‘Meeting and working with teachers from other countries offers many opportunities to share good practice, teach and learn new delivery techniques, and, also, to make new friends with peers.’ James Shields, Head of International Studies

By taking a strategic approach to internationalisation, Cardiff and Vale College is helping to embed a global perspective across the campus, bringing an extra dimension to the classroom for learners and re-energising staff.

Cardiff and Vale College is one of the UK’s largest further education institutions, serving 30,000 learners each year through work-based programmes, including 14,000 apprenticeships. Located in the culturally rich and diverse city of Cardiff, the college hosts learners from more than 25 ethnic groups, including 1,400 overseas students. 

A strategic approach

The college carries out a wide range of international activity, all of which forms part of an international strategy focusing on inward recruitment, strategic partnerships and overseas delivery. A key focus of this strategy is using international projects and partnerships to add value for existing and future learners, staff, employers, partners and the wider community. The college’s international activities include recruiting overseas students to full- and part-time courses and summer and winter schools; strategic international partnerships, including an office in China which is shared with a local university; reciprocal student and staff visits through partner schools and Erasmus+; and sponsored overseas trips for learners. 

Bringing a global perspective to the learning environment

International activity is an important feature of the college for learners, staff and the wider community. Students and teachers are accustomed to seeing and interacting with visiting groups of learners and delegates from different countries and cultures. Learners benefit from the extra dimension international visitors bring to the classroom by gaining an added awareness of the key aspects of globalisation and developing their cross-cultural and interpersonal skills within an international framework. Teaching staff face new challenges and cultural opportunities by hosting overseas colleagues, which, in turn, helps to energise teaching. The need to translate for visiting groups, often at short notice, has even revealed previously hidden foreign language skills in many staff. 

A focus on mobility

Learners are strongly encouraged to take up international places through Erasmus+ and other initiatives. As well as being a transformational experience for the individuals who travel, student mobility has a positive effect on peer groups and staff, as returning students provide a source of inspiration for the wider college. The selection, training and preparation of mobility candidates can be a highly beneficial learning experience, and working in partner schools brings a whole new dimension to their studies. For many, international mobility is a life-changing experience. Staff undertaking mobility placements benefit from a deeper understanding of education in different international contexts. Through this, they can explore how national education policy impacts on individuals, communities and local skills economies, which offer insights into the role education can and should play in UK communities.

‘During my visit to China, I had the opportunity to conduct some teacher training sessions, where we analysed and evaluated different teaching and learning methods. Since returning to Cardiff, I’ve implemented some of these strategies to improve the ways in which our students learn. My students have responded well and they seem more engaged with the learning process.’ Ilario Siciliano, Science Lecturer

Involving the local community 

The college uses its international activities to build community relationships and add value to local stakeholders. These various initiatives have included introducing a group of young Chinese summer school students at a local primary school where Mandarin is being taught; a football coaching tour to China to help the Welsh Football Association raise their profile in China; an invitation to accompany a Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary to the Middle East to represent regional skills capabilities to a group of potential inward investors; and the college’s Chinese partners funding a senior member of the local council to accompany college staff to meet representatives of the Chinese District Government.