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Promoting the benefits, and ease, of employing international students

  • 19 September 2023
  • This HEPI blog was kindly authored by Jennifer Plant, who works in Marketing and Communications at BUILA.

International students make a huge contribution to the UK and bring with them a range of skills and experiences, drawn directly from their studies and from their lived experience in their home country.

In 2022, the UK hosted over 600,000 international students from all over the world.  Many are studying higher-level qualifications, providing an important source of highly skilled workers across all regions of the UK.

Since the introduction of the Graduate Route visa and the Skilled Worker Route visa it has never been easier for employers to hire from this rich pool of international talent, but recent HEPI and Kaplan research has shown that only 3% of employers said they had knowingly made use of the Graduate Route visa and 27% of employers said they were not at all familiar with the Graduate Route visa.

In addition, a recent All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students report recommended that the higher education sector should “create a clear strategy for international student employability that supports students and graduates, and provides the knowledge, tools, and skills they need to navigate the various options open to them post study.”

In response to the findings of these reports, the International Student Employability Group (ISEG), which is convened by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)and is made up of key sector organisations such as British Universities International Liaison Association (BUILA), Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and Universities UK International (UUKi), have created a suite of materials to highlight the benefits, and ease, of employing international students.

The materials, in the form of videos, an employer infographic and a guide for international students will be distributed through employer networks and business associations, as well as to students themselves. In addition, and importantly, the materials will give university staff and careers offices the tools to simply explain to employers how easy it is to employ international students. 

The newly released materials include interviews with employers and international students who talk about their experience of working with the new visa system and the benefits it brings:

“When I started working (as a strategy intern) the idea was to gain some skills in a UK based work environment. By the time I was about to graduate…I was able to talk them through the visa routes that are available to me and how they can get me on board permanently and make the process easier for themselves and myself.”

Simran Harichand, Paid Media Specialist at Hallam and graduate of the University of Nottingham.

“Gaining a sponsor licence has helped the strategy for our business in two main ways. One is recruitment and the other one is around diversity. For recruitment, a lot of businesses in the UK are really struggling to hire top talent. This has reduced the barriers of entry for us. We are a marketing agency, and in the UK it’s predominantly a white and male industry. We’re looking to be at the forefront leaders in terms of improving our diversity.”

Jake Third, Managing Director at Hallam.

The new materials launched today will demonstrate to employers that employing an international student is not a time-consuming or expensive process, particularly under the Graduate Route. There are no fees associated, or long-term commitment to sponsorship required, so the Graduate Route is an attractive option for all sizes of employer and is ideal for flexible or fixed-term work projects.

The videos highlight that once employers understand the ease and flexibility of the Graduate Route and possible progression onto the Skilled Worker Route, they are very positive. It gives them the opportunity to hire international graduates to fill skills gaps without bureaucracy and offers the potential for increased brand awareness internationally. The employer infographic also shows the advantage of using international students to help with increasing productivity. Firms with high cultural and ethnic diversity on executive teams are 36% more likely to outperform their rivals on profitability, according to a study by McKinsey.

The International Student Employability Group (ISEG) was set up by UKCISA in 2020 in response to the research findings from the report ‘Supporting international students – making good on the promise’ in which it recommended ‘establishing a cross-department working group or similar with responsibility for international student/graduate employability to support the delivery of the strategic approach’.

Educating employers on the benefits of employing international students via the Graduate Route visa and/or the Skilled Worker Route visa is seen as a key outcome of the group’s work.

Notes to Editors

The International Student Employability Group.

The membership of ISEG includes: 

  • UK Council for International Student Affairs UKCISA (Chair)
  • AGCAS International Task Group
  • Association of Colleges
  • British Council
  • British Universities International Liaison Association (BUILA)
  • Institute of Student Employers
  • Independent HE
  • Universities UK International (UUKi)
  • Universities Scotland
  • Universities Wales
  • Jisc / Prospects
  • UKCISA Student Ambassadors

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