Focus on employment support for international students, universities told

A report by the UPP Foundation calls on UK universities and the government to invest in employment support for international graduates

Universities and the government must do more to support international students find work experience and post-study employment if the UK is to remain a premier study destination. 

That is the recommendation of a report released today (31 January) by the UPP Foundation.

Sixty international students from seven institutions participated in the study, agreeing that increasing employability for international graduates should be a high priority for the UK government and universities post-pandemic.

Conducted as part of the Student Futures Commission, the report suggests that collaboration between government, universities and employers is needed to create, advertise and support career pathways for international students. 

The Student Futures Commission was established at the beginning of last year to consider ways of enhancing student experience following Covid-19.

The report suggests universities coordinate more with local, national and international companies to find new opportunities for international graduates. Many students travel to the UK with ambitions to gain valuable work experience alongside or after their studies. 

The new graduate route “is a huge opportunity to increase the UK’s global market share”, the UPP Foundation report says,  “following the removal of the post-study work visa in 2012”. But, visa changes are not a silver bullet. Many international students lack knowledge and experience of the UK jobs market, the report found – and many employers lack understanding of the graduate route and the skillset of international graduates. 

Mary Stuart, UPP Student Futures commissioner and former vice-chancellor of Lincoln University, said a “redirection of resources is needed” to realise the “whole experience” of international study. “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,” she added. 

The report advocates that the UK government streamline the visa system after surveys found that the UK is rated poorly by students abroad compared to other countries, like Canada and Australia. They should design campaigns to target employers and international students with better information on employment, earnings and costs. Ministers should also work with their counterparts in other countries to pursue co-funded state scholarships in UK HE. 

Prof Stuart concluded that the current provision of careers and guidance for international students doesn’t reflect the “major contribution” these students make to UK teaching and research.


Read more: Higher education delivers 70% of UK’s education exports revenue

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