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Are British FE students and apprentices losing out by not going abroad?

Tuesday, 14 August 2012
By: Uta

The UK has always been an attractive place for international students to live, work and study. But as a receiving nation, we rank just 25th in the world for sending UK students from the tertiary education sector to study abroad. The number of outgoing Erasmus students from the UK was under 12,000 in 2009/10. This is in stark comparison to 31,158 from Spain, 30,213 from France, and 28,854 from Germany.

Other European countries extend this opportunity into their apprenticeship sector. For example, Germany operates placement systems abroad for apprentices lasting up to nine months. These are recognised as part of the apprenticeship training if skills, knowledge and competences abroad correspond with the national training regulations.

Mobility during initial vocational education and apprenticeship training needs to be approved by the employer and by competent authorities in order to be integrated in the training course. During the time abroad, the sending company stays responsible for its apprentice and continues to pay their salary and social taxes. The apprentice also remains in the German social insurance system. As apprentices have to attend vocational school, the placement abroad has to be fine-tuned in cooperation with the vocational school.1

The Joint Steering Group on Outward Student Mobility acknowledged the two major obstacles to student mobility in the UK are financial constraints and linguistic barriers, which is supported by the Confederation of British Industry skills survey stating that "over two thirds of employers (71%) are not satisfied with the foreign language skills of young people and over half (55%) perceive shortfalls in their international cultural awareness". Employers are looking for students that can demonstrate a 'global mindset', but are less concerned with the route through which it is achieved.

Do you think UK students in the further education sector and apprentices are losing out on gaining vital employability skills by not studying and working abroad? 


1 Euro Apprenticeships


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  • Uta
    @Shane Chowen
    Hi Shane. Thanks for your comment. Yes, we do have to look beyond 'training' and become more innovative and creative when moving forward. Although the UK has a lot to offer it is very informative and helpful to look towards our European partners.
    We do a lot of work in Europe in terms of training. Let me know what your particular interest is and I will keep you informed.
  • Really interesting article. I'm glad people are starting to talk beyond 'training' in relation to vocational courses and apprenticeships and look more at the 'education' side of things.