“The street I grew up on was called College Road, so perhaps it was written into my future that I’d have something to do with further education. That ‘something’ has turned out to be over a decade supporting college international work.
I was both delighted (and relieved) therefore to see so many FE and VET institutions receive Turing Scheme funding in the scheme’s inaugural year, proving that COVID-19 cannot cut the appetite for international engagement.
Furthering educationals ambitions
Association of Colleges (AoC) data for the last three years shows that student mobility is high on the college international agenda. Some £21m of Turing Scheme funding will enable 110 FE/VET projects across 72 countries in the academic year 2021-22.
This year will be the year of many Turing Scheme ‘firsts’ – the first contracts to be signed, the first students to go abroad, the first set of mobility feedback to be collated. And by showing the benefits this year, I’m hoping Turing Scheme opportunities continue for years to come.
I have three ambitions for FE/VET within the Turing Scheme:
- that participation data will evidence genuine inclusivity and the economic benefits of mobility in FE;
- that the skills competition element will grow;
- and that colleges new to international work will get involved.
When the Turing Scheme launched, AoC worked with the Department for Education, the Delivery Partner and our college student mobility group to disseminate information about the Turing Scheme and encourage applications. The result was that 142 FE/VET applications were submitted and students and apprentices will be heading out to complete work or study placements in top destinations such as Spain, France, the USA and China.
‘Levelling up’ is one of the four key objectives of the Turing Scheme and the highest percentage of disadvantaged participants, at 54.8%, will be in FE/VET.
Colleges are very well versed in providing support for disadvantaged groups. Historically, the FE sector has accessed mobility funding to provide placements and visits for students right across the campus community – improving individuals’ employability, technical and personal skills, whilst providing an experience abroad that for some students would not otherwise have been available.
The Turing Scheme opens up opportunities around the world and no student should be put off from applying because of their background, personal circumstances, culture or a protected characteristic. The AoC is committed to working with our members and the Turing Scheme to deliver the equity of access at the heart of the programme.
As a new scheme, the Turing Scheme presents a great opportunity to collect wide-ranging project data. It can track the social impact and economic value of FE/VET participation which ideally, would continue to be tracked beyond the lifecycle of the mobility itself when participants progress into employment or higher education (and maybe apply to the Turing Scheme again).
Developing international opportunities and partnerships
The Turing Scheme also offers the chance to benchmark skills by funding mobility for skills competitions overseas. FE/VET providers can work with their counterparts overseas to set up their own skills competitions or participate in recognised skills events (for example those delivered by WorldSkills organisations), sending their competitors abroad for up to 10 days.
There is tremendous potential for the many FE/VET providers already active in the competition arena to go global through the Turing Scheme, building both skills capacity and international engagement at the same time.
However, for FE/VET providers to offer international opportunities to their students, it assumes that international partnerships are already vetted and in place. Some colleges have extensive networks overseas, but others are on the starting line.
The Turing Scheme allows both individual FE/VET institutions and consortia to apply. If providers work together, international contacts can be shared, best practices developed, and project experience gained and fed back into the system.
The AoC is keen to help colleges establish international partnerships, working with our counterparts around the world and key partners such as the British Council to make introductions for those who need them. Perhaps in the future, we can put our heads together to develop a more formal partnership development service aligned to the Turing Scheme.
With travel restrictions gradually starting to ease in the UK and some parts of the world, here’s to FE/VET institutions going one step further with the Turing Scheme.”