On a recent visit to the beautiful Austrian city of Graz, Melanie Smith and Sarah Roeschlaub, lecturers from the University of Derby’s Child and Youth Studies programme, participated in ‘International Week’ at Pädagogische Hochschule, Steiermark, at the University College of Teacher Education Styria. In this blog written jointly by Mel and Sarah, they highlight the benefits of the Erasmus exchange programme.
We both had the pleasure of delivering a session on the National Curriculum in England to first year teaching students and members of the faculty, alongside discussions on the importance of internationalisation with lecturers from other European nations.
We also spent time observing practice in primary and secondary schools. This posed many interesting pedagogical questions relating to our own practice and the practice that our students currently engage with in English schools. These discussions will inform our own teaching during lectures in the forthcoming academic year.
It was an action-packed week with a wealth of activities, including a tour of the city, meeting with Austrian students. We even found time to visit our Level 5 Child and Youth Studies students currently on the Erasmus European exchange programme.
Erasmus gives students on the Child and Youth Studies programme the opportunity to study in their second year at University of Styria, in Graz.
However, Universities UK, the body which represents Britain’s higher education sector, has suggested that students could be denied funding which supports Erasmus if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal.
In spite of the imminence of Brexit, by not commenting on or committing to future action – either positive or negative – for students wishing to study in Europe the government has contributed to the uncertainty associated with the process.
UUK chief executive Alistair Jarvis has implored the government to commit to funds for students 2019/2020, so it is important that higher education establishments, such as the University of Derby, continue to establish and maintain the European links with universities on the continent.
Benefits for students
Erasmus remains a vital exchange of knowledge and skills on an international stage for students, staff and society.
The Erasmus experience, such as our Child and Youth Studies students spending time in Austrian schools teaching and working with children and young people, and studying alongside other nationalities, supports each student’s capacity to develop their knowledge and ability to experience diverse cultures and ways of thinking. (Loynes & Gurholt 2017).
Our CYS students currently on the exchange reported that they have had the opportunity to be taught by lecturers from four different countries, namely Austria, Denmark, Belgium and Spain.
They have experienced different teaching styles in primary and secondary schools, which have influenced and impacted their skills in regards to teaching and working with children and young people, whilst covering topics such as diversity in Europe, how to communicate through education and teaching on the continent.
Students have developed transferable skills and made friendships that have supported them through their experience. They have increased their independence, self-esteem and confidence by developing cultural awareness, language skills and broadening their horizons.
This will support their future employment prospects for working within the Child and Youth sector.
With Brexit looming, it is even more important that higher education institutions, such as the University of Derby, maintain this relationship so the students continue to be offered life changing international opportunities such as Erasmus+ schemes.
The object of Erasmus+ is to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe by giving young people the chance to study, volunteer and gain work experience abroad, to develop new skills, gain vital international experience and boost their employability.
It enables staff to teach or train abroad, to develop their professional practice, build relationships with international peers, and gain fresh ideas.
And UK organisations can collaborate with international partners to drive innovation, share best practice, and offer new opportunities to young people.
Benefits for universities
Engaging and participating in Erasmus+ promotes a range of skills and abilities which help develop UK students’ academic, personal and professional expertise.
HE undergraduates and postgraduates have the opportunity to study for up to 12 months abroad in Europe as part of their degree, paid for through their university.
Studying abroad for a three-month period enhances the importance of internationalism between universities too, something that Melanie and Sarah witnessed in their recent trip. It supports and develops relationships with our overseas colleagues, promotes learning across institutions, and inspires and motivates staff and students.
It results in the sharing of excellent practice and exploration of how positive international relationships can shape our future society.
We both left Graz feeling positive and motivated to continue to work together for the benefit of our students and institutions.
Relationships and friendships were established which will continue in spite of the current political climate in Europe.