Grimsby Institute developed an internationalisation plan to counteract deprivation and a lack of cultural diversity amongst its student population. Through international mobility and partnerships, students have been given new opportunities to increase their awareness, skills and life chances.

With a recruitment area that includes the ward with the highest levels of economic and educational deprivation in the UK, Grimsby Institute’s student population includes a high number of looked-after children and young people from families with generational unemployment. The college also has growing concerns about mental health issues amongst its students, particularly due to Grimsby’s isolated location and the lack of decent public transport links, as well as limited access to personalised careers advice at school.   

The positive power of internationalisation 

To counteract low cultural diversity on campus and increase cultural interactions for learners from areas where 94 per cent of the population is white and British, the college has introduced an internationalisation plan. Initiating Erasmus+ in 2017, the college now offers international mobility opportunities and placements for students, enabling them to build awareness of other countries, experience new cultures and interact with peers overseas. The opportunity of overseas mobility has become a key recruitment tool for the college. The college’s Erasmus+ activity also includes mobility for staff, who have the chance to carry out Continuous Professional Development placements in Europe.

The college now offers new learning programmes that are seen as ‘international’ in nature, such as Historical & Performance Costume Design, Creative Media and Design and Television Production. It has also integrated specific international elements into existing programmes. Its Career 6 programme, for example, now includes an International Business element, with the chance to learn either Spanish or Mandarin. The college is also planning to organise a trip to Japan for all participants of this programme. The college’s commitment to providing new opportunities for young people was recognised in 2017 when it was awarded an Association of Colleges Beacon Award for Widening Participation in Learning.

Building optimism and boosting motivation

International experiences have helped to boost the employment chances of participants. Students who have undertaken placements in European countries have developed their soft skills and strengthened their CVs, increasing their appeal to future employers. Staff returning with enhanced skills and knowledge have had a positive impact on the learning environment by increasing motivation throughout the college. Visiting students enhance lessons and bring an extra dimension to campus life. Students learn about the differences and similarities of other countries when learning side-by-side with peers from overseas. Hosting a teacher group from India as part of a teacher training project also had a positive impact in a college where the dominant ethnicity is predominantly white British.

Plans for the future

The college is now looking to build on these positive experiences and the wider impact this has on teaching and learning by strengthening internationalisation across new curriculum areas and providing more opportunities for international interactions in the classroom. Whilst the college has halls of residence for international students, it is keen to develop a network of host families as a way of supporting positive cultural development throughout the community. Through Erasmus+ and other initiatives, the college is also learning how to collaborate with employers to boost the relevance of its programmes or study and is using labour market data to influence teaching.