Research project on international student exchanges: Sending our students overseas (2008)

Publication Details

This research reports on the uptake of study abroad opportunities by New Zealand tertiary students. The research was undertaken by Victoria University on contract to the Ministry of Education. The report provides key reasons for low uptake of study abroad by New Zealand students; proposes a number of factors which students and institutions could consider to increase the attractiveness of exchange programmes; and includes downloadable Guidelines for New Zealand tertiary education institutions to help promote and support international student exchange opportunities for New Zealand students.

Author(s): Stephanie Doyle, Phil Gendall, Carolyn Tait, Luanna Meyer, Janet Hoek, Lynanne McKenzie, & Avatar Loorparg. Jessie Hetherington Centre for Educational Research, Victoria University of Wellington, in collaboration with the Department of Marketing, Massey University.

Date Published: March 2008

Please consider the environment before printing the contents of this report.

This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Executive Summary

The research project International exchanges: Sending our students overseas investigated undergraduate student exchange. International student exchanges are one component of wider policies and strategies designed to develop understanding and engagement in an increasing globally connected economy and society. Ideally exchanges will be reciprocal in terms of nature and numbers. Typically a local and an overseas institution agree for students from one to study at the other for credit and at a domestic fee rate. New Zealand has greater numbers of inbound to outbound exchange students, and a lower than desired uptake of exchange options.

The current research was commissioned by the Ministry of Education to identify the factors which assist and inhibit the development of international student exchange schemes in New Zealand Tertiary Education Institutions (TEIs) and in encouraging New Zealand students to study abroad. The project was designed to produce a report on research findings for the Ministry, and a set of guidelines for TEIs as to strategies, policies and practices conducive to exchange programmes.

The Research Approach

A multidisciplinary research team from Victoria University and Massey University undertook the research. The research included a literature review, a survey of students, case studies of five TEIs, interviews with staff and students, two focus groups with secondary students and document analysis. 

International Trends and the New Zealand Context: Findings from Review 

Internationally there is a growing awareness of the need to grow citizens, societies, and economies with the ability to engage and prosper internationally. The policy trends are towards increased funding and systematic and collaborative approaches to facilitating student mobility including:

  • The Bologna process involves more than 50 countries committed to student mobility within a European Higher Education Area.
  • The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and the Diploma Supplement are part of a framework facilitating transparency and transportability of courses and qualifications within Europe.
  • The ERASMUS scheme is the major vehicle for student exchanges in Europe.
  • The "G8" countries have a goal of doubling student mobility from 2000 to 2010.
  • The United States has committed to increase participation by 500% over a ten year period from 2008.
  • Australia is targeting funding to the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Canada is using funding to support cross institutional and cross-national programmes and curriculum reform.

Barriers Identified from Review

Barriers to study abroad identified in international studies include:

  • financial constraints (the major barrier)
  • study abroad not yet an integral component of all undergraduate education
  • inflexible and overfull curricular
  • lack of incentives for faculty to support study abroad
  • failure to engage non-traditional students in study abroad
  • limited views on potential destinations for study abroad
  • lack of language skills
  • greater emphasis on recruitment of overseas students rather than outbound schemes. 

Characteristics of Exchange Students in United Kingdom Study

A major U.K. research study commissioned to examine student mobility (Sussex Centre, 2004) found study abroad students:

  • had high satisfaction in terms of personal and career enhancement.
  • were more likely than non-mobile students to be white, young, female, from higher socio-economic backgrounds, and to have been abroad.
  • were more likely than non-mobile students to come from a pre-1992 university (research intensive) with comparatively high numbers of students enrolled in language courses.

Exemplars of Practice Identified in the Review

Exemplars of practice in the undergraduate student exchanges included:

  • institutional-wide frameworks and strategies for student mobility
  • bold national and institutional targets for increased participation
  • curriculum reform in non-traditional exchange disciplines such as teaching, nursing, science and mathematics
  • collaborative partnerships with developing countries
  • developing alternative models for study abroad such as shorter term, group approaches, work linked.

What made a difference in promotion and support of exchanges

The review suggested a number of institutional factors with potential to make a difference to the promotion, support and recruitment of student exchanges:

  • involvement of faculty
  • travel grants
  • informative and well designed websites
  • online tools to assist students plan and organize exchanges
  • involvement of inbound and returned exchange students in promoting and supporting exchanges.

New Zealand students and international exchanges 

An earlier study assessed the current nature and status of internationalisation of New Zealand tertiary education institutions and compared participation in study abroad in 1998 with 2004 (McInnis, Peacock, Catherwood, & Brown, 2006). Nearly all respondents in the 2004 survey viewed internationalisation as very important for their organization but export education continued to dominate their plans. 

Increasing participation in overseas exchanges is one component of the government's national goal of Building global linkages and of tertiary education polices particularly those of: Strengthening system capability and quality. In 2005 the government introduced the New Zealand Undergraduate Study Abroad Awards (NZUSAAs) to support New Zealand students to undertake exchanges overseas particularly to targeted regions including Asia and South America.

Contact Us

International Division
If you have any queries or would like further information about international education, please email the: International Mailbox