Northern Ireland higher education goes global (part one)

Five higher education institutions in Northern Ireland are sharing over half a million euros to fund a wide variety of Erasmus+ exchange projects beyond Europe.

Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility (ICM) funds students and staff to study, teach or train in countries outside the European Union. Since its introduction in 2015, five higher education institutions in Northern Ireland (NI) have received funding, forming partnerships with universities and colleges from around the world. It is helping their staff to gain new ideas and skills, to introduce new subjects to the curriculum and to forge links with enterprises and for students to prepare for international careers and build their confidence.

In the first of two blog posts, we hear about the impact this is having on Ulster University and South West College.

Ulster University

Ulster University’s Faculty of Law will benefit from 41,000 euro this year to collaborate with Guram Tavartkiladze Teaching University in Georgia on curriculum development in law and business administration. The two universities will look at joint teaching to deliver new modules and students will spend a semester in each other’s institution.

Ulster University Erasmus+ participants

Ulster’s students will be able to access subjects not currently available to them, such as 'cyber crime' and 'data defence’. They will gain an insight into their subject through a very different cultural and academic environment, crucially enriching both their course content and their student experience.

Staff will spend two weeks teaching in each other’s institution, gaining international experience that can then be shared with their colleagues and students back home.

ICM is an additional feather in our international cap and we are really pleased to have been awarded this funding

The two institutions will also use ICM as an opportunity to internationalise their own classrooms and curricula, benefiting those who travel to Georgia as well as those that can’t. It is expected that by the end of the exchange period, a mutual summer programme will have been developed to support a greater number of student exchanges. 

Mehvish Ashfaq, Head of Global Mobility and Experience at Ulster University"We receive a significant number of exchange and visiting students every year," said Mehvish Ashfaq, Head of Global Mobility and Experience at Ulster University. "However, our home students are not as mobile as we would like, so we have set ourselves an ambitious target to develop a range of opportunities that are richer and more varied than ever before.

"We want to create academic experiences that are not only global by definition, but critically engage our students in places and for durations that are both manageable and meaningful to them. Erasmus+ is one of the key ways we have of achieving this goal.

"ICM is an additional feather in our international cap and we are really pleased to have been awarded this funding."

South West College

South West College (SWC) has successfully applied for ICM funding three times and have been awarded more than 230,000 euro for projects involving staff exchanges with Russia, the USA, Canada and China.

Almost 100 HE staff from SWC and their network of international partner universities are currently benefiting from mutual staff exchanges in a wide range of curriculum areas including engineering, construction, technology and hospitality.

SWC have already participated in staff training and teaching engagements with the University of Calgary (Canada), Northern College Canada and Don State Technical University (Russia), exposing them to the latest pedagogical techniques, curriculum and learning technologies in the field. SWC has also established a strong network of academic partners in the USA with ICM projects focusing on upskilling staff from tourism, culinary arts and renewable technologies subjects.

Additionally, ICM has enabled SWC to strengthen its partnership with Xiangyang Vocational & Technical College (XVTC) in China, allowing teaching staff from both institutions’ engineering departments to exchange ideas for modernising their engineering curricula in line with new industrial needs such as robotics, additive manufacturing and augmented reality. Over the next year, mobility opportunities between the institutions will open up to staff from their business, early years and virtual learning departments.

In 2018, SWC was successful in extending its Chinese partnership network through the addition of Wuxi Automotive Engineering School.

"By improving the professional and practical skills of our lecturing staff, our curriculum and our understanding of industry requirements, we can better support our students for employment in a challenging and competitive economic environment," said Jill Cush, Deputy Chief Executive, SWC.

See how South Eastern Regional College, Southern Regional College and North West Regional College are benefiting from their ICM funding in our second blog post in this series.