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Southern, Eastern Europeans reap most benefit from Erasmus

Studying or working abroad through the European mobility programme Erasmus has a notably bigger impact on students’ long-term employability in Eastern and Southern Europe than elsewhere, a new study has found.

Erasmus students at Czech Technical University. Photo Flickr/Jirka Matousek.Erasmus students at Czech Technical University. Photo Flickr/Jirka Matousek.

“There is a strong difference there between students who know about the advantages and go abroad, and whose who think it is not of any value for them to go, which in the end strengthens the advantage for those who go"

Students from Eastern Europe reduce their risk of long-term unemployment (over 12 months) by 83% by taking part in Erasmus, according to the European Impact Study, a survey of 71,368 Erasmus participants.

“Northern European students seem to profit the least from Erasmus”

The study also showed that students across Europe were more likely to be working in management positions five to 10 years after graduation (64%, compared with 55% of non-mobile students), but this was most noticeable in Eastern Europe, where the proportion of Erasmus alumni in management was 70%, compared to 41%.

Looking at students a year after finishing the programme, Southern Europeans saw the biggest benefit for employability, with Erasmus alumni 56% less likely to be unemployed than non-mobile graduates.

And students in Southern Europe who undertook a work placement were most likely to be offered a job at their host company, with nearly one in two students offered a position, compared with around one in three overall.

The “immense relevance of mobility for employment” to students from Southern Europe was one of the standout findings of the report, its author, Uwe Brandenburg, told The PIE News.

“There is a strong difference there between students who know about the advantages and have pretty high pre-departure values and go abroad, and those who don’t go, who think it is not of any value for them to go, which in the end, of course, strengthens the advantage for those who go,” he said.

Long-term unemployment of Erasmus and non-mobile alumni (more than 12 months after graduation)

Long-term unemployment of Erasmus and non-mobile alumni

In contrast, students from Northern Europe appeared to experience the least benefit from the programme, in terms of building skills and personality traits that employers find valuable.

“Northern European students seem to profit the least from Erasmus, whereas on the other hand the employers there are most interested in the personality traits related to employability, which in other regions are strongly developed through Erasmus,” he added.

The study looked at the impact of mobility on six factors on its ‘memo’ scale of attributes highly valued by employers: tolerance of ambiguity, curiosity, confidence, serenity, decisiveness and vigour.

Based on self-assessments of these traits, students from East and West Europe were found to have increased these skills by an average of 1.5%, while these traits among Northern students were shown to actually decrease by 0.5%.

Brandenburg suggested that this finding could be down to the fact that students in Northern Europe are more likely to have already travelled at a younger age, with many going abroad in high school.

“The first longer stay abroad, of course, has a stronger impact, and we also know that there is always a slightly bigger gain for those who were younger,” he explained. “They have all had some experience before they go into study, and then the experience during the study is not changing them so much any more.”

“If we don’t know who we send abroad, how can we properly prepare them? Not knowing might be very inefficient”

The study, though informative, highlights the need for more data on the impact of studying and working abroad on Erasmus participants, Brandenburg said.

The data shows “a huge gap between those who know [the benefits of studying abroad] and who are predispositioned for it and who have an advantage to go, and those who think it is not worth it – and that’s the majority”, he said.

In order to target students who need support in choosing and undertaking a placement, institutions must work to better understand who they are sending abroad, he added.

“If we don’t know who we send abroad, how can we properly prepare them?” he asked. “Not knowing might also be very inefficient, because [institutions] might offer counselling programmes for students who absolutely don’t need it, because they would maybe thrive anyway.”

Elsewhere in the findings, the report found that participation in Erasmus also boosted students’ chances of moving overseas post-graduation and forging cross-border romantic relationships.

Students from Eastern Europe were the most likely to have a life partner from another country (37% of alumni, compared with 13% of their non-mobile counterparts), while Southern Europeans were most likely to move overseas (45% of mobile students, compared with 19% of non-mobile).

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