The Australian Universities Directors’ Forum has released its latest learning abroad research, measuring the international experience participation rate of Australian university students in 2019.

At least 58,058 students from 34 institutions undertook study experiences in 156 countries in 2019, an 11.3% increase on the year before.

“It’s fantastic that such a large proportion of our domestic students are able to benefit from international study”

Undergraduate students had the highest take-up rate of international experiences, with almost 1 in 4 heading overseas for study related activities during the course of their degree, compared to 1 in 5 or 19% for all levels of graduating cohorts.

Over the last decade, the proportion of Australian students that have benefitted from an international experience during their degree has more than tripled according to Mike Ferguson, chair of the AUIDF.

“Australian students benefit in a number of ways from overseas study including through increased employability skills and academic performance upon return,” he said.

Faculty led tours were the most popular study experience with 22% of students participating in this type, 20% undertaking internships, work integrated learning or other practical placements, 16% went on a summer or winter program at a host university, 15% participated in an exchange program attending classes at a host university and 7% went for conferences or international competitions.

Most students stuck close to home, with 49% travelling within the Indo-Pacific region, 15% went to China, with the US (9%) and the UK (8%) the next most popular destinations.

The upward trend has most certainly been halted by the pandemic with international travel restrictions for Australians essentially preventing any students from leaving the country since early 2020. These restrictions are expected to remain in place for at least the first half of 2021

Australian students will have the option of a virtual international experience available through programs such as the federal government’s New Colombo Plan which is offering hundreds of grants and programs online, however the uptake of this option is expected to be significantly less than in country experience.

Regardless of the current challenges, there is a high level of optimism for the continued growth of Australian students taking part in international study experiences in the future.

“It’s fantastic that such a large proportion of our domestic students are able to benefit from international study,” Ferguson added.

“International education is very much a two-way street and the opportunities that Australian students receive to study overseas are significant and often overlooked.”

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