Students who study on year-abroad schemes to Europe gain better jobs with higher incomes and are more likely to pursue a career in continental Europe, research has found.
In the study of Sussex University Erasmus and Socrates graduates (2000-01 academic year), Sussex University researchers discovered that non-year-abroad graduates were almost twice as likely as year-abroad graduates to be employed in low to middle-status occupations, while more than half the year-abroad group had annual incomes of more than £20,000 compared with a third of the non-year abroad group.
The research found that 69% of the graduates undertook postgraduate study compared with 46% of non-year abroad graduates.
Russell King, of the School of European Studies and Sussex Centre for Migration Research, and Enric Ruiz-Gelices, of the Sussex European Institute, compared pre-year abroad students with post-year abroad graduates and non-year abroad graduates.
Year-abroad graduates were better prepared to migrate abroad to further their careers than non-year-abroad graduates and three times as likely to be living abroad.
The researchers say that year-abroad students developed a greater European identity and their experiences increased awareness of belonging to a "European cultural space". The paper states: "Graduates with language and intercultural skills are well placed to fill key gaps in the high-skill international labour market."
Mr King said that population and migration studies had for the most part ignored students as migrants.
The study states that more attention needs to be paid to international student migration because of "EU and global economic integration, which demands linguistic and cultural knowledge and the specific high-skill demands of certain national economies that might encourage further student recruitment from abroad".
The UK is a major player in intra-EU student exchanges, but more students come to the UK than go abroad. In the academic year 1999-2000, 20,705 Erasmus students came to the UK but only 10,056 went to study abroad. Mr King is now investigating the reasons for this.