Project 1.5

UK international graduates from East Asia: careers, earnings, jobs and mobility

This aim of this project is to investigate the career trajectories, earnings and social mobility of East Asian graduates of UK universities once they return home.

Project team


To enhance their students’ global competitiveness, governments around the world, particularly in Asia, are placing more emphasis on internationalising student learning to foster the global knowledge, skills, and languages necessary for their graduates to perform professionally and socially in international, multicultural environments.

Student mobility patterns are changing, with an increasing number of East Asian students choosing to study abroad. According to Chinese government statistics, there were 413,900 and 459,800 overseas-bound students in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

This project will provide the first longitudinal data on the socio-economic position of students and graduates of UK universities returning to East Asia, focusing on career trajectories and economic/social roles.

Previous studies suggest that East Asian graduates who have studied overseas have better employment opportunities than their local counterparts, and higher salaries. These graduates also tend to have careers in private rather than state-owned businesses.

The research will address the following questions:

  • What are the effects of onshore international education in the UK, in relation to the career trajectories, earnings and social mobility of international graduates who return to East Asia?
  • What career-related services do UK HEIs provide for these international students and graduates?

Policy implications

This project will have implications for government policies addressing changing regional/labour markets. It will also influence the extent to which immigration and higher education policies are appropriate for attracting global talent.

Other impacts of this project include enabling universities to be more sensitive to the needs and expectations of international students (in terms of career advice and the provision of services), and reflecting development trends of international and transnational higher education in the UK and Asia.