6.5 Cross-border learning mobility
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Ireland’s most recent International Education Strategy is the Irish Educated Globally Connected An International Education Strategy For Ireland, 2016-2020. It was published in 2016 by the Department of Education and Skills [now known as the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY)].
The Strategy identified internationalisation as a strategic priority for the Irish higher education sector, to enhance the quality of the student-learning experience. The strategy’s aims included both increasing the numbers of international students coming to Irish institutions and increasing the number of Irish students on outward mobility programmes.
In 2022 the DCEDIY began work on a successor strategy, which, as of 2023, is still in development. It is being created by DCEDIY in collaboration with stakeholders and key departments and agencies.
More information on mobility in higher education is available in the Eurydice Mobility Scoreboard: Higher Education Background Report 2022 / 2023.
Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education
Erasmus+ is the European Union programme for education, training, youth, and sport, 2021-2027. It provides funding and support for organisations to operate projects that encourage European exchange, co-operation, and learning. Erasmus+ is funded by the European Union through the contributions of member states, including Ireland. Funding of almost €170 million has been allocated to Ireland for the duration of the programme.
Erasmus+ aims to modernise and improve the quality of teaching, training, and youth work across Europe, and to support the development, transfer, and implementation of innovative practices. Duration varies from days to months, depending on the specific action within Erasmus+. Both incoming and outgoing students participate in Erasmus+.
Within the fields of School Education; Vocational Education and Training; and Adult Education, grants are awarded to successfully applying organisations. This can cover eligible expenses such as flights, accommodation, subsistence, etc. The grant may also cover eligible expenses to support leaners facing additional barriers (e.g., sign language interpreters’ fees, etc.). Léargas nationally coordinates Erasmus+ in the fields of School Education; Vocational Education and Training; and Adult Education.
Eligible third level students receive an Erasmus+ grant provided by the European Commission, paid through their institution, to contribute towards additional costs which may be encountered when studying abroad. The Higher Education Authority is the National Agency for Erasmus+ in the field of higher education.
The Intern Work and Travel
The Intern Work and Travel (IWT) Programme enables Irish and US post-secondary students and recent graduates to undertake internships and travel in each other's countries for up to twelve months.
The scheme allows Irish citizens who are eligible for the programme to enter the US on a J1 Exchange Visitor visa. The job or internship must be a minimum of 32 hours per week, related to the student’s area of study and cannot be an unskilled or casual labour position. They do not need to have a job or internship lined up before entering the USA. Fees for Irish students include:
- SEVIS fee (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) of US $180
- US Embassy visa application fee of US $160
- Flight costs
- Health Insurance
- Travel insurance
- programme application fees (which differ depending on the sponsoring organisation).
The Intern Work and Travel Programmes response to Covid-19 was to put a temporary suspension on their in-person programmes and gave participants lifetime credit that enabled each participant to credit all program fees received by this programme toward future experiences that can be virtual or in person.
International Experience Canada
The International Experience Canada (IEC) enables Irish citizens between the ages of 18 to 35 to live and work in Canada. The International Co-op (Internship) category is one of the three strands of the IEC, alongside The Young Professionals category and The Working Holiday category. The International Co-op (Internship) category is for students registered at a postsecondary educational institution in Ireland who want to complete a work placement or internship in Canada as part of their academic curriculum. This is for a maximum of 12 months. Students applying for the International Co-op (Internship) pay a participation fee of C$150 (approximately €100) and employer compliance fee of C$230. Students must cover their own costs (e.g., accommodation). Students do not need to secure a work placement or internship before moving to Canada and therefore should budget for periods of unemployment by having access to enough money to support themselves financially, as they may not find a job straightaway.
IEC is part of a reciprocal agreement between the Government of Canada and the Irish Government. Ireland’s Working Holiday Programme offers two different categories of visas to Canadians aged 18- to 35-year-olds: Working Holiday Authorisation; and International Co-op Internship Authorisation. The International Co-op Internship Authorisation is valid for one year, for students who intend to complete a paid work placement or internship in Ireland. It is open to Canadian citizens registered as students in post-secondary Canadian institutions and has a $100 fee.
The IEC response to Covid-19 underscored the Government of Canadas response to the pandemic. One measure that the Government of Canada has put in place is to limit travel to Canada. This restriction had an impact on youth who come to come through one of Canada’s 36 youth mobility arrangements. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is the federal department responsible for International Experience Canada (IEC) the program that manages these youth mobility arrangements on behalf of Canada. At this point in time, only essential travel to Canada is permitted.
The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience, commonly known as IAESTE, offers paid internships abroad for third level students studying the fields of engineering, science, technology, and applied arts. Applicants were in the third year of an undergraduate degree or above (although some second-year students may be accepted), or any year of MSc or PhD. Graduates can apply within the first year of their graduation. Traineeships last from 6 weeks to 12 months.
