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‘Bold action needed’ on mobility of disadvantaged students


Studying abroad remains a “massive leap of faith” for some students, says expert

Boosting the mobility of disadvantaged students requires “bold action”, as studying abroad remains a “massive leap of faith” for them, according to an expert on inclusion in higher education.  

A research project on social inclusion in mobility, funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme and led by Valérie Van Hees of the Support Centre for Inclusive Higher Education in Belgium, recently reported that inclusion strategies “differ widely across national and higher education systems” in the European Higher Education Area.

Commenting on the study for the European University Association, Van Hees said that “despite the broad political commitments at European and international levels to strengthen the social dimension [of the EHEA], only a few countries have followed up with concrete measures to foster social inclusion in mobility programmes”.

Van Hees said that, for disadvantaged students, “undertaking an international mobility experience remains a massive leap of faith, and the reality for many is that without a comprehensive approach to targeted support, they might never consider the possibility of studying abroad”.

She concluded: “[Higher education] authorities and institutions should take bold action to implement inclusive measures and support services on behalf of disadvantaged students.”

Barriers to mobility

As well as a lack of targeted support measures, the study found other barriers faced by disadvantaged students in taking part in mobility programmes included burdensome application processes and difficulties accessing information on travel, housing and healthcare.  

Van Hees’ project, Peer Learning Activities and Resources for Social Inclusion in Mobility Programmes, has developed a platform that provides guidelines, online training packages and a space to share information on national and institutional measures.

“All stakeholders across the EHEA should engage with these tools”, Van Hees said.