6,200 international students from 25 universities in France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK took part, with data collected in 2011.
The survey identified discrimination as an important reason for wanting to leave a country, and found respondents in France and Germany had suffered most, with 39.9% and 39.4% respectively making complaints. The issue was less acute in Sweden (34.9%), the Netherlands (30.1%) and the UK (27.4%).
A 25 year-old Turkish female studying in Germany was quoted as saying: “I can’t say all of course, but many German people do not welcome foreigners. Really, when I say foreigners what I mean is Muslims.”
Language barriers were also said to be an issue, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands
Others criticised France’s Circulaire du 31 mai – a 2011 government memo encouraging the rejection of post-study work applications – and the way they were treated by immigration officials in general. “I, for example, am a scientist and whenever I go to the visa office, I have to bow down in front of them to get my residence permit granted,” said one Indian student.
Other factors that made students less likely to stay on included lack of awareness of post-study rights. Between 37% (UK) and 45.9 per cent (Germany) of respondents said they felt “poorly or not at all informed” and less than a quarter in each country felt it was easy to access such information.
Language barriers were also said to be an issue, particularly in Germany and the Netherlands. “For South Asian students, the biggest hurdle to finding a job in Germany is their inability to speak German,” a 25 year-old Indian male studying engineering said. “Since the Goethe Institut in their home country does not have sufficient capacity, students are often not able to learn the language before their departure from home.”
“Permanent migration was said to be “not the intention of the bulk of respondents”
Overall, the findings revealed that almost two-thirds of respondents wanted to remain in a host country after graduation for a limited time period (one to two years) to gain work experience, with the majority saying that if it was easier to get a visa they would more inclined to stay.
However, permanent migration was said to be “not the intention of the bulk of respondents”, with only 10% indicating they planned to stay on for more than five years.
Other important drivers in the decision to return home included family, friends and personal relationships, the desire to work in the home country, and financial considerations.