The 2018 Australian Universities Learning Abroad report, released in November and undertaken by i-Graduate, found more than 52,000 Australian domestic students went abroad during their studies last year, representing 19% of the entire graduating cohort.
By level of study, however, one in four undergraduates went abroad, at just 36,500 students.
Students are also starting to recognise that this is an opportunity that can help differentiate them as a graduate,” explained Jo Byng (pictured), member of the Australian Universities International Directors Forum Executive.
“Many of their peers are engaging in it… and so I think they recognise it’s got a lot of value and it’s becoming a rite of passage for students.”
According to the report, 2018 was the first time ever the number of domestic outbound students surpassed the 50,000 marks, and saw the proportion of students almost doubled from 17% in 2014.
Speaking with The PIE News, Byng, who is also director of international strategy, mobility and operations at Western Sydney International, said substantial government backing had also helped encourage more Australian students to consider mobility programs.
“The Australian government has given an immense amount of support, particularly to promote undergraduate mobility, through New Colombo grants and scholarships,” she said.
“That would be one of the big factors, but then also loans that have been available to students, undergraduates, for over a decade now, that I think are taken up in fairly significant numbers by students.”
“Universities have really started to recognise the benefits to students in undertaking overseas mobility experiences,” she continued, adding benefits were experienced both academically and post-graduation when finding employment.
Of those that went abroad, the majority did so on a short-term program, with 24% going on a study tour, 21% as part of a work-integrated learning experience, internship, or practical placement, and 16% to undertake a class at a partner institution.
RMIT University is one of the institutions that has seen a substantial rise in the number of domestic students participating in some form of international study experience.
“Students are increasingly taking up the unique experiences we offer in person, online, onshore and offshore to help develop global perspectives, so they are ready for the ever-changing world of work,” a spokesperson said.
“More than 3,500 students participated in a global mobility program (traditional exchanges or study abroad programs) through RMIT in 2018, an increase of 21.5% since 2017.”
According to the study, 49% of Australian outbound students studied in the Indo-Pacific, an area of focus for the New Colombo Plan. China, meanwhile, represented the biggest single country with 14% of students.
Byng said the next aim for AUIDF was to ensure demographics underrepresented in the study could take up an outbound experience.