Industry Research

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Industry Research

With student outbound mobility becoming increasingly popular in Australia, we decided to review a range of available research and consider in detail “what are the benefits of mobility?” As a growth industry, there is an abundance of research that highlights the benefits of outbound mobility to students and Universities.

Some of the major benefits of student mobility for universities include:

  • Improved retention: Better student / better results – that come from greater student / faculty engagement – as a result of outbound mobility programs.
  • Improved employability: Students having a more robust and competitive resume, greater experience, work ready – the correlation between study abroad / internships, volunteering and improved employability.
  • Institutional rankings and ratings: Better students and global engagement means better institutional rankings / ratings.
  • Greater global brand awareness: Wider and deeper institutional and student networks. Happy students and global ambassadors.
  • Ability to use mobility as a key domestic recruitment tool: Progressive universities are increasingly using diverse mobility opportunities (short courses in January and July, experiential service-learning and internships (WIL)) – as one of their cornerstones to attract Australian students.

Below, CISaustralia has compiled what we consider to be the most interesting and recent studies on international education and going abroad.


Enhancing Programmes Integrating Tertiary Outbound Mobility Experiences (EPITOME)
Western Sydney University and Macquarie University, Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching, 2016

Australian universities are placing increased emphasis on the internationalisation of their curriculum and students. This development is in keeping with tertiary education trends that recognise the importance of an international outlook and cross-cultural competencies. Student outbound mobility is one of the most effective ways to foster internationalisation through transformative experiences. The EPITOME project conducted student-focused research into outbound mobility experiences (OMEs) with a view to providing a comprehensive and usable best-practice guide for tour operators and academic staff.

A number of key findings have emerged from the EPITOME research:

  • Women are twice as likely as men to take part in study abroad
  • Almost one quarter of OME participants had lived overseas for six months or more
  • 72% of students do NOT talk about study abroad with their friends
  • Over 80% of OME participants receive little or no intercultural communication training
  • Individual academic staff members are often responsible for designing their own study abroad experiences with little institutional guidance or support
  • Nonparticipants also acknowledge the value of study abroad

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Designing Solutions
Charlotte West, International Educator, 2016

From creating a healing environment at a pediatric burn treatment center in Chile to designing a coat that transforms into a shelter for Syrian refugees, art, design, and architecture students are tackling global problems around the world such as sustainable development, technological access, and human rights. Plus, art and design schools are preparing their graduates to work in international and interdisciplinary environments through collaborative projects, field research, and a myriad of opportunities to engage with other countries and cultures.

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More Australian Students See the Value of Study Abroad
Universities Australia, 2016

More Australian students today are seeing the value of study abroad. As reported by Universities Australia, the number of students going overseas as part of their university degree has quadrupled over the past decade, accompanied by strong student satisfaction. 

In 2014, more than 30,000 students studied, worked or volunteered in another country as part of their Australian degree. This was up from 7,000 in 2005. Students report that overseas study is an opportunity to challenge themselves, enhance their future job prospects, build new networks and gain independence. 

Awareness about programs that enable students to go abroad is also increasing. Most students first learn about international education opportunities through their university, but word-of-mouth remains an important factor – with 43% of students citing the experience of other students as one of the top reasons which convinced them to apply.

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Students from Australian Universities in Learning Abroad 2014
Australian Universities International Directors Forum (AUIDF), 2016

The latest report released by the Australian Universities International Directors Forum (AUIDF) provides a number of interesting insights on current trends in student mobility, including:

  • In 2014, one in six Australian university students participated in a learning abroad program
  • 16.5% of completing Australian undergraduates undertook an international study experience from 32 reporting universities
  • A total of 23,474 undergraduate students participated in learning abroad in 2014, including 18,736 domestic students
  • 5% of international study experiences were for a year, 31% for a semester, 17% between 4 and 10 weeks and 40% for 2 to 4 weeks
  • 33% of experiences were to Asia, 29% to Europe and 21% to North America
  • The top five countries for undergraduate students were USA (15%), China (10%), UK (9%), Canada (5%) and Japan (4%)

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Gone International: Mobile Students and their Outcomes
UK Higher Education International Unit, 2015

The UK Higher Education International Unit has reported students who are globally mobile have a lower unemployment rate and end up earning more as graduates than their non-mobile counterparts in most subject areas. Mobile students are considered those who had taken part in an exchange program or a work or study placement abroad. The report found that 5.4% of mobile students were unemployed six months after graduating in 2013, compared to 6.7% of non-mobile. Additionally, the report looked at graduate salaries, finding that graduates who had been mobile earned more across 11 out of 17 subject areas and earned more if they remained in the UK to work.

