International students have many reasons for coming to study in the UK but their main reason for studying here is to increase their global job prospects (NUS, 2012). In this respect they are no different from home students who also rank improving their job prospects as the most important reason for coming to university. Also, like home students, they will have diverse career aspirations, but unlike home students, they are likely to experience additional barriers to their employability development (HEA, 2014) including:
- immigration restrictions – see UK Council for International Student Affairs
- cultural barriers
- differences in emphasis on the employability skills valued/needed
- different expectations of what the HEI will provide (e.g. providing work experience and a job post-graduation)
- different employment markets in their home country.
The IEAA (2015), in their guide for providers, summarise key advice that helps to address these barriers as follows:
- international graduate employability must be seen as core business
- international students must be provided with a range opportunities to develop their employability throughout the student lifecycle
- work experience provision will require commitment, strong relations with industry and creative solutions
- strong industry-institution relationships are critical to improve employment outcomes of international students
- strong and enduring relationships should be fostered with alumni who can provide valuable internship opportunities, mentorship and graduate employment to international students
- the pre-entry and post-arrival expectations of international students need to be carefully managed to avoid dissatisfaction and poor retention.