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Why international students want more work experience from Austrian universities

According to the latest UNESCO figures1, 5.3 million students were studying abroad in 2019. Although Austria is already home to around 87,000 international students, its overseas recruitment efforts are consistently outmuscled by universities in the USA, UK, Canada, France, and more besides.

More alarmingly, the 2019 OECD Economic Survey2 reveals that 25.7% of students who’ve studied in Austria decide to leave within three years of graduating.

Letting these pupils slip through the net could be damaging for a nation that struggles with skill shortages in many key sectors.

Austrian institutions could do more to attract and retain foreign pupils. Providing more work experience opportunities for career-driven international students is one of the best ways to make your university stand out

Why work experience is important to students and universities

International students and graduates are huge assets to Austria. Not only do their tuition fees provide a welcome source of revenue, but their immersion in Austrian culture and specialist knowledge primes them to make significant contributions to society.

However, evidence suggests they need additional help when bridging the gap between education and the professional world.

Work experiences are priceless opportunities for pupils to put what they’ve learned into practice, develop industry-specific skills, and network with potential employers.

The benefits of work experiences to your institution are just as exciting. By offering opportunities like placements and internships, you’ll boost student satisfaction and employability rates.

This will improve your university’s reputation amongst prospective pupils and could futureproof your international recruitment strategy.

Work experience and prospective students’ decision making

When choosing a university, graduate employment prospects are at the forefront of students’ minds. Not only do they have to think about where they want to study abroad, but they must consider where they’d like to work after graduation too.

The 2019 international student survey3 found that students’ top priority when choosing a course was that it led to their chosen career, while 37% said that a course with a high graduate employment rate was their main concern.

Despite the importance placed on career opportunities, the world’s graduate employability rankings4 continue to be dominated by institutions in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, China, France, and Germany. In fact, only three Austrian universities ranked within the top 500.

Students are more likely to enroll at an institution that can connect them with employers and professional opportunities in their chosen field. As such, incorporating placement and internships into programs is a surefire way to secure more enrolments.

The Austrian graduate market

Helping graduates transition from study to professional life is one of the greatest challenges in higher education. This is especially true in Austria where non-EU/EEA graduates must meet a particular salary threshold to qualify for residency.

Approximately 22,359 international graduates leave Austria after the completion of their studies. These are skilled individuals with untapped potential who could make tremendous contributions to the labor force.

A 2019 article by the European Migration Network (EMN)5 reported that it was “nearly impossible for individuals to find in their specialty fields employment that pays the monthly gross minimum salary".

This means that many "international university graduates do not receive residence titles even though they have an employment opportunity in Austria”.

Providing students with the experiences and tools they need to secure their dream job and remain in Austria couldn’t be more crucial.

The report also highlighted another common problem: lots of international students don’t have the language skills required to enter the graduate labor market. However, internships and placements allow pupils to hone their communication capabilities and apply them to real-world settings.


If your institution is serious about attracting more overseas pupils, actively helping students turn their dream jobs into a reality is key.

Good reputations and friendly faculty are great, but they’re not enough. Students want an institution that will help them climb the career ladder and fulfill their potential. Failure to do so could be one of the reasons behind [application drop-offs](LINK TO Five reasons international students don't choose your university GUIDE).

Make sure your marketing materials shout about the career support you offer students, the employers you work alongside, and the work experience opportunities available. You’ll earn the attention of ambitious students from across the globe.


1 Inbound Students Mobility (Project Atlas, 2020)

2 OECD Economic Surveys: Austria 2019 (OECD, 2019)

3 International Student Survey (QS, 2019)

4 Global University Employability Ranking 2020 (Times Higher Education, 2020)

5 Attracting And Retaining International Students In Austria (European Migration Network, 2019)