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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.5 Cross-border learning mobility

Last update: 25 January 2021
On this page
  1. Policy framework
  2. Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education
  3. Promoting mobility in the context of non-formal learning, and of youth work
  4. Quality assurance


Policy framework

Scotland's International Framework includes under its international ambitions that Scotland's people ‘are open to international exchanges and learning opportunities’.

The UK Strategy for Outward Mobility 2017-2020 aims to increase the proportion of UK-domiciled students accessing international experiences as part of their degrees from 6.6% in 2014 to 13.2% in 2020. The policy focus is on outward mobility to produce UK graduates that are capable of working in a multinational and multicultural environment, and improve their employability. 

The Strategy has six objectives. The ones relevant for cross-border learning mobility are: 

  1. promote the benefits of study and work abroad
  2. monitor trends in student mobility
  3. build capacity in UK higher education to facilitate outward mobility
  4. share best practice in UK higher education

1) This includes promoting existing outward mobility initiatives, including higher education institutions’ own campaigns, Erasmus+, and the British Council’s Study, Work, create website.

2) This includes analysing data from the 4 UK nations to track mobility trends and work with HEI’s to maximise the outward mobility data that is used for statistical purposes.

3) This includes securing investment for outward mobility, and working with relevant stakeholders to widen participation in the UK sector to international opportunities. 

4) This includes providing a comprehensive online information hub for all relevant outward mobility resources. 

The Strategy is being implemented by Universities UK International (UUKi), the international arm of Universities UK. It established the Go International programme to work with higher education institutions, government and sector organisations to help increase the proportion of UK domiciled students with some international experience.To boost outward student mobility, Go International creates an annual report of mobility data and trends, collaborating with other sector agencies to deliver a programme of research, assist higher education staff in promoting and delivering outward mobility programmes and using its mobility network to share knowledge and good practice. 

The policy focus is on outward mobility as the UK is already a popular destination for students coming from outside the UK. The British Council's Study UK website provides information for foreign students, as well as parents, teachers and employers, when considering international destinations for education and training.


Further information

See also the European Commission’s Mobility Scoreboard and the background report for higher education and the Mobility Scoreboard database for initial vocational education and training.

Main cross-border mobility programmes for students in formal education

Schools’ programmes

At secondary level, individual schools may organise visits abroad for pupils in support of their language or other subject learning. Participation in these is voluntary.  Occasionally, visits may include exchanges with other schools. External funding from charitable foundations may be available to undertake trips of this nature; example funding specifically for developing pupils’ French skills includes the Lefèvre Trust, for pupils studying for National Qualifications or Highers, and the Charles de Gaulle Trust, for academic and vocational students aged between 17 and 19.

For further information on mobility and other aspects of internationalisation in formal education, see the chapter 'Mobility and Internationalisation’ in the Eurydice national education system description for Scotland.


Erasmus+ provides students in higher education with the opportunity to study abroad in Europe for 3 to 12 months (per university cycle) as part of their degree. Students can take part in study mobility at any time during their degree, except for during the first year.

To be eligible students must:

  • be registered at a university or college that holds an Erasmus Charter for Higher Education
  • be undertaking higher education studies leading to a recognised degree (or other recognised tertiary level qualification) up to and including the level of doctorate
  • be enrolled in a short-term higher vocational education course, which includes foundation degree courses, or be a part-time student (providing study during the period abroad is full-time).


The Erasmus+ report 2018, released in January 2020, outlines the increasing trend of students participating in Erasmus+:

There is a strong trend with students increasingly opting to do Erasmus+ traineeships abroad, showing the great interest among young people to get practical experiences abroad to improve their career prospects. In 2017/2018, 95,800 students as well as recent graduates undertook training abroad compared to 76,000 participants in 2014

Eligible students receive an Erasmus+ grant provided by the European Commission, paid through their institution, to contribute towards the extra costs that may be encountered from studying abroad. The Erasmus+ UK National Agency sets the Erasmus+ study abroad grant rate for students each year, taking account of the level of demand from institutions (mainly universities).Students with a severe disability or exceptional special needs may be entitled to extra funding to cover associated costs while abroad. UK students going abroad for the whole academic year may also qualify for a large contribution made towards their UK tuition fees for the year they are away.

The Erasmus+ report 2018, released in January 2020, outlines the increased uptake in Vocational Education and Training (VET) learners. The number of received applications in VET for learners and staff mobility increased by over 750, to reach 7,854 in 2018. . There are also learner mobility opportunities in VET, through a VET traineeship in a programme country abroad, lasting up to 12 months. Alternatively, learners can gain experience in a workplace or at a VET school where they will also spend time in industry or with another relevant organisation or enterprise. Each project can last either one or two years.Recent VET graduates from a college, company or other training provider, such as former apprentices, can also take part in mobility opportunities. This is on condition that the Erasmus+ training placement takes place within one year of graduation.

