By Bethan Norris, Senior Editor of StudyTravel Magazine

Last week, post study work rights in the USA were under the spotlight with the news that a trade union body had successfully delayed the extension of the existing Optional Pratical Training (OPT) scheme for international graduates of STEM subjects for six months while further public comment was sought.

This week, the post study work habits of international students are also on the agenda. Our guest speaker this week, Simon Morris-Lange, a researcher at the Expert Foundation on German Foundations on Integration and Migration, reveals some interesting statistics from a study of international graduates in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. For any student finding a job after graduation is a competitive business, and it seems that international students are often at a disadvantage due to language difficulties, as well as their lack of professional networks and exposure to the host country’s labour markets.

The survey revealed that, despite a skills shortage, support from universities and local industry in helping international students find a job after graduation in these countries was largely inadequate and that greater collaboration between the disparate groups was recommended.

With between 50 and 80 per cent of international students planning on gaining work experience in their host country after graduating, the question of facilitating their access into the workplace is an interesting one. Many education providers worldwide may not see this as part of their remit and prefer to direct resources elsewhere, while the negative reception of schemes such as the OPT (above) by local workers can convey a rather hostile view of international students in the workplace.

When international students are charged tuition fees above those of their local counterparts it is easy to see the cynical view that international students could potentially be seen as a revenue stream and not much else. However, tuition at German universities is free for international students so it would make sense for official policy to demand more joined up thinking between industry and academia to ensure that national investment in skills is not wasted.

While demand for university places from international students outstrips supply, the issue of post study work difficulties is likely to continue but for those universities competing for the brightest and best, more attention needs to be given to the post study work goals of their international population.

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