Mobile students earn higher grades and higher pay

Mobile students are more likely to obtain a first or 2:1, more likely to have a job six months after graduation – with the difference highest among black and Asian students – and more likely to be engaged in further study. They also earn more, according to a new report.

The average salary of a mobile student six months after graduation was £21,349 (compared to £20,519 for a non-mobile student), according to the report from the UK Higher Education International Unit’s Go International programme.

Unemployment rates among mobile students were lower than those for non-mobile students across almost all socio-economic backgrounds. Some 5% of mobile graduates were unemployed or due to start work six months after graduation compared to 7% of their non-mobile peers.

Although they were less likely to be mobile, a period abroad correlated with a significantly greater improvement in employment outcomes for black and Asian students compared to white students.

Some 9.9% of non-mobile black graduates were unemployed, compared to 5.4% of black mobile graduates; and 9.5% of Asian non-mobile graduates were unemployed, compared to 4.4% of Asian mobile students, the report says.

Mobile students were more likely to be engaged in further study, or in work and further study.

Vivienne Stern, Director of the UK HE International Unit said: “This report demonstrates the value of mobility, particularly for students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds. We want to encourage all students to benefit from a period abroad.”

The report suggests that the findings may add to the debate over the potential impact of a Brexit – exit of Britain from the European Union – in the impending referendum on EU membership.

The number of students from UK higher education institutions participating in the Erasmus programme has steadily risen from 10,278 in 2007-08 to 15, 566 students in 2013-14 and the range of countries that students can access via the new phase of Erasmus, Erasmus+, continues to expand.

The UK would lose Erasmus funding from the EU if it left, although it could apply for smaller funds from Erasmus+ three-way programmes involving a third country.

The report, Gone International: The value of mobility, says with the introduction of new mobility opportunities it is important to track participation by UK higher education students, report on emerging trends and ensure that the increase in participation in mobility programmes is maintained.

“International experience continues to be important for the individual’s employability, intercultural awareness and language skills,” the report says, “but its economic and political benefits should not be dismissed, as it reinforces global networks for UK higher education and industry.

“It is therefore essential that the UK higher education sector continues to be ambitious and increase the number of students it sends abroad each year.”

The report compares the academic attainment and employment outcomes of mobile and non-mobile first degree undergraduate students who completed their studies at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.

The report provides the second annual national outline of who goes abroad, and considers what currently available data can tell us about the outcomes of international experience as part of a UK undergraduate programme.

Under-represented groups

The UK HE International Unit’s aim in publishing the report is to inform discussions within the sector about increasing participating of under-represented groups in outward mobility opportunities, by identifying specific outcomes for these groups.

A significantly lower proportion of graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds who were mobile were unemployed (5.0%) compared with those from the same backgrounds who were not mobile (6.2%).

But participation rates among students from disadvantaged backgrounds were 3.5% compared to 6.4% for students from advantaged backgrounds – and students from higher managerial and professional occupation backgrounds were almost five times as likely to be mobile as students from ‘never worked’ and long-term unemployed backgrounds.

Stern said the International Unit has developed an action plan “to support the uptake of mobility from widening participation groups across institutions”.

Higher earnings and outcomes

Mobile students from almost all socio-economic backgrounds reported higher average salaries than their non-mobile equivalents. Graduates from a background in routine occupations who had been mobile earned, on average, £1,364 per year more than their non-mobile peers.

In terms of academic outcomes, a higher proportion of mobile students achieved a First Class (1st) or Upper Second Class (2:1) in their degree (81%) compared with non-mobile students (72%).

Mobility was most common among graduates in languages (38%), followed by clinical medicine, although in the latter case mobile periods lasted eight weeks or less.

More mobile students work in education and professional, scientific and technical activities than their non-mobile peers. Employed graduates who had been mobile during their study are more likely (74.8%) than their non-mobile peers (67.1%) to gain employment within one of the top three socio-economic classifications.

Overall, more mobile students were female than male, although if language students are excluded, mobility participation rates are equal – at 3.6%.

Findings echoed

The present report echoes many of the findings of the first edition of Gone International, published last year, which analysed the 2012-13 graduating cohort, in many of its findings, in particular the improved employment outcomes for students who had been mobile compared to their non-mobile peers.

As with last year’s report, the new report outlines what mobile students’ outcomes were, but it does not demonstrate causation between outward mobility and students’ outcomes.

The statistics contained in the report are based on an analysis linking together two Higher Education Statistics Agency datasets – the Student Record, which contains profiles of students registered at higher education providers across the UK, and the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education, or DLHE, Survey, which asks graduates what they are doing six months after completing their degree.

A total of 13,555 UK-domiciled graduates responding to the 2013-14 DLHE Survey had at least one period abroad as part of their undergraduate first degree. This compares with 22,100 mobile students reported to HESA in 2013-14, but this report only examined DLHE respondents as its sample.

Among DLHE Survey respondents there was significantly higher participation in mobility in Scotland (7.6%) and Northern Ireland (7.2%) compared to England (5.2%) and Wales (5.3%).