Putting Wales on the world stage

For Gwen Williams, a Welsh replacement for Erasmus puts Welsh higher education firmly on the map

Gwen Williams is Head of International at Universities Wales.

On Sunday we were pleased to welcome the Welsh Government’s announcement of the brand new £65 million International Learning Exchange programme for Wales – intended to put Wales and its global ambitions firmly on the map.

The programme will provide funding for mobilities for students and staff across universities, further education and vocational education and training, adult education, youth work settings and schools. The scheme will be in operation from 2022-2026.

Filling the gaps with reciprocity

The Welsh Government has been vocal about its support for continued participation in the Erasmus+ programme. The new International Learning Exchange programme is intended to fill some of the gaps for mobilities and partnerships. It will support inward and outward mobility. These mobilities will be global, supporting travel to and from anywhere in the world, but with a strategic focus on Europe. It will also fund strategic partnerships enabling further opportunities to be developed into the future.

The reciprocal nature of this scheme, enabling funding for inward mobilities and the honouring and building of exchange partnerships, is important and will aid the development of new opportunities both within Europe and internationally.

We expect the new scheme to support 15,000 participants in outbound mobility exchanges over the course of the programme, and 10,000 participants in inbound mobility exchanges.

Outward-looking

In its International Strategy, the Welsh Government set out its commitment to ensuring that Wales continues to be an outward-looking nation and an inviting destination for partners across Europe and the world. An outward-looking and competitive nation requires a skilled workforce with a global outlook. Providing opportunities for students to be internationally mobile through study or work is crucial to this.

Meanwhile, those working in higher education will be familiar with the benefits of mobilities for students and staff. Research shows that students who spend time working, studying or volunteering abroad achieve better degrees and get better jobs, and that the benefits are greater for participants from the least advantaged backgrounds.

The new International Learning Exchanges programme is an opportunity to provide more of these benefits to people in Wales, and in doing so help strengthen Wales’ place in the world.

Welsh institutions will also be able to take part in the UK-wide Turing scheme. Turing will be funded by £105m for its first year starting in September 2021. Students in Wales will be able to benefit from the opportunities provided by Turing while the ILE programme will play a broader role in securing and building Wales’ place in the world.

Going global

In keeping with the spirit of reciprocity and in appreciation of the role that international students, staff and researchers play in diversifying and internationalising our campuses and communities, Wales’ new programme will also fund the continuation and development of the Global Wales programme.

Established in 2015, Global Wales is a partnership programme, led by Universities Wales, which aims to grow the economy, support collaborative research and innovation, promote international mobility, and attract students and researchers to Wales. Partners include Welsh Government, British Council Wales and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).

Unique to Global Wales has been its ability to engage in “system to system” development, leveraging all elements of the higher education system – from government and regulator to sector and student body – to respond quickly and innovatively to the requirements of partner countries. It provides an opportunity to capitalise on the strengths of our universities.

Global Wales offers a range of scholarships for international students to study in Wales, a key part of ensuring that Wales continues to be an outward-looking nation and an inviting destination for partners and students across Europe and the world.

By acting together, harnessing the combined strength of universities, working in collaboration with government, industry, the wider education system, cultural organisations and their collective overseas networks, Wales can emerge as a thriving example of dynamic global nation.

A confident, internationally-savvy and globally connected population will be vital to success. That is why the International Learning Exchange programme matters for Wales.

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