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UK: Unemployment lower for mobile students, IU finds

Students who are globally mobile have a lower unemployment rate and end up earning more as graduates than their non-mobile counterparts in most subject areas, a new report from the UK Higher Education International Unit has found.

5.4% of graduates who had been mobile as students were unemployed six months after graduating, compared to 6.7% of graduates who had not

Differences in unemployment rates and graduate salaries are particularly marked among students who studied STEM subjects– the unemployment rate was 5.2% for mobile students, compared to 6.1% for their non-mobile counterparts.

Additionally, 88% of the full-time roles attained by mobile STEM students were in top jobs (‘managers and senior officials’, ‘professional roles’ and ‘associate professional and technical occupations’), compared with 82% of roles for non-mobile students.

In Computer Science, 100% of full-time roles for mobile graduates were in these top positions, compared with 86% of non-mobile; and 94% compared with 88% in Engineering Technology.

Anne-Marie Graham, Head of Programme, Outward Student Mobility at IU said the report aims to spotlight STEM fields to provide “as much evidence as possible” to demonstrate the positive outcomes of study and work abroad for STEM students.

“STEM students are relatively underrepresented in terms of mobility and that is a big part of our strategy – we want to increase mobility among underrepresented groups,” she told The PIE News.

The first-of-its-kind study, Gone International: Mobile Students and their Outcomes, uses two data sets from the Higher Education Statistics Authority – Student Record and Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education – to determine the employment outcomes for 233,186 UK-domiciled graduates who completed their first degree in 2013, including 10,520 ‘mobile’ students.

“One of the things that we’ve always been asked to do by the sector is to demonstrate some evidence of the benefits and the outcomes of mobility”

Mobile students were identified as those who had taken part in an exchange programme or a work or study placement abroad.

It found that 5.4% of mobile students were unemployed six months after graduating in 2013, compared to 6.7% of non-mobile.

The difference was even more marked among those from a disadvantaged background, with an unemployment rate of 5% among mobile students, compared to 7.6% of non-mobile.

The report also looked at graduate salaries, finding that graduates who had been mobile earned more across 11 out of 17 subject areas and earned more if they remained in the UK to work.

Beyond STEM students, non-language graduates who had been mobile but returned to work in the UK earned more in 40 out of 67 subjects, with disparities of more than £3,000 in Sociology, Computer Science, Theology and Religious Studies, Electronic and Electrical Engineering, and Physical Geographical Sciences.

“STEM students are underrepresented in terms of mobility and we want to increase mobility among underrepresented groups”

The study aims to address a lack of hard data demonstrating the benefits of outbound mobility in the sector as a whole, as part of IU’s 2013 UK Strategy for Outward Mobility.

“One of the things that we’ve always been asked to do by the sector is to demonstrate some evidence of the benefits and the outcomes of mobility,” Graham explained.

“We hope that it will help the sector very much by giving them some data that they can use in their internal promotion, whether that be to students or to senior management.”

According to the report, overall outbound mobility from the UK has increased, despite a 10% drop in the number of language programme enrolments in the five years to 2013/13.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.54.05Outbound mobility was highest in Scotland, which sent 6.2% of its students overseas in 2012/13, compared to just 3.4% in Wales.

France was the most popular destination, attracting 25% of UK students, followed by Spain (17%), the US (12%) and Germany (9%).

Following global trends, more women than men studied abroad – 5.1% of female 2012/13 graduates, compared with 3.8% of male.

IU said the research is the first in what will become an annual study to map trends in outward mobility.

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