The UCML Year Abroad Special Interest Group was created in recognition of the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic poses for international travel, and worked to secure alternative, interim arrangements to enable students whose degrees include an integral year abroad with a Modern Language to continue their linguistic progress and sustain skills and knowledge development to an advanced level. It now also addresses the challenges for student mobility posed by Brexit, with the introduction of visas for study and work placements in European countries, and the withdrawal from Erasmus+.

The Chair liaises regularly with the British Council and Universities UK International to ensure a coordinated approach in line with the relevant national agencies, including the national directors of the Turing Scheme. Technical and legal/regulatory issues pertaining to fees, funding, insurance are also being integrated into the Year Abroad planning by the UCML YA SIG Chair.

Programme Leads in Modern Languages at each University will find supporting guidance from the Chair of the UCML Year Abroad SIG, Dr James Illingworth (Cardiff University), through regular mailings to the relevant UCML YA SIG list. For any queries relating to the Year Abroad, please contact the Chair: illingworthj1@cardiff.ac.uk

In line with the QAA subject benchmark statements for Languages, Cultures, and Societies, the Year Abroad SIG focuses on models of virtual mobility and residence abroad as circumstances permit, looking at alternative opportunities for contact with the target language environment through shared digital resources and, where possible, remote/virtual interaction. The UCML SIG also produced a set of virtual mobility principles for Year Abroad 2020-21:

For 2020-21, UCML coordinated a package of MOOCs that were made available courtesy of Futurelearn, with the collaboration of Cardiff University, University of Leeds, and the University of Southampton. Dr Nicola Bermingham (Liverpool) and Dr James Illingworth have also produced a Guide to Virtual Mobility, aimed at students undertaking virtual mobility programmes during the Year Abroad 2020/21, which includes details of the MOOC package:

The work of the UCML Year Abroad Special Interest Group was profiled in the April/May 2021 issue of The Linguist. The issues of The Linguist for the 2021/22 academic year also include reflections on the year abroad experience under Brexit/Covid from Gemma McBain, a current year abroad student from the University of Southampton. The group also contributed to an article in The Guardian that discussed the challenges posed by visa requirements after Brexit.

In January 2022, UCML organised its Winter Plenary around the theme of ‘the Year Abroad after Brexit’, featuring presentations from a number of key stakeholders. Full details of the event, including recordings of the presentations, can be found here.