Bournemouth University

The School of Health & Social Care

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International placements deemed priceless

Page published 11 May 2012

A person with a globe in their hand Research shows the incredible value of international placements, but will poor language skills mean UK students lag behind?

Bournemouth University’s Professor Jonathan Parker and Dr Sara Crabtree have been examining the true benefits an international placement has on a student’s learning experience, employability and future career.

The study, conducted alongside Parker and Crabtree’s BU colleague Clare Cutler, examined a range of aspects of inter-cultural learning arising from placements. Current students and graduates were questioned about their confidence, cultural attitudes, employer feedback and other factors arising from the international placement experience.

Professor Parker explained: “This research has shown how working in totally different and sometimes physically inhospitable cultural environments, develops students’ confidence to practice in varied, challenging and unknown situations. This is so important when they come back to work in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country like the UK.”

While the study has primarily focused on international placements in Parker’s own research area of social work, it is already being applied to other disciplines. “We are now surveying students taking international placements in our School of Tourism and these research findings are equally positive,” he explained. “But the concept can be much more widely applied to encompass any career working with the general public.”

But there’s one big problem holding many UK students back: “As a general rule, UK students are very poor at languages, which are so important in so many aspects of life.”

This apparent ‘failing’ of the school system, whereby languages are not compulsory at GCSE level, needs to be addressed if students are going to reap the rewards of international placement schemes such as Erasmus. “Students need a basic degree of language skill,” Parker concluded. “It should be compulsory”.

This international placements research project is supported through BU’s Fusion fund, promoting projects which create a unique academic experience through the powerful fusion of research, education and professional practice.

More information about Professor Jonathan Parker’s and Dr Sara Crabtree’s research can be viewed on BURO.

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