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International students disappointed by careers support at UK universities

By Janka Deák

From a lack of work experience to adequate advice on opportunities abroad students are dissatisfied at the levels of careers support.

A report that has investigated international students’ experiences with careers and employability support at UK universities, commissioned by The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International Pathways, has found low levels of satisfaction with the services provided.

The study surveyed 1,051 international and EU students from 118 UK universities. It gauges levels of satisfaction with careers and employability support, as well as documenting concerns about internships and future career prospects both in and outside of the UK.

Notably, only 52% of international students felt their universities were providing adequate career support, with 19% of the respondents feeling like the university was doing poorly in, or not at all, meeting their needs. Postgraduates were also less likely to positively appraise their university with a consensus that there was a lack of specialised support. This was despite 82% saying that perceived levels of support they would receive in this area was a key factor in choosing their university.

77% of the students intending to stay and work in the UK are concerned about whether they will earn enough to support themselves, with 40% doubting they will be able to find relevant work. 51% of respondents agree that this lack of security could be rectified by the continued provision of careers support for up to five years after graduation.

The report also highlights the general lack of access to placements among international students. People coming to study from abroad have to overcome financial, social, and legal barriers to work; securing placements is more difficult for international students than home students, despite promises of equal access to opportunity. Four in 10 (39%) international students reported having gained no work experience during their time at university, with only 19% gaining paid experience related to their degree.

Despite these findings, research with recent graduates from UK universities who had been international students suggests 80% thought their degree helped them get their job and 70% thought that they were progressing more quickly than locally educated peers as a result of studying in the UK. However, only 2% said they had found that job through their UK university’s careers advisory service.

Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, and Linda Cowan, Managing Director of Kaplan International Pathways, noted that: “Overall, it is clear that career support is vitally important to international students and therefore it is imperative that the UK continues to enhance our offer if we are to compete effectively to educate even more international students in the future.”


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