Around 40% of international students were employed in New Zealand a year after graduation, according to the Ministry of Education’s Moving Places report.
Meanwhile, 27% of graduates returned overseas and 22% continuing onto further study.
“It is not possible to differentiate between full-time and part-time, which is likely to impact on earnings”
Employment rates varied significantly according to qualification and age, notes the report, which documents graduates’ destinations over eight years after completing their studies.
Looking at the employment rates of young, international graduates (ages vary depending on level of qualification – up to 29 years old for PhD students), graduate certificate or diploma recipients were the most likely to gain employment in New Zealand, with 63% working in the country a year after graduation.
In comparison, 51% of Level 5-7 certificate holders and 45% of PhD students were employed a year after graduation.
“The research report shows us that international graduates at all levels follow a number of different pathways after study,” said Claire Douglas, the MoE’s head of achievement, vocations and careers.
Unsurprisingly, the proportion of young graduates working in the country dropped considerably eight years after graduation – to 27% of graduate certificate holders, 25% of Level 5-7 certificate holders and just 11% of PhD students.
Bachelor’s degree holders were less likely to remain in New Zealand to work than those with postgraduate qualifications, with 29% in a job a year after graduation. However, this number dropped only slightly to 25% eight years after graduation.
The report also highlighted that international graduates earned less on average than their domestic counterparts, except in the fields of nursing and medicine.
There are several factors affecting the difference between domestic and international earnings, Douglas noted, making the actual reasons difficult to address.
“The data does not give us hours of work – only earnings – so it is not possible to differentiate between full-time and part-time, which is likely to impact on earnings,” she said, adding that English language competency may also be a factor.
“One challenge in our field is that we haven’t really established a strong consensus on what success looks like for international student stay rates”
The University of Auckland’s director international, Brett Berquist, said the data presents an opportunity for institutions to reflect on their international student services.
“We find that some international students prioritise their academic work over building the social connections that help them connect and develop their soft skills that all employers seek,” he said.
“Working with career development and employability services and our alumni relations team, we have developed a programme called New Zealand Workplace Insights that pairs international students with alumni for social interaction and a guided visit to the alumni’s workplace to help them find ideas for making those connections early in their studies.”
Douglas similarly said the report’s findings on continuing education will help New Zealand realign its international education and skills priorities “for those international graduates seeking to stay on in New Zealand”.
Berquist said the report would help New Zealand better understand the full impact of the international education sector.
“One challenge in our field is that we haven’t really established a strong consensus on what success looks like for international student stay rates,” he said, referring to the almost two-thirds of students who remain a year after completion, decreasing to half five years later.
“Is the glass half-empty or half-full? For us, exceeding OECD averages is a success but I look forward to conversations with my New Zealand colleagues and in other countries on how we measure success in this area as well as the overall value of international education in our learning systems.”
Moving Places will be used to benchmark future graduate performance, and further reports on graduate outcomes are expected later this year.