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What is research saying about the impact of international mobility on students' competences?

As part of the Erasmus Careers project, the Autonomous University of Madrid (Spain) team has carried out a systematic literature review on competence development during international mobility experiences of students in higher education to propose a classification of the competences acquired during mobility experiences.

A bibliometric analysis on 108 publications, a content analysis and the results from focus groups organised with students and interns allowed to produce a framework to classify the competences developed during an international student mobility into: Academic gains, Cultural gains, Personal development gains and employability gains.

• Academic gains: interactive learning and educational innovation.

• Cultural gains: intercultural sensitivity, cultural awareness and language skills.

• Personal development gains: autonomy, independence and social skills.

• Employability gains: work experience, professional competences and networking.

The publications analysed rarely deal with a single competence, but usually focus on a set of competences that often belong to the same cluster (Academic, Cultural, Personal or Employability).

Most of the revised publications focus on personal development (although with decreasing interest over time) and cultural gains, while the academic gains are hardly analysed (probably because they are taken for granted).

Regarding the option of students and interns, and according to the focus groups’ main conclusions, the most important competencies for those who have had a mobility experience are those related to personal development, although for interns the employability gains are also very relevant. On employability, both students and interns consider that they have more chances of being hired, having the perception employers value the participation in mobility programs.

Furthermore, academic publications as well as the students and interns focus groups organised agree that the mobility experience is very positive and that mobility programs largely meet their objectives, improving academic knowledge, language learning or strengthen cooperation between the world of education and training and the world of work.

However, there are some aspects of mobility programmes that can still be improved. Some suggestions from students on institutional support in Erasmus mobility can be found on the publication, as follows:

• Simplify the bureaucratic process

• More appropriate Erasmus+ grant amounts

• More opportunities to networking for former Erasmus+ students

• Improvement of the administrative support by receiving institutions before the mobility (bureaucratic, accommodation, study programme)

• Organisation of free-of-charge (possibility mandatory) language courses in local languages

The Erasmus Careers partnership built a database of publications on the topic openly available here.

Find the whole document here.

Do you want to know more? Visit the project’s website!


This research was carried out in the framework of the Erasmus+ Key Action 2 Cooperation Partnership project: Erasmus Careers - 101049436.

November 2023, Erasmus Careers Consortium


Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.


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