Speaking at Global Wales’s first flagship conference on July 6, the country’s education minister said the International Learning Exchange Programme will “aim to ensure, as we overcome the pandemic and borders and doors are able to open again, that Wales is ready and waiting to seize opportunities and forge new partnership across the world”.
Announced in March, the initiative is supported by £65 million from the government over the next five years up to 2026.
“Multilingualism is something that we do everyday in Wales, and is deep rooted in all of our education providers,” Jeremy Miles MS, Welsh government minister for Education and Welsh Language said.
“That approach makes us particularly well suited to partner with countries around the world.”
The “wide-ranging” program will fund learner and staff mobility in all educational settings, and will not have geographical restrictions.
“I want all students in our universities to have the opportunity to travel abroad and have new, challenging and exciting opportunities, and I also want lecturers to be exposed to, and inspired by, new and innovative teaching approaches from countries overseas,” he told the 200 Welsh, UK and international delegates at the virtual event.
“We are designing a program that will do all that it can to accommodate everybody, including by providing short mobilities, and ensuring costs, such as passport costs, don’t deter people from participating,” he explained.
Importantly, he noted that the reciprocity integrated into the program will allow up to 30% of funding from every grant agreement to a Welsh provider to support inward mobility.
“The message to us from across Europe regarding the loss of Erasmus+ was loud and clear – that many partnerships would no longer be allowed to continue. This program, which I think is decisive and ambitious, will ensure that will not happen,” he said, adding “highly-valued” staff and students from overseas will still be able to spread benefits across Welsh campuses.
“I hope the program encourages you all to continue working with us and our wonderful education providers and that as a result we will have stronger lasting connections that cross borders.”
“I expect Global Wales to have an increasing role to play in our relationships across Europe”
The Global Wales international education partnership – which comprises Universities Wales, Welsh Government, British Council Wales, and the Higher Education funding Council for Wales – will also help to connect with Europe, he suggested.
“In addition to its current focus in India, Vietnam and the US, I expect [Global Wales] to have an increasing role to play in our network and relationships with universities, and colleges across Europe.”
Also speaking at the event, Hoang Minh Son, deputy minister for Education and Training in Vietnam, noted that, “Collaboration has gone from strength to strength in spite of the pandemic”.
In January 2020, the Welsh Government released its first International Strategy, and later in the year Universities Wales called for an ‘ambitious’ plan to increase Wales’ university exports by 75% to £950 million by 2030.