Through its rich history of internationalisation, Leeds City College has supported the employability of students and enhanced the learning experience by inspiring an international spirit amongst its student and teacher populations.

One of the largest further education providers in the UK, Leeds City College serves a region that includes significantly disadvantaged areas. Through its strong community mission, the college offers a range of learning and development opportunities for marginalised groups and disenfranchised learners, including ex-offenders, cared-for young people, the long-term unemployed and young people not in education, employment or training. 

A rich history of international activities

Leeds City College and its legacy colleges have participated in international programmes since 1991. Through Erasmus+ and its predecessor programmes, the college has worked with a host of partners across Europe, and staff and students have a range of options to carry out placements and participate in joint projects in other European countries. The college also welcomes a number of overseas students and staff each year through Erasmus+ and other initiatives. As well as participating in externally-funded international programmes, some faculty areas across the college organise tailored international activities to enhance their students’ own specialisms.

Supporting personal and professional development

The benefits to students in terms of employability skills and personal development have been immeasurable. Participating in international projects has helped students strengthen their personal statements, CVs and progression achievements, and many have secured interviews at higher education institutions as a result. Students report that their attitudes have changed and their cultural awareness has increased since visiting other countries. There are also examples of students securing employment thanks to their participation in international projects. Most recently a group of Hospitality students who undertook Erasmus+ placements were successful in gaining employment at the end of their qualification, either with Leeds-based restaurants or back with their European host settings. Local employers also benefit from receiving high-quality European students coming to complete their work placements in Leeds.

The benefits of an international learning environment

The international environment at the college has a positive impact on staff and students and enhances the overall learning experience. Meeting and interacting with peers from Europe gives staff valuable opportunities to share good practice and discuss methodology and pedagogy, helping to improve teaching practices and approaches across the college. For students, spending time with and working alongside peers from other countries facilitates the sharing of knowledge and experiences and has led to new friendships. Those who travel abroad for placements are encouraged to share their experiences with the rest of the college, which creates a ripple effect amongst other learners and helps to enhance learning through the sharing of first-hand experiences in the classroom. 

Inspired by the international spirit across campus, the college’s Student Union has set up a language society — Language Emergence — which draws upon the many languages that are already spoken by students and staff and provides a platform where different nationalities and cultures are shared and celebrated. During a recent visit from partners from the Netherlands, students also discussed how they could share teaching and learning modules simultaneously in Amsterdam and Leeds, and Google Classrooms is now being explored as a digital solution to enable students and staff to communicate in real time.

Building for the future

The college aims to expand its successful record on delivering mobility through Erasmus+ into a dedicated network of international volunteering opportunities for individuals and communities, supporting skills development and the promotion of being a responsible international citizen. A new international strategy has been developed and a new International Officer role has been created as part of the Student Union, which is recruited through student elections and will help to further embed and promote the international spirit across the student population.