While there has been a lot of information regarding the growing number of international students taking courses in Australia, new research reveals that more Australians are studying abroad too.
Students enrolled at Australian universities have steadily increased their learning abroad activities over the last 10 years and it is due to an increased awareness of the benefits of such an experience.
This has been helped by growing support from Australian Government agencies and higher education institutions via a range of scholarships, grants and loan programmes, according to a report from the International Education Association of Australia.
A total 31,846 students from 34 Australian universities went abroad in 2014, the most up to date figures available and took part in a range of activities that included semester or yearlong exchanges.
They also took part in faculty led study tours, internships, research led activities, summer and winter programmes at a host university and volunteering or community engagement. However, some 56% of these experiences were short term of two weeks to under a semester in length.
The top destination was the United States with 15.4%, followed by China with 9.2%, the UK 8.8%, Canada 4.8%, Japan 3.8%, Indonesia 3.4%, India and Germany both 3.3%, Italy 3.1% and France 3%.
‘Only 10 to 15 years ago, representatives of Australian universities would often tell international partner institutions that Australian students don’t study abroad. Over the last 10 years, a major cultural change has occurred,’ the report says.
It suggests that this may be a consequence of growing numbers of international students on campus, an increasingly mobile Australian population or a global trend of young people seeking meaningful opportunities outside of their home context.
It explains that it is most likely a combination of factors, including an increased focus of university and Government policy makers and practitioners to making learning abroad more academically accessible, more affordable and less complicated.
As of 2014 at some universities around a quarter of undergraduate students participated in learning abroad programmes and the sea change is set to continue as students and their families become more aware of the benefits of learning abroad.
‘Growth is also likely to be impacted by the increasingly competitive graduate employment market globally, with students seeking to build their personal experience portfolio in order to gain a competitive edge in the recruitment process,’ the report points out.
A breakdown of the figures show that although 33% of Australian undergraduate students participated in programmes in Asia, the region is predominantly a short term study destination. Some 58% of programmes in China, 65% in Indonesia and 66% in India were just two to four weeks long.
However, it also points out that learning abroad models are evolving with more institutions broadening their offerings and participation is set to grow, especially if the issue of finance is addressed as currently cost has been identified as a major barrier to participation in learning abroad.