Job assistance is an aspect where the UK’s foreign education industry has a “great opportunity,” according to a new report, and in order for the country to remain globally competitive, employability should be the country’s top priority for international students.
The UPP Foundation report, released as part of its Student Futures Commission, has recommended a nationwide push to promote international students’ employment goals. According to the document, the sector should collaborate on intelligence regarding graduate chances for students coming home and strengthen ties with abroad businesses.
The report goes on to say that more work is needed to ensure employers understand the new rules and opportunities around the new graduate route for students who want to stay in the UK.
According to Mary Stuart CBE, former vice-chancellor of the University of Lincoln and UPP Foundation Student Futures commissioner, international students make a significant contribution to UK teaching, infrastructure, and scientific studies, but this is not always evidenced and taken into account in the availability of sufficient figures of support professionals to provide careers and development assistance customized to the culture and context of the students themselves.
“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”, added Stuart.
The paper makes several recommendations for universities, including dedicated international placement officers to manage and control existing and new opportunities for foreign students with domestic and international companies; continued committed job placement support for early-career international graduates; and significant support for graduates looking for employment in their native countries.
As part of the UK International Education Strategy, the government should adopt a systematic approach to regional trade support, in addition to a “pro-active and sector-focused” campaign targeting employers. The report emphasizes the accomplishment of the Sheffield China Gateway Scheme, which has provided “excellent opportunities” for UK businesses to access talent while also allowing Chinese-speaking students to gain an understanding of UK business, enhance their employability, and establish UK contacts for their professional prospects. It asked the government to investigate how such initiatives could be supported in the future.
Furthermore, it should provide that all universities have access to solid representative international graduate outcomes data, whether from HESA’s Graduate Outcomes or from alternate sources. The document also advocated for collaboration with business-led institutions such as the CBI and Chambers of Commerce, a national level resource for international graduates looking for work back home, and the continuous exchange of best practices in employability assistance.
HESA and others should continue to monitor the impact of the change to stop calling non-EU international graduates for their graduate outcomes survey, the report added.
“There is no doubt that many of these recommendations mean that a redirection of resources is needed,” Stuart added.
“If the 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.”
The 60 international students from seven different universities who participated in the commission’s focus groups stated that they need additional career and employability assistance both while at university and after graduation.
“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.”