As the first college in Scotland to offer international mobility opportunities to vocational students, New College Lanarkshire has built up a strong and varied internationalisation programme to support the development of learners and staff and build a mutually beneficial global network.

With 1,100 staff and 25,000 learners, New College Lanarkshire is the fifth largest further education college in Scotland, serving both urban centres and rural hinterlands. Many of these communities are extremely disadvantaged, and the percentage of unemployed school leavers is amongst the highest rates in Scotland. A large proportion of the student population also face complex barriers to participation in training and employment, including financial difficulties and a lack of formal qualifications, and many have never travelled outside of the UK. 

Developing international mindsets

The college sees international activities as a way of positively impacting on the culture and diversity of campus life. This is reflected in its international strategy, which is the result of a strong collaborative effort from teams across the college. The strategy covers four key objectives: creating an international mindset, generating additional income, future-proofing the college, and building a strong international network. This international spirit is enhanced by the various groups of learners and teachers from different countries the college hosts each year. These groups live on campus in halls of residence, eat in campus cafes and canteens, and mix with Scottish learners during class and social times.

Pioneering international mobility

The college was the first in Scotland to offer international mobility opportunities to vocational students. Each year, more than 300 students have the chance to visit colleges across Europe. In turn, the college welcomes 100 visiting students. Mobility opportunities have been used as a way of supporting learners identified as being furthest from the labour market. Through tailored activities these learners build their motivation and confidence and develop new skills. The college recognises the positive impact international mobility can have on social inclusion and equality, and mobility participants report that they have developed more positive attitudes toward cultural diversity as a result of their placements. 

For staff, mobility opportunities focusing on Continuous Professional Development have helped to increase their confidence in their professional abilities and have supported the improvement of teaching practices across the college. The college aims to continuously develop staff mobility activities to ensure that best practice forms the basis of programmes across in the college. It is also seeking to build on the positive momentum of mobility participants by sharing the inspirational experiences of both staff and learners. 

Building a strong international network 

Through its various mobility initiatives, the college has developed partnerships with diverse partner institutions in Spain, France, Lithuania, Malta, Ireland, Austria, Cyprus and Italy. It has also carried out mutually beneficial British Council International Skills Partnership projects in Tunisia and South Africa, which have resulted in the development of a toolkit of resources that will help to enhance employer relationships, improve understanding of industry practice, increase the relevance of work-based learning programmes, and improve monitoring and management processes. The college has significant links in China and India, with a focus on the college’s strength in Dental Nursing provision, as well as cultural exchanges, English language and vocational taster short-courses. Partnerships with three colleges in Wisconsin, USA, are also creating a pipeline of planned international activities. 

These partnerships are all designed to prioritise sustainability, and, wherever possible, the college focuses on building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with international peers to maintain a strong international network. Emphasis is placed on nurturing partnerships to embed activities across both partner organisations and achieve shared objectives.