Long-term benefits of international students extend beyond graduation

A new report published by Universities UK International (UUKi) and QS on 23 May revealed that international students significantly benefit the UK’s financial, cultural and intellectual landscape long after they graduate.


The International Graduate Outcomes report 2024 surveyed over 10,000 international students who graduated from 37 UK universities in the past six years. According to its results, 60% of international graduates who remain in the UK are employed in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the largest percentages working in education and healthcare. These sectors face workforce challenges, showing the essential contributions of international graduates to the country’s economy and society.


The report coincides with the government’s expected response to the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC)  emphatic endorsement of the Graduate Route, aiming to guide both the sector and the government in improving support for international students. Research from May 2024 indicates that the net benefit to the UK of hosting Graduate Route visa holders was £70 million in the first full year of the scheme.

Job satisfaction and connectivity

The findings revealed that nearly 40% of surveyed students returned home immediately after graduating, while 50% continue to live in the UK. Notably, 75% expressed a desire to remain in the UK temporarily, with only 25% aiming for permanent residency. Moreover, 59% of Graduate Route visa holders expressed a higher likelihood of engaging in business with the UK in the future, demonstrating the long-term economic benefits of these students.


Furthermore, 73% of Graduate Route respondents reported feeling a connection to the UK, and 59% indicated a likelihood of future business dealings with the country, thereby supporting the long-term competitiveness of the UK economy.


Alex Berka, QS insights manager, noted at the 2024 International Higher Education Forum (IHEF) that over half of these graduates found employment in SMEs, which form the backbone of the UK economy. Education and healthcare were identified as the top industries where international graduates find employment, underscoring their role in addressing critical capacity gaps. The report also illustrated the strong relationships Graduate Route holders maintain with their first employers, with 72% reporting job satisfaction compared to 62% of those on other visas.

Career support and global competitiveness

While gaining work experience is the primary motivation for staying in the UK, 53% of graduates felt that more could be done to enhance career support and professional placements. “International students invest significantly in obtaining a UK education, so our institutions need to ensure it is a mutually beneficial relationship for universities and students,” remarked Jessica Turner, CEO of QS.


The report also featured the need for UK universities to improve employability from an international perspective, training students with transferable skills for global careers in an increasingly AI-driven world. Despite 59% of students choosing to study in the UK due to the high quality of its education, the report informs of the increasing pressure on universities to demonstrate their impact on employability amidst global competition.


Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of UUKi, stressed the importance of fulfilling international students’ aspirations to stay and work after graduation, ensuring that the UK remains an attractive destination for future talent. Respondents also praised the UK’s supportive learning environment, with over 60% rating their universities highly for friendliness, diversity, and inclusion.


This positive feedback underscores the welcoming nature of UK institutions, playing an imperative role in attracting international students and securing their continued contributions to the country’s economy and community.


“The economic benefits that international students bring while studying have already been shown, but this report highlights the continuing value that they bring to the UK by working in SMEs, in healthcare and education, and in enhancing UK business interests and soft power after they leave,” said Turner.


The report is intended to help the sector and government identify areas for improvement to continue welcoming and supporting international students coming to the UK. With the insights from the International Graduate Outcomes report 2024, UK universities and policymakers are equipped to understand and enhance the vital contributions of international students to the UK’s global competitiveness and economic growth.


To learn more news, updates and exciting study opportunities available for international students in the UK, please visit our blog or contact our Business Development Managers for more information. 

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