International students: Resources and investment
To demonstrate the University of Bradford’s commitment to supporting its increased numbers of international students, two brand new roles were created, based in Career & Employability Services. Helen Bradley, Career Consultant (International) and Anna Fisher, Employer and Placement Services Consultant (International) were appointed in February 2023.
Where to begin
As we know, the student experience is not just about their studies – it is the whole package and managing expectations early on is crucial. We are now offering pre-arrival webinars to meet with our September and January starters, to help students to understand how to make the best use of their time in Bradford, how the Career & Employability Service can support them and to help them prepare for the realities of finding part-time work whilst studying. We are also working closely with our international recruitment teams to ensure they have up-to-date information and a clear understanding of our service offer.
Unrelated work experience and prior professional backgrounds
Many international students need guidance to understand transferable skills; appreciating that employers look for more than just a degree and that how this is presented really does matter. We also try to help them to understand how they can use their prior experience, which is often extensive, in their applications (e.g. a part-time job in care or retail).
A new programme
Specifically designed with international students in mind, our first Career Development Programme was offered in July 2023. Attended by over 60 students and designed to take our delegates on a journey from the importance of gaining work experience to celebrating success.
It was great to work collaboratively with employers, current students and alumni who all contributed to the programme. We also learnt a lot from the students themselves and feedback was incredibly positive.
Applications have closed for our next programme scheduled for January 2024 with 160 students expressing an interest. A further programme is planned for summer 2024.
As well as supporting students we have also been developing relationships with an increasing number of businesses, from Bradford-based SMEs to multinational companies. Whilst many employers, particularly larger ones are aware of the options available to hire international students and graduates, it is clear there remains a lack of awareness and understanding and subsequent reluctance to employ. We are constantly networking to provide information and support to employers in this regard, and so far, have organised two in-person events to connect and share knowledge including legal expertise.
Currently we are supporting a Yorkshire Universities and Grad Skills working group with the aim of creating a regional guide for employers around hiring international talent, building on the inclusive recruitment guide that was launched in June 2023.
So, what is missing?
Summer internships that all international students can access; for example, part-time opportunities for up to 20 hours a week. This would be of great benefit to our postgraduate students, most of whom still have this restriction over the summer months. This is a priority area for development in our roles and we are working hard to educate employers and create such opportunities.
Whilst many of our students are hoping to work in the UK after graduation, we are conscious that many will return home or go to another country, whether through choice or necessity. We are hoping to increase our own knowledge and understanding of this space and extend our networks of employers and other external stakeholders in significant overseas locations.
After the government’s recent announcement, it is difficult to predict what the future holds for international students hoping to remain in the UK after their studies. The graduate route visa will hopefully remain an option but securing a £38,700 salary for sponsorship may well prove unrealistic for the majority. Whatever happens, we will continue to support our students to navigate these turbulent waters towards successful outcomes.
Anna Fisher, University of Bradford Employment and Placement Services Consultant (International) & Helen Bradley, University of Bradford Career Consultant (International)