How Business Schools Can Promote the Globalization of Higher Education: Study Abroad and the Success of Erasmus+

How Business Schools Can Promote the Globalization of Higher Education: Study Abroad and the Success of Erasmus+

In the increasingly globalized world of business education, international experience and cross-cultural understanding are an absolute necessity if students are to thrive in the workforce.

The young AACSB team in Amsterdam (present company excepted!) is composed of an incredibly diverse group of colleagues who hold a number of passports, speak many languages, and are very comfortable in engaging with our many stakeholders from across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In the increasingly globalized world of business education, these qualities are an absolute necessity.

My own recent travels have taken me to Spain, England, Scotland, France, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden, where I visited our member institutions, participated in conferences, and delivered seminars reinforcing the paramount need for a global mindset, international agility, and a willingness to embrace cultural diversity in an engaged and enthusiastic manner. Globalization and seamless movement across borders and cultures will characterize tomorrow’s workforce. One program that has clearly led the way with facilitating international study and exchanges of students and staff since 1987 is the Erasmus Program.

Leading the Learning Across Borders

The Erasmus Program, which stands for the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students and was developed by the European Union 30 years ago, has enabled more than 3 million people to participate in university exchanges over the past three decades. Perhaps more importantly, the new Erasmus+ program will provide opportunities for 4 million people to go abroad, including 2 million higher education students and 300,000 higher education staff in the next seven years (2014–20). In addition, the program will fund 135,000 student and staff exchanges involving non-European partner countries. Erasmus+ will be even more accessible thanks to increased linguistic support, more flexible rules, and additional support for people with special needs due to their disadvantaged backgrounds or remote locales.

Snapshot of Erasmus+ Country Participants

Non-EU Countries Participating in Erasmus+
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Non-European Partner Countries Participating in Erasumus+*
Western Balkans Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia
Eastern Partnership Countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Territory of Ukraine as recognized by international law
South Mediterranean Countries Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia
Russian Federation Territory of Russia as recognized by international law
*Switzerland is a European, non-EU country also participating as a partner under Erasmus+

These non-EU partner countries can take part in certain actions under Erasmus+, subject to specific criteria or conditions.

In its strategy on the modernization of higher education, the European Commission highlighted the need to provide even more opportunities for students to gain skills through study or training abroad. The European Union (EU) target for overall student mobility is at least 20 percent by the end of this decade. Currently, around 10 percent of EU students study or train abroad with the support of public and private means. Around 5 percent receive an Erasmus grant for study abroad.

Mobile-Ready Students

Globally, according to Times Higher Education, and based on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. is the most popular country for international students, hosting about 785,000 per year. Within Europe, the U.K. hosts the greatest number of international students, well over 400,000 per year, generating upwards of 13 billion GBP (nearly 17 billion USD) for the U.K. economy annually. However, globally, looking at current data and enrollment trends, it is abundantly clear that students and their families are fast and flexible when looking at study abroad options and will migrate to countries that appear ready, willing, and able to accept them.

It is important to note that Spain sent the most students for a study period abroad, followed by Germany, France, and Italy. These countries also have the largest student populations in Europe. The same countries, together with the U.K., which receives almost twice as many students as it sends, make up the most popular destination countries, namely Spain, France, Germany, the U.K., and Italy. The average length of stay is 6.2 months.

Students of business, law, and social sciences made up the biggest share (41 percent) of those on exchanges. In fact, this group of students is almost twice as large as the next biggest contingent, from the humanities and arts.

B-School Globalization Opportunities

What excites me most about AACSB membership in nearly 100 countries worldwide (and accredited schools in more than 50 countries) is the keen interest in our members of growing their “collaborative provisions” and engaging with an increasing number of business schools and faculties around the world. For our members, the AACSB Collaboration Concourse serves as a digital “match-making” service that helps schools identify potential academic partners across the world seeking similar opportunities for their students and faculty.

Just recently I was invited to Riga, Latvia, to speak to a group of colleagues and friends at the summer meeting of the Consortium of International Double Degrees (CIDD). This organization takes the spirit of Erasmus+ further and engages business schools with double, and in some cases triple, degree programs. In the AACSB spirit, the stated mission of CIDD, founded in 2000, is for business schools to cooperate together to:

  • Promote international business education and research
  • Enhance student and teacher mobility
  • Be a link between business schools/universities and companies
  • Ensure quality through self-regulation of standards, in particular those concerned with double degree programs

CIDD knows, like AACSB knows, that facilitating these international alliances enhances workforce readiness, employability, mobility, and student confidence. Indeed, the Erasmus Impact Study, led by Uwe Brandenburg, managing partner of CHE Consult in Berlin, shows that graduates with international experience fare much better on the job market. The study, compiled by independent experts, is the largest of its kind and received feedback from nearly 80,000 respondents, including students and businesses.

The study concludes that Erasmus alumni are half as likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad, and, five years after graduation, their unemployment rate is 23 percent lower.

At AACSB we celebrate innovation, impact, and engagement. There is no better, more internationally and culturally extensive model than the 30-year experiment called Erasmus.

Tim MesconFollow Timothy Mescon on Twitter @timmescon.