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Facilitated by: Dr Sazana Jayadeva and Dr Cora Lingling Xu. Sazana and Cora are two of the four convenors for our International Research and Researchers Network. For more details about the network convenors and its activites, please click here.


To date insufficient research attention has been dedicated to the university-to-work transition of international students. Relatively little is known about how international students’ study-abroad experience has contributed to their subsequent employment-seeking experiences and outcomes, and what factors account for differences in this regard. In this seminar, we are delighted to invite three distinguished speakers (Dr Nicolai Netz, Dr Omolabake Fakunle and Dr Jihyun Lee) to share their latest cutting-edge findings. Below please find their abstracts and author bios. 


12:00 - 12:05

Welcome & introduction

12:05 - 12:25

Dr Omolabake FakunleProblematising employability in the context of internationalisation

12:25 - 12:45

Dr Jihyun Lee: Temporal complexity in international student mobility: post-graduation aspirations and transitions through UK higher education

12:45 - 13:05

Dr Nicolai NetzWho benefits most from studying abroad? An overview of inequalities in study abroad participation and outcomes

13:05 - 13:10

Comfort break

13:10 - 14:00

Q&A and discussion with attendees, chaired by Dr Sazana Jayadeva and Dr Cora Lingling Xu


1) Dr Omolabake Fakunle, Problematising employability in the context of internationalisation

Normative discursive attributions of employability to study abroad remain largely unsupported by empirical evidence (Di Pietro, 2019) and theoretical frameworks that integrate internationalisation and employability at the conceptual level (Fakunle, 2021a). To this end, in the first instance, drawing on Fakunle and Higson (2021), this presentation highlights the need to problematise dominant mainstream notion of employability from an outcomes approach. The outcomes approach conceives employability from a human capital perspective, meaning the skills, abilities and capacities an individual possess are causally linked to obtaining or retaining employment. Hence, employment outcomes are seen as ‘the measure’ of graduate employability. In the UK, graduate employability is measured by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) through data collected on the number of graduates in employment or further study 15 months after completing their study. The HESA data excludes international students. It is therefore problematic to use employment outcomes to assess international students’ employability. 

Nonetheless, higher education institutions (HEIs) are learning environments that provide opportunities to acquire knowledge and learn new skills. In other words, HEIs provide employability development opportunities (EDOs). Congruent with Harvey (2001), conceiving employability from a process approach is valuable to assess the extent to which EDOs are afforded for international students by host institutions (Fakunle and Higson, 2021). This provides a conceptually coherent basis to assess employability development, beyond employment outcomes. 

However, structural constraints in international HE remains a limiting factor. Research shows that EDOs such as work integrated learning (WIL) are unevenly distributed across institutions in different countries (Fakunle, 2021; Gribble et al., 2015). In addition, a lack of inclusive policies limits international students’ access to internships and other part-time work opportunities relevant to their course of study, and work transitions after completing their study abroad. 

In sum, this presentation draws on my research and related work to problematise the concept of employability in the context of internationalisation. I round up by inviting participants to consider the pertinence of a process approach at the institutional level to assess the extent to which international students are afforded employability development opportunities to facilitate their work transitions after study. 

2) Dr Jihyun Lee, Temporal complexity in international student mobility: post-graduation aspirations and transitions through UK higher education

Policy and existing research have tended to neglect the temporal dimensions of international student mobility, which gives rise to a view that individual students can actively organise their present mobilities to achieve particular futures. This is particularly evident in the United Kingdom where structural conditions such as high tuition fees, limited financial support and a restrictive immigration system tend to frame international students as privileged student migrants. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 55 non-EU international students (i.e., those from outside of the European Union) who were enrolled in or had recently completed postgraduate degrees from three different UK universities, this paper highlights how individual students’ encounters and interactions with a particular place (i.e., individual higher education institutions) disrupt the linear and compartmentalised accounts of time in international student mobility. Specifically, I adopt a Bourdieusian framework, and particularly the notion of institutional habitus, to elucidate temporal complexity in international students’ aspirations and transitions after graduation. Building on the existing body of research, institutional habitus is operationalised in this study as the university’s position in global and national university rankings, the quality and quantity of careers support, and the class and race of students and staff as well as the place of institutions. Theoretically, this perspective allows a detailed examination of the institutional contexts which enable individual students to imagine and experience a range of opportunities after graduation, whilst drawing attention to differences between these students within each institution. By underlining the multiplicity of international student experiences in and through UK higher education, I suggest that there is a need to develop a more complex reading of time in the literature on student migration and re-evaluate the way in which post-study mobility is generated and experienced. This paper also has wider implications for policy and practice in terms of highlighting the role of universities in shaping international students’ experiences during and after their studies, and facilitating discussions of inclusivity and social differences amongst international students. 

