Global perspectives on international student employability

Employability has become a key driver in international education. However, as access to education is rising in the developed world, a first degree may no longer be a sufficient distinguisher for some labour markets.

With the ever-accelerating pace of change and futurists predicting further class divides in the automated world of the Industrial Revolution 4.0, students, their families and governments are calling on education providers to deliver employability outcomes. Return on investment (ROI), sizeable as it has become, dominates the global education marketplace.

The main English-speaking destination (MESD) markets have experienced a general de-funding of public education and have turned to international student markets to subsidise their education systems, with the support of their governments.

It is no surprise then that these markets, which also charge the highest differential tuition fees for international students, have sought to position their brands around employability through policies that allow international students to work during their studies and to stay in the host country and work for a fixed period after graduation. These same countries also recognise the value of retaining the highly qualified graduates in their labour market and periodically revise their immigration policy settings to align with changing market conditions.

Cognisant of market demands, and operating within national policy and collective branding, education providers must determine their employability strategy to guide their learning outcomes towards a skill set that equips their graduates for the rapidly changing world of work.

This paper provides an analysis of global policy settings and provider initiatives around international student employability. It includes preliminary findings of a new study on the uptake of post-study work rights in Australia, as well as case studies from New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Europe.

Suggested Citation

Berquist, B., Hall, R., Morris-Lange, S., Shields, H., Stern, V., & Tran, L. T. (2019), ‘Global perspectives on international student employability’, International Education Association of Australia (IEAA), retrieved from


  • Brett Berquist – Director International, The University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Rebecca Hall – Global Education Lead, Austrade
  • Simon Morris-Lange – Deputy Head of Research, Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR)
  • Hayley Shields – Director, Causation Consulting; past Director, Student Experience, Education New Zealand
  • Vivienne Stern – Director, Universities UK International (UUKi)
  • Ly Thi Tran – Associate Professor, School of Education, Deakin University; Future Fellow, Australian Research Council (ARC)

The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions and guidance provided by Janet Ilieva, Melissa Banks and Davina Potts.
This paper was commissioned for the IEAA Employability Symposium 2019, Friday 21 June 2019, and published by the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA).

Published: July 2019