Until June 2020, IAESTE Ireland arranged both incoming and outgoing internship placements in cooperation with the other National Committees in nearly 90 countries. IAESTE Ireland also worked with companies to help them access high calibre, motivated STEM students from around the world to undertake internships in Ireland. IAESTE Ireland was funded by the Department of Education (now known as DCEDIY) and managed by Léargas. Trainees paid for their own travel costs to the host country, personal travel insurance and a €200 placement fee. There could also be fees involved in obtaining work permits or visas. Once on placement, trainees receive a salary sufficient to cover the local cost of living and accommodation. Since June 2020, Léargas has cease to deliver the IAESTE Programme in Ireland. IAESTE is no longer open to new participants from Ireland.
Support for non-formal learning through mobility in the youth work sector takes place through two separate EU programmes, the European Solidarity Corps and Erasmus+ Youth in Action.’
European Solidarity Corps
The European Union initiative, the European Solidarity Corps, funds and supports 18- to 30-year-olds to volunteer or work in projects that benefit communities. Young people can volunteer or work, in their own country or abroad, through the Volunteering, Traineeships, Jobs, and Solidarity Projects strands. Volunteers receive funding for accommodation, food, travel, insurance, and pocket money through their sending organisation. The sending organisation receives an organisational support budget also. For traineeship placements, travel costs, organisational support and a relocation allowance are normally paid. For those in an employment placement, there will always be a labour contract as well as a wage paid for by the organisation in accordance with local laws, regulations and collective agreements. All participants receive a certificate detailing the actions they have taken through the European Solidarity Corps.
In Ireland, Léargas is the National Agency for Erasmus+ in the fields of Youth. There are three strands of Erasmus+ Youth in Action:
- KA1: Youth Exchange and Mobility for Youth Workers
Mobility Youth Exchanges bring groups of young people from two or more countries together for between five- and 21-days (while the project can last from 3-24 months). They support the interaction of 13- to 30-year-olds, from different cultural backgrounds. A minimum of one Youth Work or Youth Leader, who must be over the age of 18, should accompany each group of young people. Youth exchanges bring between 16 and 60 participants (excluding the leaders) together from across Europe, with a minimum of four young people per group.
- KA2: Transnational Youth Initiatives
‘Transnational Youth Initiatives’ are one of the three types of Key Action 2, Strategic Partnerships in the Youth field, alongside ‘Supporting Innovation’ and ‘Supporting exchanges of good practice’. Transnational Youth Initiative projects are initiated, set up and carried out by groups of young people themselves. These projects can be reasonably simple cooperation projects that aim to foster social commitment and entrepreneurial spirit.
- KA3: Support for Policy Reform
Key Action 3, Support for Policy Reform, promotes the active participation of young people in democratic life in Europe. It stimulates and provides a framework for debate about issues affecting young people. Youth Dialogue projects involve discussions between young people and decision makers that should ultimately inform policymaking. The project can last for three months to two years. Young people must be involved at all stages of the project and lead the activities.
No overarching quality assurance system exists in Ireland for mobility programmes. Each mobility programme is subject to its respective funding providers’ rules and regulations.
The Inspectorate is the division of the Department of Education responsible for the evaluation of primary and post-primary schools and centres for education. While there is no specific mechanisms by the Inspectorate for monitoring post-primary mobilities, post-primary schools’ overall quality, and therefore mobilities, should be guided by Looking at Our School 2016 A Quality Framework for Post-Primary Schools (The Inspectorate, 2016). Schools must engage in external and internal evaluations and the Inspectorate publishes a range of reports and guides for quality assurance including School Self-Evaluation Guidelines 2016-2020 - Post-Primary (The Inspectorate, 2016). A principle of the Quality Framework is ‘that schools should assume responsibility for the quality of the education they provide’.
Under the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is responsible for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training. Irish Educated Globally Connected An International Education Strategy For Ireland, 2016-2020 (page 23) states that ‘The Irish education system has in place strong quality assurance and strategic oversight mechanisms which should continue to ensure that increases in international student-numbers does not jeopardise quality.’
The European Quality Charter for Mobility is a quality reference document for education and training stays abroad. It complements, the Recommendation on mobility for students, persons undergoing training, volunteers, teachers and trainers (European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, 2001). The Charter is addressed to the Member States, including Ireland, and particularly to their organisations responsible for stays abroad, and provides guidance on mobility arrangements.
The quality of projects funded by Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps is assured on a regular basis according to criteria defined by the European Commission. For some sectors, an accreditation of the organization is necessary requisite before the application process. For example, the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education is a prerequisite for higher education institutions in Ireland which wish to participate in higher education mobility projects. When planning mobility projects organisations are guided by the National Agencies and in the case of vocational education and training mobilities, are advised to use the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training to assist in quality assurance. On application, projects’ quality is assured during the application process by pre-defined award criteria. Selection and evaluation committees approve the processes to award and/or the awarding of grants, depending on the sector/action. Projects may also have recommendations made to aid them in enhancing their project’s quality. The national agency, Léargas or the Higher Education Authority depending on the sector, carries out technical and financial checks and audits regarding the use of grants, and some projects are selected for on the spot monitoring checks. All projects must submit a final report, and in some actions, organisations may also be required to submit an interim report. If the approved activities are not fully implemented, or if the realised activities / outputs are of insufficient quality, funding can be reduced.