‘Ready, steady, go!’ – How can Business Schools encourage outgoing student mobility?


By Dr Monika Foster, Edinburgh Napier Business School, Edinburgh Napier University


Have you recently been on an internationalisation or mobility committee/working group tasked with encouraging outgoing student mobility and, having used every available incentive, concluded that ‘they just don’t want to go’? 

This blog post builds on the results of the study which explored the impact of student mobility on cross-cultural adaptation in order to produce a set of recommendations for business schools who wish to enhance their students’ outgoing, international mobility.

With higher education becoming increasingly globalised, and universities aiming to encourage student mobility (both inwards and outwards) through exchange and study abroad programmes (Sweeney, 2012), it is even more important to promote the benefits of mobility, especially the complex cross-cultural learning involved which contributes to the development of key employability skills.

A study at Edinburgh Napier Business School adapted a new and innovative approach to exploring the impact of mobility on students' cross-cultural adaptation, using their own multi-media records of experiences of outgoing mobility. Specifically, it examined students’ evolving perceptions of their own culture of learning and that of the host, as they went through the experience of studying abroad. The participants were students on a six month exchange with a partner institution in China.

Using creative interventions or ‘cultural probes’ such as photos, videos and reflective learning logs, the study’s main focus was on understanding others, empathy and engagement (Gaver et al 2004), using evocative tasks to elicit inspirational responses and a first-hand capture of the key experiences in outgoing student mobility.

A rich picture of student interaction with the new academic environment emerged, with two striking findings. First was the richness captured by the students through a self-selected lens of a video or a blog, and the second key finding was that student experience of the new academic culture is complex and evolves over time. Both emphasise the contribution of outgoing mobility to students making sense of their own culture of learning and becoming more mature and focused learners.

We were struck by how much the students enjoyed and embraced recording their experience using social media. This can be an effective promotional tool for those considering outgoing mobility as part of their studies. Based on the outcomes of the project a number of recommendations can help promote outgoing mobility to students in business schools. Pre- and post-mobility intercultural skills training is recommended to ensure maximum benefits from study abroad and the mobility experiences serve as a platform for consolidating students’ intercultural skills, a much sought-after employability skill.

Schools can encourage student mobility through creative and student driven assessments based on mobility experience, perhaps being explored as part of the final year dissertation or project. The returning exchange students can present a short video/slideshow describing their experiences of living abroad and studying on exchange programmes to prospective exchange students. Another way institutions can prepare students would be through a buddy up scheme with returning exchange students.

As motivating students to take part in increased mobility often relates to how they perceive long term benefits from mobility (Brooks and Waters 2011), it is important to maximise capturing learning from study abroad experience through a number of mechanisms including getting students to record the experience of developing intercultural awareness and using it to enhance assessments from study abroad, then sharing the experience online with other students and visiting exchange students when they are abroad. Student assessment and moderation of marks on students return is an area which needs to be given attention, and this can be addressed by breaking up clusters of students from the same university and integrating them in to a broader international student cohort (see Foster and Anderson, 2015).

Dr Monika Foster will be delivering a presentation on 'Exploring the impact of international student mobility on cross-cultural learning adaptation' at the Chartered ABS 'Learning, Teaching & Student Experience' conference, 26-27 April


Brooks, R., & Waters, J. (2011). Student mobilities, migration and the internationalization of higher education. Palgrave Macmillan.
Foster, M and Anderson, L. (eds.) (2015) Exploring Internationalisation of the Curriculum to Enhance the Student Experience, Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, Vol 3 No 3 2015 http://jpaap.napier.ac.uk/index.php/JPAAP/issue/current
Gaver, W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S., and Walker, B. (2004) Cultural Probes and the value of uncertainty. Interactions, 11(5) 53-56
Sweeney, S. (2012) Going Mobile: Internationalisation, mobility and the European Higher Education Area. [Accessed 25/03/14] http://www.britishcouncil.org/going_mobile_brochure_final_.pdf