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The Euroguidance Network

April 2011

In this edition:

Swedish employers value studies abroad

”Employers' view on studies abroad” is a study which has recently been conducted by the International Programme Office for Education and Training and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprises.  It is the first report in Sweden to verify more comprehensively that international experience is crucial and attractive for employers.

photoEvery year about 25,000 Swedish students choose to study or work abroad, be it through an exchange program or looking for a job or a study program on their own.

However, the annual number of students who study abroad has remained the same over the years although the number of students at Swedish universities has increased by a third. This means that the proportion of students who spend time abroad has steadily decreased, contrary to the ambitions of the Swedish government and universities.

Substantial efforts have been made to increase the internationalization of higher education. But what are the effects and have the priorities been right? Available studies have shown varying results.

It is clear that studies abroad have a function, but until now there has been very little evidence of how important they are in for example a recruitment process. Therefore a questionnaire with 33 questions was distributed to 4,764 companies and public authorities. The response rate of 21% was quite low (private companies: 20 %; public authorities: 43 %), but the message is still interesting.

Which competences do studies abroad develop?

Students develop communicative skills, social competence, flexibility and initiative ability during their time abroad. These are skills almost all interviewed employers stressed to be looking for.

Most attractive for employers is a Swedish degree with parts of the studies conducted abroad - especially through work practice. In 99 cases out of 100 it is considered an asset to have studied or  worked abroad, when employers have to choose between two candidates with otherwise equal merits.

Foreign work experience is an asset

Private companies as well as public authorities consider work experience as highly valuable when recruiting. The easiest way for a students to attain work experience is via an internship or a short-term job.

Employers also prefer candidates with foreign work experience, when a great number of candidates apply for the same job. This strengthens the case that more Swedish students should conduct an internship abroad.

The proportion of Swedish students conducting an internship or part of their studies abroad is quite low. And only 10% of all the Swedish Erasmus students are doing an internship, the rest are studying. An increased mobility of students would contribute to their attractiveness on the Swedish job market.

Nina Ahlroos
Euroguidance Sweden

An English version of the report is available here:
Employers' view on studies abroad