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 – 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.

Short mobility ‘much more’ than just tourism
The PIE News, 2022

Recent research has revealed that short-term mobility programs add considerable value to Australia’s university students and cannot be touted as mere holiday getaways for outbound students, as is commonly perceived.

Researchers led by Ly Tran of Deakin University, conducted a national survey of 1,371 Australian New Colombo Plan students and alumni from 40 universities studying in the Indo-Pacific. The research found that the impact of short-term mobility on student learning outcomes and development to be similar to that of long-term mobility and even better in some aspects.

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Learning Abroad in Australian Universities White Paper
IEAA, 2022

IEAA’s White Paper on Learning Abroad in Australian Universities outlines several important outcomes of mobility and calls to action, as well as delves into the benefits of mobility and the transformative effects on students and the larger society. The paper takes an evidence-based approach to six key outcomes of learning abroad: Globally engaged leaders, Global citizens, Australia’s relations with the world, Student experience, Employability and graduate outcomes, and Driver for student recruitment.

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Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030
Australian Government, Department of Education, Skills and Employment 

On 26 November 2021, the Australian Government released the much anticipated Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030 and announced key initiatives supporting its implementation. As borders reopen to welcome international students back into Australia, the new Strategy aims to rebuild the sector more sustainably and create new opportunities for growth.

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Managing Risk and Travel: A guide for learning abroad practitioners during COVID-19
IEAA, Sarah Argles, Benita Ho and Fiona White, 2021

COVID-19 has significantly impacted the student mobility industry in Australia and around the world. As travel resumes post-pandemic, student safety and risk management will be under a close watch. This guide is the result of a collaboration between a number of learning abroad practitioners to provide a starting point for the Australian learning abroad sector for policies, procedures and processes.

COVID-19 and the return of learning abroad is another helpful IEAA resource. While institutions and providers focus on improving operations that prioritise risk and safety, they must also continue to adjust their operations based on the “big unknown” – when will learning abroad travel be possible?

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Australian students going overseas rose 11% in 2019
The PIE News, 2021

Research by the Australian Universities Directors’ Forum shows that the number of Australian students participating in pre-pandemic learning experiences overseas reached its highest level to date in 2019. That year, over 58,000 students from 34 institutions undertook study experiences in 156 countries, an 11.3% increase from 2018. Over the past decade, the proportion of Australian students that have benefitted from an international experience during their degree has more than tripled. While international education has been halted by the pandemic, optimism remains high for continued growth of Australian students participating in international study experiences in the future.

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PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE OF WORK through work-integrated learning
University of Waterloo, Tara Stevens, Judene Pretti, Norah McRae, 2020

The future of work and how to best prepare for it is one of the biggest challenges currently facing governments, employers, educators and policy makers. This white paper discusses major trends with respect to the future of work and highlights the associated roles and implications for work-integrated learning (WIL) programs. This culmination of 32 recent Canadian and international reports on the future of work led to the identification of six major trends:

  1. Advances in Technology
  2. Developing Skill Agility and Transferability
  3. Responsibility for Adaptation to the Future of Work
  4. Fostering Cultures of Diversity and Inclusion
  5. The Gig Economy and Precarious Work
  6. Employee vs. Organizational Values

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National Report: Career Outcomes of Learning Abroad
IEAA, Dr Davina Potts, 2020

In 2018, around 19% of students at Australian universities (all levels of study) participated in a learning abroad program. For undergraduates, the participation rate was 22%, approaching a quarter of all students. While still a long way from universal participation, impressive growth has been achieved in a short time.

The results of this research report suggest that as further growth is planned, serious consideration needs to be given to how institutions take the next step in expanding access to all students, regardless of their socio-economic background, discipline of study, educational circumstances or cultural capital – as international skills, knowledge and experience are important for every graduate.

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Employable You: An Online Guide for International Studies
IEAA, 2019

This employability guide was written by IEAA to help support international students in their careers. Throughout the guide, students can navigate issues they may face as an international student or graduate when looking for work opportunities or progressing their career aspirations. While it focuses on employment in Australia, much of the advice presented will also useful for work outside Australia.

Whether students are embarking on their first role, establishing their career or on the way to becoming their own boss, this interactive online guide provides essential tips and practical steps to help international students on their employability journey.

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Mental Health and International Students: Issues, Challenges and Effective Practice
IEAA, Dr Helen Forbes-Mewett, 2019

This research paper gives an overview of the literature and brings together the major studies that have focused on international student mental health over the past 20 years. The mental health of Australian university students is generally shown to be in decline. It is also generally believed that mental health issues are increasing in occurrence and severity. It is an issue of concern that is attracting attention in host countries where international students relocate to undertake their studies.

Also see Guide to Best Practice in International Student Mental Health (English Australia, 2018) and CISaustralia’s webpage on Mental Health Support for Students.

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Top int’l student destinations view migrants as a “strength”
The PIE News, 2019

A survey by Pew Research Center has revealed that out of the 18 countries hosting half (51%) of the world’s migrants, the majority of respondents living in 11 of those nations believe that immigrants make their countries stronger. This includes the US, Germany, the UK, France, Spain, Japan, Canada and Australia.

Canada was found to be the most accepting where 68% of respondents said they believe immigrants make the country stronger. Australia came second with 64%.

