But in the survey of more than 1,000 graduates, commissioned by Kaplan, three-quarters said they felt it was the responsibility of higher education institutions to offer access to international opportunities.
“International experience is increasingly part of the package that higher education institutions are expected to provide”
Going Global: Are graduates prepared for a global workforce?, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit, also highlights a dearth of undervalued opportunities to gain overseas work experience during university.
The report revealed that half of the graduates surveyed – in the US, UK, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, Singapore, China and Brazil – felt they had failed to recognise the value of an international experience during their studies.
Writing in the report’s foreword, Kaplan’s chairman and CEO, Andrew Rosen, said that students are “often disconnected from how critical international experience has become.”
“Many come to appreciate the importance of international learning opportunities only after graduating.”
This was reflected in the gap between availability and participation in international experiences. Even though three-quarters of the students surveyed had access to international experiences during their studies, only a third took advantage of them.
The most widely-available option was study abroad, with 69% reporting they had been offered the opportunity to study overseas, but only 26% of students took up this opportunity.
In addition, 62% of students said they had access to foreign language courses, and 55% to intercultural experiences – taken up by 48% and 23% of students respectively.
“International experience is increasingly part of the package that higher education institutions are expected to provide,” the report states.
“But with two in five respondents turning down the chance to gain international experience while studying, students themselves need to take a proactive approach to seeking out the opportunities available to them.”
The report says higher education institutions also have a role to play in addressing the gap by working to help students to better understand the benefits of international exposure.
“Although most universities and colleges offer their students access to international opportunities, the fact that a large portion is not taking advantage of these suggest more effort is required on their part to raise awareness within their students on the value of international experience for their future career prospects,” Irene Mia, EIU’s global editorial director, toldThe PIE News.
In contrast to the widely-available opportunities to study another language or study abroad, the report highlights that a much lower proportion of students have access to international work experience and internships.
In fact, only a third of respondents said they had had the chance to work or intern abroad during their studies.
In response, the report predicts that employers themselves will take on a bigger role in terms of preparing students for a globalised workforce.
“The role of employers is also likely to increase, as the skills needed in a globalised career often are largely acquired on the job,” it forecasts.
“The role of employers is also likely to increase, as the skills needed in a globalised career often are largely acquired on the job”
“From in-house training to corporate universities, employers can fill much of the gap in employees’ international skills.”
When it came to valuing international experiences, student responses varied widely depending on respondents’ home countries.
Over half of all the graduates surveyed (55%) who had taken part in some form of international experience said they felt it had helped them to find employment post-graduation. For example, 68% of students in China found it favourable, compared to just 37% in Italy.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the prevalence of English as an international language of business, students from non-anglophone countries placed the highest importance on language study.
Asked to rate their importance, half of French graduates said they regard language courses as extremely helpful or indispensable, compared with just 13% of British graduates.