Edinburgh Global

Go Abroad Staff

While it may seem that going abroad is reserved for students, there are resources available to members of staff to experience the benefits of working abroad. We spoke to Dr Veronica Ruiz Abou-Nigm, Professor Tracey Rosenberg, Norman Rodger and Sarah Taylor about their experiences of Go Abroad – Staff.

Professional benefits

An opportunity for a week devoted to professional development in a possibly new, challenging context is one of the main draws of the Go Abroad Staff programme. Whether undertaking teaching or training opportunities, staff members can learn to approach their role in a new way. They might learn alternative teaching methods or see how technology is utilised by foreign universities.

Go Abroad Staff also helps foster relationships with other professionals in a staff member’s chosen field. These relationships can benefit research by encouraging cross-disciplinary and international communication and collaboration. Professor Tracey Rosenberg spent a week in Croatia, and spoke about the benefits for staff members across all departments.

She said, “I like that the staff training exists because I think a lot of international exchange opportunities are mostly for teachers or for students. And so with the staff training it’s like ‘no, someone who works in administration can have this opportunity as well,’ the people who do international exchange can go and do this but not just watch other people go away.”

Dr Veronica Ruiz Abou-Nigm spent time at the Autonomous University in Barcelona. She told us, they are trying to set up a “Catalan-Scottish law research group which … all started with the Erasmus+ experience. It’s an open opportunity for many other things to come along with it.”

Sarah Taylor visited Universitat Politecnica de Valencia for a week in April 2017. The University hosted 160 attendees from all over Europe and the programme consisted of job shadowing, learning IT or Spanish, coaching workshops and networking. She told us that "It was very easy to organise both sides as the teams at the University of Edinburgh and Universitat Politecnica de Valencia were very helpful...I had so much information before my arrival that I was very well prepared for the week."

Norman Rodger attended the first ever Library Staff Training Week at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. Norman explained that his "main motivation for attending, in addition to finding out how other university libraries work and particularly in how they approach innovation, was that the University of Edinburgh Library was hosting its own Knowledge Exchange Week a month later. As one of the coordinators of our event, I was keen to see how other Universities approach this type of event, to learn from that experience and improve our own."

Your students and team benefit too

As members of staff go to training workshops or teach at universities abroad, they open the door for students to possibly study abroad there as well.

Similarly, staff members establish relationships with partner university staff members on research topics relevant to students. The more staff members that go abroad to teach or train, the more connection students have with the places and topics they are pursuing.

Veronica agrees: “I think…academics do have an important role. If we want to spread our internationalisation to different markets, the more we do every time we are abroad in different countries to show that, the more students we get from different parts of the world.”

Establishing these relationships also opens the door for staff members from partnering universities to come here.

Tracey, after a week teaching 18th century English Literature in Croatia, is helping to bring a teacher over from the University of Zagreb. Veronica has been working with the international law department at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and has since hosted two members of their staff to teach here. The reciprocal nature of teaching or training abroad manifests into long-lasting partnerships across the world.

Sarah explained that in addition to the excellent opportunity it was for personal development, "on a professional level it was a great opportunity to see how another University works, what they have to offer and was great to be able to share best practice with others across Europe, not just the host University."

A "Catalan-Scottish law research group [is being set up] which...all started with the Erasmus+ experience. It's an open opportunity for many other things to come along with it.

Dr Veronica Ruiz Abou-NigmLecturer in International Private Law, Deputy Director of Internationalisation (Student Exchange coordinator)
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As much as language can be a reason to go, it can also be a barrier. While Veronica speaks Spanish, she does not speak Catalan, the dominant language at the Autonomous University.

Staff may find it difficult to teach students with a different command of language than they have, and similarly, staff members may find training in a language that is less familiar to them a challenge. However, given the multi-lingual nature of many universities, there is a lot of support at many destinations for those who may find this a concern.

Norman also discussed language. He said that he "thoroughly enjoyed the week and would definitely recommend the experience to others. One tip would be to learn a few words of the host nation’s language, out of politeness, if nothing else. The entire event was conducted in English and, as the only native speaker, this felt a little unfair, especially on those being asked to give presentations in a language they were not wholly comfortable with."

One of the other challenges staff members might find is the timing of their teach or train week.

While these weeks can be extremely rewarding professionally and personally for staff, there may never seem like enough hours in a week to complete the work demands of their current role, much less add on another week of preparation.

It may be best to complete the week out of term time, however, staff should be aware that this needs to then coincide with a teaching or training opportunity at the other university.

Under the Erasmus+ programme, the University must recognise the work completed whilst abroad. This could be through:

  • Your Career Development Review process
  • An application for promotion
  • Workload allocation models

How to identify a teaching or training opportunity

For those interested in teaching or training, there are several ways to go about it.

First, consider which aspect you would like to pursue.

Teaching can include providing a workshop on a topic of interest, or taking over lectures for the week.

Training might be in a method of technology, such as e-learning, but it can also include job shadowing and attending workshops or courses.

Both teaching and training should provide the member of staff an opportunity for knowledge exchange, cross-disciplinary or cross-national partnership and an opportunity to gain new ideas or practical skills.

Prospective staff interested in European opportunities can apply for funding through the University of Edinburgh and can identify opportunities through the Erasmus+ Staff Mobility website. For those interested in teaching or training outside of Europe, the University of Edinburgh has partnered with ten highly reputable universities.

Though there are opportunities listed, it is worth identifying a university with an expertise in the training opportunity you wish you pursue or a research unit relevant to you. It always helps to reach out to individual members of staff at the host university to find out more about the week.

I like that the staff training exists because I think a lot of international exchange opportunities are mostly for teachers or for students. And so with the staff training it’s like ‘no, someone who works in administration can have this opportunity as well.’

Professor Tracey Rosenberg, TutorTutor, MSc in Creative Writing by Online Learning