Students work/study/volunteer abroad, have favourable outcomes

2 March 2017

Black graduates who went abroad during their studies were 70% less likely to be unemployed than their non-mobile peers six months after graduation.

This is one of the findings of a new research by Universities UK International, released today: Gone International: mobility works.

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 2014–15 academic year. Students are considered 'mobile' if they have at least one period abroad of one week or longer as part of their undergraduate first degree. This period of mobility can be study, work or volunteering.

The research finds a correlation between outward student mobility and improved academic and employment outcomes:

  • 3.7% of graduates who were mobile during their degree were unemployed, compared to 4.9% of their non-mobile peers.
  • 80.1% of graduates who were mobile during their degree earned a first class or upper second class degree, compared to 73.6% of their non-mobile peers.
  • Among graduates who were mobile during their degree, those in work were more likely to be in a graduate level job (76.4% compared to 69.9%) and earn 5% more than their non-mobile peers.

Those figures are even more favourable for disadvantaged, black and minority ethnic groups who go abroad during their studies:

  • On average, graduates from more disadvantaged backgrounds who were mobile during their degree earned 6.1% more, and those in work were more likely to be in a graduate level job (80.2% compared to 74.7%) than their non-mobile peers.
  • 4.6% of black graduates who were mobile were unemployed, compared to 7.8% of their non-mobile peers.
  • Asian graduates who were mobile earned on average 8% more and were 42% less likely to be unemployed (7.7% compared to 4.5%) than their non-mobile peers.

However black and minority ethnic graduates are still underrepresented in the outward student mobility figures. In the 2014–15 cohort, 7.7% of white students were mobile, compared with 4.4% of Asian students and 3.6% of black students.

That being said, the total number of students who have a period of mobility during their studies keeps increasing: 16,165 UK-domiciled graduates responding to the 2014–15 DLHE survey were reported as mobile.

This represents 7.2% of all respondents to the survey, an increase from 5.4% in the 2013–14 graduating cohort.

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, said:

'The report shows a strong link between going abroad for students, particularly when they enter the workforce.

'It is all the more striking that mobility is such an asset for disadvantaged and BME students. These numbers (black graduates who were mobile were 70% less likely to be unemployed!) show how necessary it is that students from all backgrounds take these life changing opportunities. 

'As the UK prepares to leave the EU, the UK government has indicated a need for the country to become even more global and internationalist in action and spirit. Outward mobility can form a key part of this agenda, in enhancing the domestic skills base and making students more globally engaged.'

The higher education community will be exploring the theme of expanding outward student mobility activities to underrepresented groups, subjects, activities and destinations at UUKi's upcoming Go International conference on 25 April.

For further information or to arrange an interview with Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, or Raegan Hiles, Head of Outbound Mobilities Programmes (HEGlobal and Go International), please contact Cleo Fatoorehchi at or 020 7419 5615.


Notes to editors:

  • Statistics contained within this report are based on an analysis linking together two Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) datasets: the Student record, and the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey.
  • The increase in participation rate in outward student mobility is in part due to improvements to data capture from HESA.
  • One third of students who were mobile studied languages (32.5%), and 87.4% of language students were mobile. However, students across all disciplines – including STEM subjects – were less likely to be unemployed if they were mobile.
  • The majority of mobilities were undertaken through organised schemes. Erasmus was the principal source of mobility take-up, followed by provider-led schemes.
  • 97.1% of all graduates who are employed full-time six months after graduation work in the UK. However, mobile students are four times more likely than non-mobile students to work outside the UK, contributing to our international connections and global connectivity.
  • This report echoes many of the findings of the first and second editions of Gone International, which analysed the 2012–13 and 2013–14 graduating cohorts, in particular, the improved employment outcomes for students who had been mobile compared with their non-mobile peers. As with the previous analyses, the present report does not seek to imply or demonstrate causation between outward mobility and students' outcomes.
  • Universities UK International (UUKi) is the international arm of Universities UK. We help UK universities flourish internationally by representing them and acting in their collective interest. We actively promote universities abroad, provide trusted information for and about them, and create new opportunities for the sector. We aim to: enable universities to develop and deliver strong international strategies; influence the policy and regulatory environment through our ability to represent UK universities, and create diverse opportunities through strategic partnerships.
  • Universities UK International's Go International programme team implements the UK Strategy for Outward Mobility, which was launched in December 2013 following a sector-wide consultation and review. The team works with universities and colleges, government, sector organisations and students to help tackle the current barriers to UK outward student mobility and to achieve the strategy's main objective: to increase the proportion of UK students with some international experience. For more information about the programme visit

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