AMIN/IER Research Seminar Academic Mobility and Employability (by Xuemeng Cao)
Reflections by Xuemeng Cao (Centre for Education Studies)
AMIN and IER (Institute for Employment Research) held a research seminar on academic mobility and employability on 23th May 2017. Two presentations were given to share the empirical findings on employability gains owing to international experiences.
The U21 Project is a retrospective qualitative research study conducted by the Careers Services of four UK based U21 members (University of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Nottingham) into student perspectives of global citizenship and global graduate attributes following international experiences. Data were collected from 75 students categorized by four types—international students studying abroad in a UK U21 Institution, UK students who returned after a period at a U21 Institution, UK students who have had a period of overseas work or volunteering which has been independently arranged, and UK students who have had no international experience beyond a U21 Institution in the UK, by semi-structured telephone interviews. The results show a series of employability qualities and skills perceived by people via international experiences, with some gains such as leadership, creativity and team working suggested to be developed more from international working rather than study abroad. Whereas at the same time, a number of students are unable to undertake international experiences due to social, cultural, financial or institutional/course related reasons, but surprisingly, those students enjoy a relatively high level of self-perceived competency. In addition, it is worth mentioning that all kinds of students agree that international experiences help with enhancing their abilities rather than developing new and unique attributes.
The LEGACY Project explores the perceived gains of different types of international experiences from the student point of view.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted among undergraduates studying abroad, working abroad or having no overseas experiences, seeking to identify their self-perceived employability learning gains. It is found that students studying abroad hope to reach not only academic achievements but also employability enhancement and personal development by overseas experiences. Students with overseas working experiences mention some extrinsic factors (e.g. CVs) in complementary to intrinsic motivations when talking about their perceptions of employability development. Meanwhile, the reasons for people not to undertake international experience tend to reflect risk adverse behaviours.
Gaby Atfield from Institute for Employment Research at University of Warwick presented a six-year longitudinal study investigating the employability
of 2005/6 UCAS applicants for full-time undergraduate courses. She started with the global competition for international students which has resulted in greater emphasis on skills gain and demonstrable labour market outcomes. In her presentation, employability is defined as the skills and abilities to find employment and the skills to remain in employment and progress within the workplace. Based on this view, it is important for students to develop employability skills demanded by employers, so that their attributes can yield returns in the labour market.
This presentation included a series of quantitative data comparisons among UK students, EU students and non-EU international students on their skills developed by courses, work destinations, use of skills in job, course-work match and attitudes toward career prospects, finding out that international students enter higher education with various advantages, and their development of employability skills is not very different to UK students when the subject they studied is controlled for. The majority of international students are positive about their experiences and optimistic about their careers.
Researchers who attended this seminar had a good discussion based on the presentations. This event is a good example of networking among researchers in interrelated research domains but from different contexts.