Students have excellent overseas options, says Emma Meredith
While further education primarily aims to meet the needs of local and national communities, our colleges are increasingly looking outwards to generate new opportunities. In a changed world where major organisations are able to operate seamlessly across international borders, colleges can benefit from developing globally, too. At Edinburgh College, operating internationally allows us to create new relationships with global industry, education and government organisations, which in turn brings new ways we can benefit all of our students, our communities and our partners.
Our main areas of international work include the delivery of specialist professional training courses for overseas clients, welcoming international students to study full-time vocational and English-language courses at our Edinburgh campuses, and providing our students with opportunities to study or work in another country. Edinburgh College is already active in a wide range of countries and regions including China, the Middle East, the Americas, Europe and Southern Africa. Around a fifth of our 26,000 student enrolments this year are from outside the UK, with students joining us from 96 countries.
Developing working links with the world’s growing economies such as China, Colombia and India presents some excellent new opportunities, and our partnerships in these regions are becoming well established. In China, the college has operated teacher-training programmes for Chinese teachers of English for almost ten years. We’ve just welcomed 24 teachers from the Chengdu region to study with us on a six-week programme within our English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and English Language Teacher Training department. Edinburgh College teacher trainers will also travel out to China this summer to deliver a programme to more than 300 teachers from schools across Beijing. The college aims to grow its activity in this area by working with other countries that have a similar training demand that we can support.
Scotland enjoys an internationally respected education system and is in an excellent position to support education and training overseas. Edinburgh College is currently collaborating with partners in the Middle East and North Africa where there is a requirement to develop employability skills to help millions of young people who have academic qualifications but whose education has not fully prepared them to meet the needs of local employers.
In Egypt, our Tourism and Hospitality Academy has recently completed training in sustainable and green tourism practices as well as customer service to the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF). The training – part of the British Council’s Skills for Employability project – equips ETF staff to make their domestic tourism industry (worth £5.4billion to Egypt’s economy annually) more customer- and eco-friendly. Delegates from the ETF recently undertook two courses – Introduction to Green Hotels and Customer Care Training – at the college, enabling them to roll out the training themselves in Egypt.
Complementing our work with organisations overseas, the college offers our local students opportunities to study or work in another country. This year, we have provided a range of placements in Europe to students from our Business School, Tourism and Hospitality Academy and centres for Creative Industries and Health, Wellbeing and Social Sciences. We are also working on ways to give our students more international study options with local and international higher education partners. This includes a recent agreement with Canada’s Vancouver Island University that will allow our hospitality students to continue their studies in Canada.
A by-product of our international work is raising the profile of Edinburgh and Scotland across the world, boosting our reputation as a destination for students and inward investment.
An international outlook plays an important role in allowing us to deliver the best education possible to all the students learning with us. By actively engaging with international partners and developing fruitful collaborative relationships, we can make sure we’re constantly learning ourselves so we understand how we can meet and exceed the needs of our students, our partners and the national economy.
• Emma Meredith is international director at Edinburgh College. www.edinburghcollege.ac.uk