By contrast, majorities in seven nations – Hungary, Greece, Italy, Russia, Poland, Israel and South Africa – were revealed to believe immigrants are seen as a burden to their country.

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Want To Launch A Successful Startup? Spend Time Abroad
Forbes, 2018

The quantity and quality of successful businesses whose origin story starts with members of its founding team studying or working abroad are many. In some cases, business models were directly inspired by experiences that occurred during a founder’s time abroad. So how can going abroad impact business creation and development?

Entrepreneurs and founders learn through experience. For many aspiring entrepreneurs, studying or working abroad is a valuable chance to accelerate their journey by introducing fresh and different experiences into their lives. Going abroad also helps to cultivate an international network of both peers and mentors. A clearer sense of self can also emerge from adapting to new and unfamiliar situations. Whether intentional or unintentional, those who go abroad emerge and improve as problem seekers and opportunity detectors – helpful traits for launching a successful startup.

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Gone International: Expanding Opportunities
Universities UK, 2018

This report compares the academic attainment and employment outcomes of mobile and non-mobile first degree undergraduate students who completed their studies at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. The study examines the impact of short-term international placements that last up to four weeks, as well as expands student profiles analysed to include disabled students, students from low-participation neighbourhoods, part-time students, students who are care-leavers and mature students. The evidence from this report shows that graduates who go abroad during their studies are more likely to get a higher degree classification and be in graduate jobs than those who don’t. They are also less likely to be unemployed and gain higher starting salaries.

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Going International and Supporting Mental Health Needs
Universities UK, 2018

Research from Universities UK (UUK) confirms that over the past 10 years, there has been a fivefold increase in the proportion of students who disclose a mental health condition to their institution. Demand for student support services has increased by 150% between 2011 and 2015, and it is probable that more students going overseas will require mental health assistance. This article outlines a framework and provides tips that universities can use to support student’s wellbeing and mitigate the stresses that come with transitions and going to a new environment. Also see CISaustralia’s webpage on Mental Health Support for Students.

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Research Report Connects Study Abroad and Employability
Terra Dotta, 2017

This report offers actionable advice from experts on how to foster a stronger connection between study abroad, skill development and employability, including: promoting the data, teaming up with your Career Services Office, teaching students how to relay their experiences, enlisting the help of experts, and keeping the conversation going.

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Gaining an Employment Edge – The Impact of Study Abroad
Institute of International Education, 2017

This report investigates the connection between overseas study programs and the growth of skills towards employment and career development. It aims to provide hard evidence of the role study abroad plays in employment outcomes. Fifteen skills were identified as being the most desirable by employers in areas of cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies. IIE’s study links these skills to study abroad and explores how overseas programs positively contribute to students’ development of transferable employment skills and career gains. The report looks at what specific features of overseas programs contribute to success in one’s career, which can help universities and educators develop programs that better prepare students for a global workforce.

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Mental Health and Study Abroad

Terra Dotta, 2017

One in five young adults experiences a mental health condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It stands to reason that many of them will participate in education abroad programs during college. It is in the best interest of all parties for universities to help students with mental health concerns prepare for—and succeed at—their education abroad programs. See CISaustralia’s webpage on Mental Health Support for Students.

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Choose Your Words Wisely: Why Study Abroad Needs to Speak the Language of Employment
The PIE News, 2017

Carrie Rackers Cunningham, director of institutional research at IES Abroad, recently published an article making a case for collecting more hard data on the link between study abroad and employability to help practitioners speak concisely about employment. She says, “without this type of research as a foundation to measure the value of study abroad on careers, there is no basis to argue its place among engaging experiences of meaning to university leadership, policymakers, and students”.

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Quality in Australian Outbound Student Mobility Programs: Establishing Good Practice Guidelines for International Work-Integrated-Learning in Health Sciences
Curtin University, 2016

The aim of this report is to establish academic standards for international fieldwork within health science disciplines, focusing on preparation requirements, the level and model of supervision to monitor fieldwork and assessment criteria to ensure excellent student learning outcomes. At the time of this report, no systematic research had been published on quality processes for Australian international fieldwork in health. The accompanying guide, ‘Australian Outbound Student Mobility: quality dimensions for international fieldwork in health sciences’, has been written to assist academic and professional staff engaged in international fieldwork in health sciences to inform the design of international fieldwork programs and benchmark existing programs against good practice to engage in quality improvement.

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Gone International: Mobility Works
UK Higher Education International Unit, 2015

Universities UK International compares the academic attainment and employment outcomes of mobile and non-mobile first degree undergraduate students who completed their studies at the end of the 2014–15 academic year. This report provides the third annual national outline of who goes abroad, and considers what currently available data can tell us about the outcomes of international experience as part of a UK undergraduate program. The findings also aim to inform discussions within the sector about increasing participation of underrepresented groups in outward mobility opportunities, by identifying specific outcomes for these groups.

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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.

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
  • Standards of Good Practice – The Forum on Education Abroad is recognised by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission as the Standards Development Organisation (SDO) for the field of education abroad. As such, it is The Forum’s responsibility to monitor changes in our field of professional practice and maintain, update and promulgate the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad according to the needs of our field.
  • 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:


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