There has been a lot of focus recently on the importance of the year abroad and the value of having ‘global graduates’ in British businesses. We helped to fuel the flames by collecting over 600 reports written by graduates about how the year abroad has affected their lives and careers for the British Academy and UCML’s ‘Valuing the Year Abroad’ position statement, which was released at the end of March.
Mr. Willetts was due to give the keynote speech at the launch event at the British Academy but unfortunately had to pull out a few days before. The aim of the report is to prove to the government the real value of the year abroad, for students and for the UK, in an effort to retain the funding when university fees of up to £9,000 per year are introduced in September.
In the past, universities waived the fees of students spending a year in Europe under the Erasmus programme and were compensated by HEFCE. From September it is of the utmost importance that this funding support continues because student perception of high fees (£36,000!) and debt might drive demand towards three-year courses without a study abroad option.
We are pleased that in his response to the ‘Recommendations to Support UK Outward Student Mobility’ report he commissioned from the Chairman of the UK HE International Unit (who had similar conclusions to those of the ‘Valuing the Year Abroad’ report), Mr. Willetts said today that the current arrangements “will continue until the academic year 2013-14. Then a new system will allow higher education institutions to receive up to 40% of full fees from students who spend a year abroad. The students themselves will be required to pay up to 15% [max. £1,350], while a grant worth 25% [max. £2,250] will be available from HEFCE for any who go abroad under an exchange scheme, whether as part of the Erasmus programme or not.”
For more information, read the Times Higher Education article ‘Willetts pledges partial grant to encourage overseas study’ and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills' Press Release: 'Report recommends measures to support and increase outward UK student mobility'.
There are still some details to be clarified, such as the definition of ‘exchange’ in this context - we of course want to ensure year abroad funding is available to students who work and teach abroad too - but this is a very positive step in the right direction and we are so grateful for the support of the students and graduates who have taken the time to write about their experiences for us and are consequently helping and inspiring a huge number of current and future year abroad students via ThirdYearAbroad.com.
Mr. Willetts also told Times Higher Education that he was “very pro student mobility.” He said, “I’m keen to encourage those who wish to do some of their study overseas. If there are barriers, I want to remove them.” This is a fantastic position for us to be in, so let’s keep pushing for the year abroad to be free for all!