South Africa: Rethinking the University Experience - Can Undergraduate International Exchange Programmes Go Virtual?


International exchange programmes are expensive and often only benefit 2% of the student population. With the global pandemic, educators and institutions have had to come up with creative ways to take the learning experience online. Now, they attempt to push the boundaries of digital education with virtual exchange programmes in the hopes of becoming more inclusive.

The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of undergraduate students travelling internationally for a part or the entirety of their degrees.

These international experiences can be rich, even life-changing, providing exposure to new ways of thinking and to new ways of living. However, the impact of this travel on the environment is seldom explicitly addressed.

Data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) indicates that the greenhouse gas emissions generated by student mobility are equivalent to those of entire countries such as Croatia and Tunisia.

The impact on the environment is not the only challenge of undergraduate student mobility: while some students are on exchange programmes or scholarships, the majority pays exorbitant fees.

Those without scholarships or private wealth simply do not have the opportunity to participate in such programmes.

"Student mobility must be one of the...

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