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GSE Lecture Series - Dr Heather Ellis (University of Sheffield)

Graduate School of Education Lecture Series

Event details

Student Mobility and Cultural Diplomacy: British Students’ Study Abroad 1955-1978

Historians of education have paid increasing attention in recent years to the overseas travel of British academics both within the British Empire and outside it. Yet there has been little research on the movements and migrations of British students who studied overseas. While there has been growing interest in the history of the study abroad movement, particularly in the USA, Britain has figured almost exclusively as the host and receiver of foreign students.

As this talk will suggest, there is strong evidence that Britain was one of the most active countries in sending its students overseas – and that this activity increased (both in absolute terms and relative to other countries) significantly in the 1960s and 70s. Relative to the overall size of population, Britain consistently sent a greater proportion of its students to study abroad than most developed countries with the exceptions of Switzerland and Canada. Attention will also be paid to trends in terms of the subjects studied by British students studying overseas, most significantly, the tendency for a much higher proportion of British study abroad students to pursue studies in the arts and humanities.

The research drawn on in this talk makes use of rich data published yearly by UNESCO in its ‘Study Abroad’ and ‘Statistics of Study Abroad’ volumes. While this data was primarily gathered through a detailed survey of ‘foreign students’ carried out every year, from 1962 onwards, UNESCO collected significant additional data from countries which had not typically supplied data to the annual survey. Various reasons for the significant rise in the number and proportion of UK students studying abroad will be explored - in particular, the role of government attitudes towards study abroad against the background of Cold War politics and the increasing weight placed on student exchanges as instruments of cultural diplomacy.

About The Speaker

Heather Ellis is a lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield. Her research concentrates on the history of higher education, knowledge and science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She is the author of Generational Conflict and University Reform: Oxford in the Age of Revolution (Brill, 2012) and Masculinity and Science in Britain: 1831-1918 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). She is currently working on a monograph for OUP investigating the role of classical learning in the development of science in the early nineteenth century.


This event will be hosted by Dr Li Li, Director of Research, and Dr Jonathan Doney, Lecturer in Education.


For those with an Exeter IT account the recording of this lecture is now available on ELE.