a role in promoting opportunities.

‘The role of employers is likely to increase, as the skills needed in a globalised career often are largely acquired on the job. The role of employers is also likely to increase, as the skills needed in a globalised career often are largely acquired on the job. From in-house training to corporate universities, employers can fill much of the gap in employees’ international skills,’ it explains.

Some 55% of the students surveyed who had taken part in some form of international experience believed it had helped them to find a job after graduating. For example, 68% of students in China found it favourable but this fell to just 37% in Italy.

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