Whether it’s wanting to be closer to the centre of the action in your field of research, wondering whether students are more engaged elsewhere, or just wishing for sunny Spain on those rainy British days, there really is a way to turn your dream of working overseas into a reality.
You have probably heard of the Erasmus educational exchange programme for students, but surprisingly few UK academics know that staff are eligible for Erasmus transfers as well. That includes both teaching and non-teaching staff, at any university that holds an Erasmus charter—this includes some FE employees as well, if their employer is in a collaborative provision agreement with a universities.
Choose your destination.
Where can you go? All EU and EEC nations, plus Turkey, have institutions that are part of the main Erasmus programme. A full list can be found through the British Council (www.britishcouncil.org/erasmus-where-can-you-go.htm); your employer may already have existing Erasmus links that you can leverage on.
There’s also the Erasmus Mundus programme (eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus_mundus), which aims to take the benefits of European higher education further afield. Erasmus Mundus can help you set up knowledge and staff transfers between your home base and universities outside Europe.
What you’ll be doing.
Erasmus is an EU initiative with set goals and priorities, so expect some hard graft along with new views from your temporary office window.
You may be teaching or working within a research team. You may be carrying out and disseminating the results of projects on topics like widening participation or distance education, or building links between local communities and higher education. It’s also possible to focus your Erasmus activity on receiving training in a foreign business, or setting up networks between or beyond FE/HE.
Funding is available for short preparatory visits, where staff from one institution meet those from another to talk over potential collaborations. These are a great, no-risk way to get started.
Erasmus transfers can be as short as five days, although four to six weeks is typical for teaching assignments.
What’s in it for you?
Benefits can include a chance to work in top European research centres, improve your language and intercultural understanding, and add global employability skills to your CV.
Past participants say the greatest boost has been to their enthusiasm for academic work. Staff come back revitalised and full of new ideas. They’re also equipped with membership in expanded professional networks. This can lead to improved recruitment of overseas students and staff, and enhanced office, boardroom or classroom performance.
Importantly, your costs are all paid through the Erasmus programme.
An introductory leaflet and staff case studies are available through the British Council (www.britishcouncil.org/erasmus-staff-opportunities.htm), which administrates Erasmus for the UK, but your journey really begins by chatting with your university’s Erasmus coordinator.
Perhaps the only danger to the Erasmus transfer route is to your employer: your experiences and contacts may lead you to actively consider employment outside of the UK. If that thought is already in your mind, Erasmus can give you a free trial of your plans.