Bilateral programmes

There are also bilateral programmes which support student mobility in specific areas, including:

  • UKIERI -UK-India Education and Research Initiative. The programme focuses on bilateral and mutually beneficial relationships of leaders of HEI’s but also learners, focusing on research and innovation, and education and training. The UK/India International Mobility Programme was proposed in 2019. This programme aims to increase the levels of outward student mobility from the UK, in line with the UK's national strategy on outward student mobility and UUKi's national campaign. The grant-funded mobility placements are due to take place between June 2020 and January 2021. 
  •  Generation UK - - study in China. The programme consists of a full academic scholarship to study in mainland China from one semester up to a whole year. There are no Mandarin language requirements. The aims are to improve career prospects, experience a new culture and gain new skills. The programme is not running in the 2019/20 academic year but will be in the 2020/21 year.

These and other programmes are described on Study and work abroad, the British Council’s online resource for UK students, recent graduates, and young professionals seeking international opportunities to study, work, volunteer, research or develop their creativity.

Saltire Scholarships (for inward mobility)

Scotland’s Saltire Scholarships (SSS) is a substantial programme of scholarships, offered on a matched funding basis between the Scottish Government and Scottish Higher Education Institutions. The scheme offers up to 50 awards, each worth £8000 towards tuition fees for any one year of full time study on a postgraduate Masters programme at any of Scotland’s higher education institutions.

The scholarships are designed to support the promotion of Scotland as a learning nation and a science nation and are therefore targeted at the priority sectors of creative industries, life sciences, technology, financial services and renewable and clean energy. Undergraduate, Masters or PhD level courses in these areas are eligible. Courses must be full time and delivered in Scotland.

Scholarships are available across key priority countries:

  • Canada
  • China
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • United States of America.

See also the British Council Scotland’s website.

Promoting mobility in the context of non-formal learning, and of youth work

Erasmus+, the European Union’s programme for education, training, youth and sport, funds different types of mobility for young people and those who work with young them.Youth exchanges allow groups of young people (aged 13 to 30) from countries participating in Erasmus+ to meet and live together for between 5 and 21 days. Participants jointly carry out a work programme designed and prepared by them before the exchange.The programme could be a mix of workshops, exercises, debates, role-plays, simulations and outdoor activities. Exchanges allow young people to develop competences; discover new cultures, habits and life-styles through peer-learning; and strengthen values like solidarity, democracy and friendship.Exchanges may be organised through youth organisations or by informal groups of young people. 

Erasmus+ also funds European Solidarity Corps, which replaced the European Voluntary Service in 2018. It is an initiative of the European Union which creates opportunities for young people aged 18-30 to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit communities and people around Europe.

The UK’s participation in current programmes running until and beyond 2020 is not affected by Brexit. 

For information on mobility programmes in volunteering, see 'Cross-Border Mobility Programmes' in the chapter on 'Voluntary Activities'.


Quality assurance

Erasmus Charter for Higher Education

The Erasmus Charter for Higher Education (ECHE) provides the quality framework for Erasmus+ funded activities carried out by higher education institutions (HEIs). The aims of Erasmus+ support  the quality of student and staff mobility. 

In order to participate in Erasmus+ projects, HEIs such as universities and other organisations whose core work is in the field of higher education must hold the ECHE. By signing the ECHE, an HEI confirms that its participation in Erasmus+ is part of its own strategy for modernisation and internationalisation. A Call for Proposals for the award of the ECHE is held annually and is awarded to HEIs for the full remaining duration of the Erasmus+ programme (i.e. until the end of 2020). This means that HEIs awarded with an ECHE in previous Call years (since 2013) do not need to apply again. The UK National Agency is mandated to ensure that UK HEIs which have received the ECHE abide by what they have promised. Compliance of the HEI with the ECHE principles is monitored by the UK National Agency through a variety of measures including monitoring visits, interim reports, systems’ checks and opn-the-spot checks. 

For higher education institutions located in Partner countries, the ECHE is not required, and the quality framework is established through inter-institutional agreements between higher education institutions.

For organisations providing vocational education and training, a Call for Proposals for the award of the VET Mobility Charter is held annually. The Charter aims to reward and promote organisations, through streamlined procedures, as well as continuing to develop quality in mobility.

The Charter is not a compulsory requirement for participation, but its use is encouraged.


Erasmus+ National Agency

The Erasmus+ UK National Agency monitors and reviews activities performed as part of its work plan and reports to the UK Government, as well as the European Commission.

Programme beneficiaries monitor and evaluate the impact the mobility experience has had on the participants and report the benefits to the Erasmus+ National Agency, which in turn will analyse the impact within a national context.

Quality Code for Higher Education

Higher education institutions adhere to the Quality Assurance Agency’s Quality Code for higher education. Chapter B10: Managing Higher Education Provision with Others includes as an indicator of sound practice in quality assurance: