Focus on work ambitions of international students, UK unis told
Employment support is an area where the UK’s international education sector has a “huge opportunity” and, to remain globally competitive, employability should be the country’s top priority for international students, a new report has suggested.
The UPP Foundation report, published as part of its Student Futures Commission, has called for a national campaign to support the employment ambitions of international students.
The sector should collaborate on intelligence about graduate opportunities students returning home and develop better links with overseas employers, the paper contends. For students looking to remain in the UK, further work is needed to ensure employers understand new rules and opportunities around the new graduate route, it continues.
“International students make a major contribution to UK teaching, facilities and research but this is not always reflected in the provision of adequate numbers of dedicated staff to provide careers and progression guidance tailored to the culture and context of the students themselves,” said Mary Stuart CBE, former vice-chancellor of the University of Lincoln and UPP Foundation Student Futures commissioner.
“Students were very clear that gaining good employment post-graduation was central to their ambitions”
“Students were very clear that gaining good employment post-graduation was central to their ambitions and the UK should take a lead in this area.”
Among the recommendations the paper makes for universities are: dedicated international placement officers to coordinate existing and new opportunities for international students with local and national companies; continuation of dedicated employability support for early career international graduates; and increased support for graduates seeking employment in their home countries.
The government should develop a co-ordinated approach to regional trade support, in addition to a “pro-active and sector specific” campaign targeting employers as part of the UK International Education Strategy.
It highlights the success of the Sheffield China Gateway Scheme, which has offered “excellent opportunities” for UK businesses to access talent, while also enabling Chinese-speaking students to acquire knowledge of UK business, improve their employability, and develop UK contacts for their future careers.
The government should consider how further roll out of similar initiatives could be supported, it urged.
Additionally, it should “ensure all universities have access to robust representative international graduate outcomes data either through HESA’s Graduate Outcomes or alternative sources”.
The paper also called for partnerships with business led organisations such as the CBI and Chambers of Commerce, a national level resource for international graduates seeking employment back home, as well as the continued sharing of best practice on employability support.
It also said that “HESA and others should closely monitor the impact of the decision to cease calling non-EU international graduates for their graduate outcomes survey”.
“There is no doubt that many of these recommendations mean that a redirection of resources is needed,” Stuart added.
“If government and the sector want to expand our market share further then we need to invest, not just in marketing, but more significantly in the whole experience to ensure good graduate outcomes for international students.”
“Our work for the Student Futures Commission makes clear students want to see their job prospects… higher up the agenda”
The 60 international students from seven different universities participating in focus groups for the commission noted that they need more careers and employability support both while at university and post graduate.
“Supporting the employment ambitions of international students through all stages of their student journey is essential if the UK is to remain a top study destination,” said commissioner and senior advisor to Study Group, Ruth Arnold.
“Our work for the Student Futures Commission makes clear students want to see their job prospects – either here in the UK or in their home countries – higher up the agenda and at the heart of the UK’s International Education Strategy.”
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