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Tailoring employability provision for international students

15 November 2023

3 minutes to read

Tailoring employability provision for international students

Moving to a new country for university can be tough. You’re far from home in an unfamiliar environment and you need to figure out your career too! International students face extra challenges with employability and job search. As universities, we need to step up and provide the right support. At the University of Exeter, we’ve worked hard to tailor our careers service for international students. Melanie Nearchou, SEAS Faculty Lead at University of Exeter Business School and Pauline Zhang, Global Employer Engagement Officer, reflect on their recent work.

Surveys show that international students pick the UK mostly because they think it’ll help their careers. But a lot of them feel let down by the career support at the university. The UK job market can be confusing if you’re not from here. Our tailored workshops break it down. We walk through topics like CVs, interviews, workplace culture. Anything to help students succeed. University if Exeter staff take time to explain what employers want. Together we build the skills needed to shine in the graduate job hunt.

Melanie explains that she works with the business school to make sure that the Career Zone service is really delivering what business school students need in order to succeed and their graduate outcomes. That’s the main goal really, just making sure that students are getting what they need in terms of skills, development, and opportunities to succeed after graduation with whatever they want to do.

Careers preparation needs to start early for international students, even before the course even begins! The University of Exeter’s online “Your Future First” course helps students make a career action plan. The course takes place alongside normal studies for a head start. It introduces all the career support offered here and makes it clear what’s available through the Career Zone. The bottom line is that self-reflection and planning early gives you a better shot at graduate roles or placements.

Melanie goes on to explain that “based on what we know around student expectations, a lot of our planning on what we deliver as a career service must take into consideration where our students are coming from how many they are from each region, which is why we focus on China, India, and AIPAC which is the East Asia Pacific region.” As careers experts the team know that the students will need in terms of their understanding and the skills base to secure jobs at a graduate level. A lot of this needs to be very tailored, particularly depending on the preconceptions of students in certain areas, such as how to approach employers, or how to prepare a CV, or how to gain confidence communicating in English during interviews. All of this has been quite a huge learning curve for our career staff. But, it’s also allowed us to create a part of the service that’s really meeting the needs and it’s tailored towards the growing and evolving international student body.

Examples of some of the tailored support we offer at the University of Exeter.

We’ve got dedicated programmes for Chinese and Indian students. These give the inside scoop on key industries and include examples such a:

  • Online courses on the job markets in China, India, the UK
  • Employer talks and Q&As
  • Workshops on CVs, interviews, and more
  • In China, the CV format and content is very different to how employers in the UK judge and evaluate candidates. Also, how you can make yourself more attractive to the employers in China, India and UK are very different.

Students learn exactly what employers at home want and this makes career planning more focused.

English Language Skills

Our partners at INTO Exeter provide English practice for careers. This builds confidence for applications, interviews, workplace chat and helps international students make a strong impression with UK employers. The sessions include language for CV writing language for application forms, and cover letters, and language strategies for interviews.

We also run intercultural workshops designed to help develop the adaptability global workplaces need. These intercultural communication sessions enable a safe space for students to practice and build their confidence, often with home students too. In other sessions, they work on the oral and pronunciation skills.

Gaining Experience

Work experience and placements look great on your CV so we’re expanding opportunities for international students. Some degree programmes may integrate this as part of their programme. The University of Exeter also partners with local employers running schemes. Our staff ensure students know about and pursue these openings.

Always Improving

Our support keeps evolving to meet student needs. Our goals moving forward are:

  • To increase engagement with the programme.
  • To integrate career planning into more programmes.
  • To expand work experience options and opportunities.

Close collaboration across the university helps us tailor everything. This leads to success for a diverse international cohort!

The post highlights the unique needs of international students and how the University of Exeter tailors its provision accordingly. This demonstrates the University of Exeter’s strengths in supporting international students with employability and careers. It aims to attract prospective international students looking for universities that offer robust career services and pathways to employment.

This blog post was developed by Jo Sutherst following an interview with Melanie Nearchou and Pauline Zhang.



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