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In a week when the government reshuffled its cabinet, HE issues that made headlines gave the newly-appointed universities minister a taste of things to come, says Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Student Employers .
The past week’s events and news are a sign of turbulent times for UK universities, warns Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University.
Mike Ratcliffe, academic registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reflects on issues emerging from a packed week of higher education news.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for higher education has reported almost a 21 per cent rise in the number of complaints it received from students last year – rising to their highest ever level at 2,371.
Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, introduces the launch of Year Three of UUKi's Go International: Stand Out campaign, calling on employers to promote the value of international experience.
We know from our research that graduates who go abroad during their studies are 11 per cent more likely to achieve First class or 2:1 degrees and earn 5 per cent more than their non- mobile counterparts.
With this is mind, the Go International: Stand Out campaign was launched by Universities UK International (UUKi) in 2017 to create a generation of globally-skilled and internationally-minded graduates with the experience to succeed in the rapidly changing working world. The campaign supports the delivery of the UK strategy for outward student mobility, which aims to double the percentage of UK students who study, work or volunteer abroad during their degrees by 2020.
In the first two years of the campaign, we have seen a fantastic response from the higher education sector and beyond, with 99 universities and 15 organisations pledging activities to help achieve the ambitious mobility goal. However, a joint effort is required to up-skill graduates, and employers are a key piece in that puzzle. In the third year of the campaign, we are urging employers to acknowledge the value of international placements by signing our value statement.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) and Santander are among the first organisations to back this stage of the campaign. We hope others will follow in their footsteps, showing the growing demand for graduates with the language skills, as well as resilience, flexibility, intercultural and problem-solving skills that come with time spent in an unfamiliar environment.
In 2017, 39 per cent of employers identified intercultural awareness as a weakness for graduate job seekers. Only by directly addressing this skills gap through promoting and providing more international opportunities can we better prepare our graduates for employment. And spreading the message to students that employers value graduates who have these kinds of skills and competencies will really help.
In addition to offering a platform for employers to highlight skills gaps and emphasise the value of international experience, the campaign is also an opportunity for employers to collaborate with the higher education sector to identify and provide the opportunities that will help our graduates succeed. The launch of the campaign's third year is part of UUKi's push to move the graduate employability of both UK and international students up the agenda of universities. In January 2020, UUKi will hold a full-day conference focusing on supporting the graduate success of the UK's international students, bringing together employers and universities to tackle this common challenge.
Graduate outcomes are a big factor in student decision making, so it is time for employers to join universities in promoting the value of transferable skills, such as those that can be gained through international experience. As the UK navigates uncertain terrain in the coming years, it has never been more important for us to have a generation of young people with the skills and the confidence to act on the world stage.
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