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Benefits of Intra-Regional Mobility from the Perspective of a Founding Member Country of AIMS

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Motivations for Participating in a Regional Student Mobility Programme

Nowadays, one of the core missions of higher education institutions (HEIs) across the globe is to provide students with the so-called “learning experience”. This package of experiences is not limited to only research or teaching and learning, but also the extent to which students will be furnished with opportunities to be exposed to international and multi-cultural settings during their course of study. Therefore, for the most part, university administrators cannot be ignorant of the fact that it has become one of the missions of HEIs to ensure that students graduate with international mobility experience in their portfolios. 

 

Not only are students benefiting from gaining international mobility experiences upon their graduation, HEIs themselves are also benefiting from actively engaging in such programmes as part of their strategies to showcase their internationalisation portfolio. Among a wide variety of mobility programmes, regional mobility activities are cost-effective and viable choices for many HEIs as institutions are mindful about distributing resources to many other university missions. While internationalisation is a common practice nowadays, the geographical location of the mobility programmes and engagement is also an important consideration in terms of financial sustainability. Intra-regional mobility programmes have become an important mechanism to guarantee more opportunities for students to be supported by HEIs or to self-finance themselves to gain international experiences.

 

In addition, as part of a wider scope to promote regionalisation in many political and economic areas, intra-regional mobility programmes are integral to mobilising students and familiarising them with different cultural, political and economic settings. The mechanism is deemed important to the process of regionalisation by fostering “people-to-people” connections, especially at a young age, for the students. This social mechanism is specifically evident in Europe where intra-regional mobility, be it systematically catered for by the governments or HEIs or self-financed students, has been embraced as a culture. Therefore, it is self-explanatory that these key motivations are embraced by the national governments, HEIs and students themselves in engaging actively in regional mobility programmes.

 

How AIMS Fits In with Other Initiatives for Mobility

There are many levels of mobility programmes all over the world, including those implemented by national governments, HEIs, international organisations or private sectors. AIMS has always been a concrete example of the inter-governmental endeavour to systematically provide opportunities for students to gain from this dimension of internationalisation. Truth be told, the effort to promote mobility programmes could not have been accomplished by one sector or institution alone. Although HEIs are the major actors promoting the activities among students in their respective institutions, additional mobility programmes supported by the national governments as well as international organisations are undeniably vital for the expansion of scope and number of the activities. The special characteristic of AIMS is that it is inter-governmental in nature. Accordingly, the financial support and the sustainability of the mobility programme are guaranteed, which in effect encourage HEIs to strategise its mobility activities to align with their existing programmes. 

 

Furthermore, another strong feature of AIMS is its nature of being an initiative to promote intra-regional mobility, which is rare within the Southeast Asian region. Compared to Europe, where the Bologna Process has been a catalyst for the expansion of intra-regional mobility programmes, there are no concrete governmental initiatives to promote mobility in the same fashion in Southeast Asia, except for AIMS. The gradual expansion in geographical area to include East Asian countries, including Japan and Korea, has also been a leap forward in echoing the commitment of governments and HEIs involved to promote intra-regional mobility programmes, which widen opportunities for students to gain more experience in those geographical areas. Specifically, the post-COVID situation will affect the way in which intra-regional mobility has been increasing.

As part of a wider scope to promote regionalisation in many political and economic areas, intra-regional mobility programmes are integral to mobilising students and familiarising them with different cultural, political and economic settings.

THE BOLOGNA PROCESS 

The Bologna Declaration was signed by 29 European Union member states in 1999, establishing the European Higher Education Area to facilitate mobility of students and staff in higher education. It has grown to cover 48 states and include a three-cycle higher education system of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies, with a system of quality assurance and mutual recognition of qualifications

Benefits from Engaging With Regional Partners and the Role of Student Mobility in the Region

As discussed earlier, the benefits of participating in intra-regional mobility programmes such as AIMS can be seen at the national, institutional and individual levels. The next step for AIMS would be working towards more engagement with regional partners to expand the geographical areas as well as the scope of the disciplines, which would open up additional opportunities for students in the future. While both the national governments and HEIs are reiterating the importance of internationalisation strategies in providing students with new skills and competencies, student mobility programmes are considered one of the activities that both players need to instrumentalise to achieve the intended outputs and outcomes of graduate employability. 

Student mobility programmes have always been seen as a starting point for HEIs to cement institutional ties among their strategic partners.

International experience through mobility programmes can also be seen as a way to strengthen institutional ties among HEIs across the region, which will further enhance other collaborations, including degree and research partnership. While areas such as research or degree collaborations may take more time and effort to accomplish, student mobility programmes seem to be attainable in a more promising and quicker fashion. Hence, student mobility programmes have always been seen as a starting point for HEIs to cement institutional ties among their strategic partners. In many cases, activities such as AIMS have been utilised to expand the so-called multilateral networks. Taking into account that there are other multilateral network-promoting mobility programmes, with different objectives and projection, such as the University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific (UMAP) and the ASEAN University Network (AUN), the re-structuring of post-COVID intra-regional mobility might be on the rise. The discourse among international educators and HEIs across the region on addressing the post-COVID situation is to provide hybrid models of virtual and physical mobility as options for students. With the facilitation of regional platforms as mentioned above, different variations of virtual mobility can be tested and further developed, resulting in a new era for mobility programmes, both within and outside the region.

NOPRAENUE S. DHIRATHITI

A/Prof Nopraenue S. Dhirathiti is Vice President, Mahidol University, Thailand.

OCTOBER 2020 | ISSUE 9

Regional Student Mobility

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Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

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About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

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