Are international students getting the careers support they need?

Every year when we look at the manifestos of incoming SU officers, one priority stands out amongst those who are international PGTs.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

Employment support, better careers advice, skills in the curriculum, more practical teaching, better work placements and so on may be the big agenda because international students don’t know which of the other aspects of student life aren’t as good as they should be. It might be because of rising panic about the economic situation at home or here. It might be that these opportunities are sold more explicitly on the careers benefits they offer. It might be that delivery in this area is just not very good.

But it’s always up there. And more and more SU officers are international PGTs – I expect because there have been more and more international PGTs.

If we look at this year’s Graduate Outcomes results and active dissatisfaction with the three “reflections” questions, there’s been a gentle rise since the survey’s introduction:

If we then look just at non-EU international students, the rise is more pronounced:

And if we then look just at non-EU international masters students, the rise is really quite dramatic:

Over that period, not only have the percentages been growing, the numbers have been rising fast too.

These are figures for those graduating in 2021/22 – so there are two more years of expansion to come in the figures, and if the trend lines continue, two more years of dissatisfaction growth.

There are likely all sorts of factors at play here – but the cynic might say that the growth in numbers and income from international PGTs hasn’t been met with a parallel growth in the sort of careers support that these students need.

Whatever is done on immigration or cost of living, these are the sorts of perceptions that feed back and around inside countries. A good time to refocus on tackling these figures would be now.

3 responses to “Are international students getting the careers support they need?

  1. Really interesting. I broadly agree with your analysis. I think a big thing is that the growth in international PGTs has broadly come from students who are more focused on getting a return on their investment, and are often more interested in working in the UK than our PGT cohort from a few years ago. Hopefully this provides a bit of a kick to the sector to take this issue more seriously and give it the consideration it deserves.

  2. Worth noting the difference in response rates for international students – which sector wide was 51% for UK students, 46% for EU students and 11% for non-UK students for the 2021/2 data

  3. I’m a careers adviser and it’s been interesting to see the cultural differences in “careers support” that international students expect. Many of my 1:1 appointments with Intl PGTs are filled with explaining the UK recruitment processes that place emphasis on the applicant persuading the employer they are a good “match” for their roles using evidence beyond good grades, that the onus of finding work is on the individual, and that careers events are often about gathering information than handing out your CV.
    For those students that access the careers service and our events, this insight is eye opening and I’ve seen a marked shift in job-seeking strategy once they understand the process. But we know we’re not reaching all students and that our insight isn’t always shared with peers by those that access our support.

    It’s something we’re working on through pre-arrival messaging to manage expectations of the service we offer, and through events specifically aimed at Intl PGTs when they arrive, and patience throughout their course year.

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