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Careers advice goes global

As universities have become international institutions, attracting students from around the world and sending increasing numbers of their graduates to all four corners of the earth to work, so their careers services need to adapt to serve this vast cohort of students from outside the UK.

With full-time students from 86 countries and more than 3,670 international distance learning students – without counting students from within the EU - Leicester is taking a lead in specialising in international careers advice. One of the first universities to use email as a means for advising students at a distance, it is also about to appoint a careers adviser to develop provision for international students, both on and off campus.  

Head of the Careers Service Martin Pennington said: “Most university careers services pay attention to international students, of course, but we are actually recruiting somebody whose main role will be to help international students tackle their career planning within the context of other educational support and guidance available throughout their student days at Leicester.  

“It will be quite a challenge to become familiar with the job market for our international students within the range of countries from which they come. Our new appointee will also develop resources for international students who wish to work in the UK, and help to alert graduate employers to the qualities of our international students as well as those from the UK.

“I believe the role also has the potential to help the growing numbers of our home students who want to work elsewhere in the world.”

The University of Leicester is one of the UK’s leading providers of postgraduate distance learning programmes, and for the past two years the Careers Service has been developing email as a medium for careers guidance, partly in order to serve this distant, but major, sector of their student body.

Martin Pennington feels it has developed into a system that works well.

“Because it is less immediate than a face-to-face interview, both sides can consider what has been said carefully before they reply, rather than having to respond immediately as in a one-to-one situation. In the gaps between emails we have the chance to think: ‘What does this person need? How can we best help?’

“You also have a record of what is said. We find that in one-to-one discussions people may go away with messages that were not intended. In writing emails there is less chance of this happening.”

One of the drawbacks, he feels, is the lack of non-verbal cues, which can indicate how people are responding to an advisor. Also the response time is slowed down:  any question has to wait for an answer, and advisers have had to learn to be quite disciplined over the amount of time they give to each email, avoiding the temptation to turn each exchange into the ultimate, perfectly-crafted reply.

Feedback so far from students and graduates has been very positive, and on a purely practical level it has meant that students can contact the Careers Service, through its website, at times that suit them. “People can email us at 2am UK time, if they want to, and we simply respond when we get into work,” said Martin Pennington.

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Last updated: 13 May 2004 15:20
Created by: Barbara Whiteman

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