3) Dr Nicolai NetzWho benefits most from studying abroad? An overview of inequalities in study abroad participation and outcomes

The presentation illustrates how study abroad opportunities can inadvertently contribute to the generation of social inequalities. Focusing gender and social background, it first addresses inequalities in access to study abroad opportunities, before discussing whether and why the returns to study abroad experience may differ across these ascriptive criteria. To conclude, it lays out an agenda for future research on heterogeneous effects of studying abroad.


•    What do you think is the biggest problem in research on the (career) outcomes of studying abroad at present? How do you think this problem can be solved?

•    What might be the challenges for HEIs to adopt a process approach to support international student employability and work transitions? 

•    To what extent do you think a focus on higher education institutions (or institutional contexts more broadly) extends the understanding of international students’ post-study aspirations and transitions?

Speaker bionotes:

Dr Omolabake Fakunle is a Chancellor’s Fellow, Director Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Co-Convenor of the Race and Inclusivity in Global Education Network (RIGEN) at the Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is Affiliate Faculty, Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation (CHEI), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milano. She is a Fellow of the HEA. Omolabake is a member of the Scottish Funding Council’s Tertiary Quality Framework Expert Advisory Group, and the Steering Group of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities’ Project on Decoloniality. The main strand of Omolabake’s award-winning research is the internationalisation of higher education, with a focus on cultural inclusivity in relation to individual experiences, policy and practice. Her work critically interrogates normative notions of graduate employability in internationalisation discourses. Her current projects use qualitative and mixed methods to probe the lack of conceptual and policy frameworks to underpin connections between internationalisation and employability, and implications for decoloniality in internationalisation discourses. She disseminates her research via journal articles, blogs, and as invited speaker at national and international educational events.

Dr Jihyun Lee is a Research Associate in the School of Geography and Environmental Sciences at Ulster University, working on the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project ‘Bordered Youth: Analysing Citizenship and Identities in Post-Brexit Northern Ireland’. From January to July 2022, she was a Post-doctoral Research Assistant to the European Research Council funded project ‘Eurostudents’ in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey. She was also a Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Geography at University College London (2021-2022) where she received her PhD in Human Geography in 2021. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with non-EU international postgraduate students studying at three different British universities, her PhD thesis explores how the experiences of international students in the United Kingdom vary according to their social characteristics and the higher education institutions they attend. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked in Paris as a consultant for the International Institute for the International Institute for Educational Planning at UNESCO. She holds a MSc degree in Education (Comparative and International Education) from the University of Oxford (2015). Her research interests include international/transnational higher education and contemporary educational mobilities, with a focus on international student mobility in and through UK higher education. She has published on the sociology and geographies of international higher education in journals such as British Journal of Sociology of Education, Globalisation, Societies and Education, and Social & Cultural Geography.

Dr Nicolai Netz studied modern languages, cultural science, political science, and economics at the Universities of Bonn, Florence, and Maastricht. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Hanover. Since 2008, he works at the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW) in Hanover. He currently leads a junior research group exploring the determinants and effects of high-skilled mobility and a DFG-funded project on social inequalities in higher education during the Covid-19 pandemic. In his research, he examines the educational and professional careers of students and graduates, with a focus on educational decisions, labour market outcomes, social inequalities, migration, and processes of internationalisation. He has extensively published on various aspects of study abroad.

January 13th, 2023 from 12:00 PM to  2:00 PM
Online event - link will be provided
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