Academic mobility and its impact on careers
“The world is a global village” has never rung truer than in today’s age. Whether physically or virtually, more and more people are incorporating learning or working in different countries within the academic sector. And with academics in the picture, thinking of careers is not a long shot — hence the need to explore the impact of academic mobility on the careers of those that participate.
What is Academic Mobility?
Academic mobility can be described as the movement of students and teachers in higher education from one institution to another, either within or outside their own country, to study or teach for a period of time. Mobility can be achieved in two main ways; vertical mobility and horizontal mobility.
This is when a person moves to another institution with higher academic standing and is usually done to gain better employment opportunities afterwards. For example, some students leave Ghana to seek tertiary education in Western countries after secondary education. Some aim to gain employment in these Western countries after schooling. For this kind, the mobility tends to extend for the whole duration of the programme.
For this kind of mobility, people move to institutions with similar academic standing; the goal is usually to learn from valuable contrasts. These tend to be more temporal such as an exchange programme or participating in an immersion programme.
Two key drivers of mobility
Mobility is underlined by two key ideas: Internationalization and Globalization.
Internationalization involves the increase in cross-border activities despite national higher education. This area covers physical mobility, academic cooperation, knowledge transfer, and international education.
Globalization connotes a blurred border and national system between countries as academic mobility occurs. (Teichler, 2015). Some noted programmes aimed at academic mobility include the Fulbright Program, NORDPlus, Commonwealth Scholarships and the Nyerere Program.
Benefits of academic mobility
Gain valuable, employable skills
Academic mobility helps people develop their skills professionally, socially and interculturally, increasing their employability. This is because employers are looking for transferable skills obtained during academic mobility.
In a survey of 297 academically mobile persons, the participants identified two skills acquired through mobility: people skills and self-efficacy.
People skills included communication skills, intercultural communication, language and networking skills. Self-efficacy skills included problem-solving, organizational skills, reflection skills, confidence and adaptability (Siemers, 2016).
Improve job prospects
According to an Erasmus Impact study, persons in Europe who participated in a mobility period have a higher probability of getting a job within one year after graduation.
Moreover, another study was conducted in Poland among persons that had undertaken academic mobility. Out of the pool, 53.6% now worked with international organizations, with only less than 5% unemployed. As part of the study, the research subjects were asked to rank the most useful factors in their career development. Academic mobility came in 3rd after higher education and proficiency in foreign languages (Teichler, 2015) — two factors easily gained through academic mobility.
In another study conducted in Hong Kong, one student studying in Canada said the spoon-feeding method she received in Hong Kong differs from the teaching style in Canada. In Canada, there is more autonomous learning which allows creativity within students and allows them to study for their interests. Employers are looking for creative and productive workers, and hence because of the differences in the teaching styles, will opt for a student that schooled overseas as compared to a student in Hong Kong.
Positive contribution to the workplace
According to an Erasmus study, there are some clear differences between mobile workers and those who were not in the workplace. Mobile workers are more likely to be sent abroad for work assignments and business trips. They can also use information about other countries to fulfil tasks and find it easier to work with clients from other countries. They can also use foreign languages in business (Engel, 2010).
A study in Hong Kong also showed that those who studied abroad gained cultural capital, a valuable tool in the job market. Simply put, cultural capital refers to the accumulation of knowledge, skills and behaviour a persona has to showcase their cultural competence and social status (Cole, 2019).
One survey subject said that to get more high-ranking jobs in Hong Kong, one must be able to speak English. Furthermore, preference is given to those with a North American accent, as it is easier for their foreign clients and partners to understand them. Acquiring this accent is done by living in that region for a while, showing how academic mobility gives people an upper hand.
To reiterate, academic mobility is on the rise, especially with the inclusion of virtual options. The benefits of academic mobile persons include improved people skills, self-sufficiency skills, and a tendency to have increased creativity compared to their peers in their home country due to the difference in teaching styles across the countries. Consequently, employers tend to employ academic mobile students for their transferable skills and cultural capital. Although this is the case, in some countries, it is noted that the private sector is more appreciative of its international credentials than the public sector. Overall, there is a clear positive impact on the career development of academic mobile persons.
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