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UK universities should develop employment support for international students

To remain globally competitive, employability is the number one priority for international students, according to the UPP Foundation Student Futures Commission

A new report on the experience of international students, published today by the UPP Foundation as part of the Student Futures Commission, highlights employment support as a huge opportunity area for the UK.

A national campaign should seek to support the employment ambitions of international students through all stages of their student journey if the UK is going to remain a top study destination in the future. Within this, sector collaboration to share intelligence about graduate opportunities for international students returning home, and to develop better links with overseas employers could significantly improve the support provided.

For international graduates choosing to stay in the UK and take advantage of the new graduate route, further work is needed to ensure that employers understand the new rules and opportunities to recruit international graduates.

60 international students from 7 different universities participating in focus groups for the Commission, gave a clear message that employability should be the top priority as we emerge from the pandemic. To deliver this, the report recommends that:

Universities should:

  1. provide dedicated international placement officers who work with local and national companies to coordinate existing opportunities including Knowledge Exchange Partnerships as well as finding new opportunities for international students
  1. continue to provide dedicated employability support as international graduates enter the early stages of their careers whether that is within the UK or abroad
  1. collaborate to increase the support provided for graduates seeking employment in their home countries

Government should:

  1. develop a co-ordinated approach to regional trade support that will also enable placement opportunities for international students and consider how further roll out of initiatives such as the Sheffield China Gateway Scheme could be supported
  1. develop a pro-active and sector specific campaign targeting employers as part of the UK International Education Strategy
  1. ensure all universities have access to robust representative international graduate outcomes data either through HESA’s Graduate Outcomes or alternative sources

Supporting organisations can help by:

  1. coordinating a national level resource for international graduates seeking employment back home
  1. continuing to support the sharing of good practice in relation to employability support
  1. HESA and others should closely monitor the impact of the decision to cease calling non-EU international graduates for their graduate outcomes survey

Professor Mary Stuart CBE, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lincoln and UPP Foundation Student Futures Commissioner said:

“There is no doubt that many of these recommendations mean that a redirection of resources is needed. 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.

“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. 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.”

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