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Global mobility programmes increasingly significant to college international activities, report finds

22 February 2023

AoC is calling on the Department for Education (DfE) to recognise the value of student mobility, through its own Turing Scheme, to college enrichment activity.

AoC’s fifth international report, Global engagement in the UK college sector, looks at the activities colleges undertook in the international space in the 2021-22 academic year.

The new Turing Scheme, which replaced the Erasmus+ programme, has been running since 2021, and AoC’s report highlights the increasing significance of student mobility programmes, which over 50 UK colleges each year have taken part in since its inception in 2021.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the colleges responding to AoC’s latest survey said their students took part in Turing or legacy Erasmus+ activities. Student mobility programmes make up 18% of college’s income total for international activities and 51% of colleges that responded had taken part in the scheme and a further 29% had not yet taken part but planned to.

Emma Meredith, AoC’s Global Engagement Director, said: “Colleges have a role to play in helping home students develop their knowledge of the world and AoC hopes that as many college students as possible receive the chance to develop their skills by completing an international study, work or skill competition placement through the Turing Scheme.”

The report also notes that the further education sector’s share of education exports is in steep decline – by 2020 it constituted only 0.64% of total education exports in 2020, compared to 5.78% in 2010.

The report highlights the regulatory burdens colleges face in the Home Office’s student sponsorship system, which could be eased by reviewing current policy. Changes in the following three areas would give colleges the flexibility to recruit more international students in line with the ambitions of the government’s International Education Strategy:

  • The Education Oversight rules that require dual oversight of English colleges
  • The two-year restriction on pre-degree study
  • The differentiation in treatment of qualifications at RQF levels 4 and 5 versus courses at degree level.

Emma Meredith, AoC’s Global Engagement Director, added: “Colleges could make a greater contribution to the UK’s education exports with the right policy environment and support.

“The percentage of colleges stating that they were active in international student recruitment has declined since last year’s survey. This is perhaps not surprising given significant challenges to travel during Covid-19, and Brexit is also likely to be a contributing factor.

“UK colleges are prevented from expanding recruitment to their technical course provision due to a lack of flexibility around progression pathways and course delivery hours.”