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Internationalisation of Higher Education
European Parliament – Committee on Culture and Education, 2015

A study on the understanding of Internationalisation of Higher Education in the European context, based on two surveys, an analysis of the role of digital learning, ten national reports from Europe and seven from outside Europe. The study results in conclusions and recommendations on the future of Internationalisation of Higher Education in Europe, based on the national reports and a Delphi process among experts in international higher education.

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Culture at Work: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace
British Council, 2013

The British Council report shares fascinating research on the value that employers place on intercultural skills. Today’s increasingly globalised and competitive workplace now means that communicating with customers, colleagues and partners across international borders is an everyday occurrence for many. This places employers under pressure to find employees who are not only technically proficient, but also culturally intelligent and able to thrive in a global work environment.

Research shows there is real business value in employing staff who have the ability to work effectively with individuals and organisations from cultural backgrounds different from their own. Employers highlight the following as important intercultural skills:

  • The ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints
  • Demonstrating respect for others
  • Demonstrating strong communication skills
  • Showing cultural sensitivity
  • Knowledge of a foreign language

Employees with these skills are seen to benefit organisations through their ability to:

  • Bring in new clients
  • Work within diverse teams
  • Support a good brand and reputation for their organisation

Findings suggest that education providers should do more to contribute to the development of a workforce with the necessary intercultural skills by prioritising:

  • Teaching communication skills
  • Offering foreign language classes
  • Availability of opportunities for students to gain international experience
  • Development of international research partnerships

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Study Abroad in a New Global Century: Renewing the Promise, Refining the Purpose (Volume 38, Number 4)
ASHE Higher Education Report, 2012

Study abroad has become crucial in preparing university graduates with intercultural competencies needed to succeed in today’s global economy. The federal government, business community and higher education sector in the United States are united in their belief that study abroad is critical to such success.

This book looks to address two fundamental questions: Who studies abroad (or who does not) and why? What are the outcomes of study abroad? The authors research how increasing study abroad participation might be improved and pose recommendations for ways study abroad in the 21st century can renew its purposes and fulfil its promise.

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Read more:

  • The National Strategy for International Education 2025 – Australia's first National Strategy for International Education 2025 sets out a 10-year plan for developing Australia's role as a global leader in education, training and research
  • Australian International Education 2025 Roadmap – Australia’s National Strategy for International Education aims to build on the current success of the system and capitalise on new opportunities so that Australian international education helps individuals, communities and industry around the world to reach their potential
  • Why Do Countries Differ in Their Rates of Outbound Student Mobility? (University of Wisconsin, 2016) – Country differences in outbound student mobility, using UNESCO data to examine student outflows from 190 countries
  • Study Abroad While Studying Abroad (Karen Doss Bowman, International Educator, 2016) – International Students in the United States take advantage of education abroad opportunities
  • IEAA Research on Learning Abroad (Universities Australia, 2016) – Reports examine current trends and outcomes, analysis of global policy settings and a review of support offered across government and institutions in Australia
  • Longitudinal Research on Perceptions of Student Mobility (Universities Australia, 2016) – Report on the awareness, attitudes and perceptions of university students and opinion leaders toward mobility programs
  • The Erasmus Impact Study (European Commission, 2014) – Eff­ects of mobility on the skills and employability of students and the internationalisation of higher education institutions
  • Private-Sector Support for the New Colombo Plan (Minister for Foreign Affairs, 2014) – Significant partnership announced with the private sector to deliver cross-cultural training to New Colombo Plan students
  • Australia – Educating Globally: Advice from the International Education Advisory Council (Commonwealth of Australia, 2013) – After assessing the opportunities and challenges facing the international education sector and consulting with major stakeholders, the Council considers Australia will be able to play a leading role in meeting the growing global demand for education
  • Research on Attitudes toward Mobility (Universities Australia, 2013) – Research shows that students are very invested in the concept of mobility programs; those students who have participated in a mobility program are very satisfied with all aspects of their experience; major benefits of mobility programs are considered to be access to different ways of thinking, the opportunity to explore another country, awareness of a different culture and immersion into a different society; and the current generation of students are highly engaged with travel and are looking for opportunities to go abroad
  • Outbound Mobility (Universities Australia, 2013) – Universities Australia advocates for increased numbers of students to include an international study component as part of their degree
  • Finding Meaning through Voluntourism (Greg Rienzi, 2011) – ‘Working vacations’ allow travellers to immerse themselves in a different culture – while also giving back
  • The Impact of Study Abroad on Senior Year Engagement (Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, 2008) – Study results indicate that study abroad participants reported significantly higher levels of engagement in integrative and reflective learning, and stronger gains in personal and social development after their return compared to their peers who did not study abroad
  • Australia Global Alumni Engagement Strategy – Public diplomacy initiative to foster a global alumni community that actively engages and promotes Australia and advances national interests, especially in the Indo-Pacific region

Further references: