This week, Simon Morris-Lange, Deputy Head of the Research Unit at the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR), writes about the recent study highlighting need for collaboration between institutions, local authorities and employers in assisting international students post-study work opportunities

Local Actors Need to Team Up to Help International Students Find Employment

For the majority of international students today, study abroad is about more than just academics and socialising on and off campus. Between 50 and 80 per cent of international students in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden plan to stay after finishing their studies in order to gain work experience in their host country. However, despite looming skills shortages and the expansion of existing post-study work options in many host countries, a high number of international students fail to find adequate employment. In Germany, for example, 30 per cent of former international students are still searching for a job more than one year after graduation.

After finishing their studies, many international students have a much harder time finding work than their domestic counterparts. Their search is further complicated by insufficient language skills, low exposure to the host country’s labour market and a lack of professional networks. Despite international students’ need for more systematic and coordinated job entry support at university locations, most students encounter a poorly coordinated patchwork of occasional career fairs, job application training and chance acquaintances with service staff or company representatives who may or may not be able to help them. These are the findings of a study which the Research Unit at the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) has conducted in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. The analysis was based on an international survey which generated responses from more than 50 per cent of all public universities and other higher education institutions in the four countries.

The international comparison shows that today some international students can already find job application training, a diversity-friendly employer or a knowledgeable and devoted public service employee at their university location. However, these isolated instances are not sufficient to systematically help more international students transition from study to work. Rather, local actors need to coordinate their individual career support services in order to bridge the gap between study and work. So far, this type of coordinated job entry support can only be found in a few locations in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden: only 28 per cent of Dutch and German universities collaborate regularly with local businesses to organise mentoring programmes, internships and other forms of professional support to international students. Canadian (21 per cent) and Swedish universities (13 per cent) are even less likely to team up with local businesses.

Similarly, the survey found that universities’ engagement with local politicians, employment agencies and other public services is infrequent and ad hoc. In Canada, only 26 per cent of universities join forces with public service providers to offer career support to international students. In the Netherlands, 24 per cent of universities are actively engaged in this way. In Germany, the number is even lower at 17 per cent. In the case of Sweden, with the exception of local employment offices (17%), universities hardly engage in any form of local collaboration with public sector organisations.

To move beyond the current state of infrequent and ad hoc collaboration, universities, employers, public service providers and other local actors should reassess and coordinate their job entry assistance. By doing so, the local partners can offer a more structured local support landscape that addresses the major obstacles in the path to employment for many international students. This requires local actors to exchange information regularly, develop and pursue shared goals, and communicate joint achievements in order to rally support for further coordination. This kind of successful teamwork could be a win-win for students and the local actors alike: international students get to acquire valuable work experience while employers and communities increase their attractiveness for skilled migrants, which are increasingly needed to offset talent shortages in times of demographic decline.

The full study can be downloaded at

Simon Morris-Lange is the Deputy Head of the Research Unit at the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR). Before joining the SVR, he served as an analyst with the Illuminate Consulting Group in Silicon Valley, and as Chief Operating Officer with iversity, a Berlin-based edutech company. Simon earned a master’s degree in public policy at the Hertie School of Governance. He was also educated in the United States and Singapore.



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