Employment prospects rosier for Erasmus graduates

The findings of The Erasmus Impact Study, released last Monday, are indisputable – young people who study or train abroad are half as likely to face long-term unemployment as their non-mobile peers. And five years after graduation, the jobless rate of these students is an impressive 23% lower.

Beefing up the argument for the Erasmus mobility scheme – against the backdrop of skyrocketing youth unemployment levels in the European Union – is that apart from improving career prospects, study or training abroad also offers students broader horizons and social links.

At least 40% of these mobile students have changed their country of residence or their jobs at least once since graduation – almost double the number of those who were not mobile during studies.

The study

The European Commission study, compiled by independent experts, is the largest of its kind and received feedback from nearly 80,000 respondents, including students and businesses.

The research was led by Berlin-based specialists CHE Consult, Brussels Education Services, the Compostela Group of Universities as well as the Erasmus Student Network.

The study included online surveys that covered 34 countries – EU member states as well as Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey – according to a European Commission news release.

It analysed responses from more than 75,000 students and alumni, including over 55,000 who studied or trained abroad. Also, 5,000 staff, 1,000 higher education institutions and 650 employers participated in online surveys.

The qualitative study focuses on eight countries that are diverse in terms of size and location – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom – and included site visits, interviews, focus groups and institutional workshops.

There were two prongs to the study: one was to identify the effects of the Erasmus mobility programme on the employability, skills enhancement and institutional development of students, while the other was to examine the impact of Erasmus staff and teaching mobility.

Some other findings

Other findings were that at least one out of 10 Erasmus trainees who did work placements have started their own companies, and three out of four plan to or can imagine doing so. More than one in three of these trainees were also offered positions at their host companies.

It was found that the number of employers who considered experience abroad to be important nearly doubled between 2006 and 2013, from 37% to 64%.

Significantly, of those questioned, 64% said that graduates with an international background were given greater professional responsibility more often, a proportion that has increased by 51% since 2006.

Of the Erasmus alumni surveyed, 77% were in jobs with leadership components 10 years after graduation, and Erasmus alumni were 44% more likely to hold managerial positions than non-mobile alumni.

A key finding in the study was that it was increasingly important for students to enhance their employability abroad.

However, motivations were the opportunity to live in another country and meet new people, foreign language proficiency, and the chance to develop transversal skills like curiosity, problem-solving, tolerance and confidence.