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The latest iteration of our Emerging Futures research shows us that education quality and post-study work are the two most important factors for students when choosing where to study overseas. Emerging Futures 3 (EF3) surveyed more than 21,000 respondents from 108 different countries between 27 February and 19 March, 2023, and builds upon the research from the previous studies. 

When we asked students “Why did you choose your first-choice destination?” 61% of the entire global cohort said the ‘high quality of education’ was a factor (top response), followed by 53% stating ‘good employment opportunities after graduation’. In August 2022, the responses were 64% and 52% respectively, so we can see a small increase in the importance of post-study work opportunities. 

When we asked what factors are important to students in understanding whether an institution provides ‘high-quality education’, the top response was ‘graduate employment rate’ across the board in all top-five source market respondent cohorts (Nigeria, India, China, Ghana, and the Philippines). When asked to assess what factors are important to students for understanding if an institution has ‘good graduate outcomes’, the ‘academic reputation of the institution’ ranked first, ‘published employment rate’ ranked second, followed by the post-study work rights of the country.  

EF3 has shown us that quality of education and post-study work factors are important and inextricably linked in the minds of international students. In this article we will take a deep dive into more student responses as part of our EF3 research and look at what’s on offer to students right now in terms of graduate route visas and post-study work permits. 

The importance of post-study work

Our EF3 research shows that 72% of student respondents across the globe say they will apply for a post-study work visa after finishing their international studies, and 63% say the availability of some form of post-study work route is either the main or an influencing factor when choosing where to study.   

Perceptions of Canada’s post-graduation employment opportunities ranked highest (ranking 7.7 out of 10), followed by USA (7.4), Australia (7.2), and UK (6.8). Canada was also perceived to have the best post-study work policy (ranking 7.9 out of 10), followed by Australia (7.2), then UK (6.8), and USA (6.7).  

From these figures we can see that Canada is perceived as the most work-friendly for international students. The USA is perceived to have plenty of graduate employment opportunities available for international students; however, our respondents see US visa policy as least attractive of the four main study destinations.  

Driving diversity – post-study work as a key motivator in specific markets

Understanding student attitudes to post-study work rights and opportunities can help institutions achieve greater diversity within their cohorts. The EF3 research dashboards allow us to drill down beyond the top markets to see which countries’ students see post-study work as a key motivator.  

For example, if we exclude the top four source countries (India, China, Nigeria, and Ghana), we can see where other students who have said the availability of a post study work visa is either the main or an influencing factor in their destination choice are coming from.  

Students from Bangladesh and Philippines were influenced the most by post-study work visa availability, with 67% of respondents from these countries saying it was the main or an influencing factor, followed by Pakistan 64%, Nepal 62%, and Indonesia 46%. 

Post-study work policy in action

Visa rights and routes for immigration following international study are highly politicised and the rules and parameters fluctuate as political and economic agendas change. For example, just days before we began polling students for EF3, the Australian government announced an extension of post-study work rights for certain international graduates who complete select degrees in areas of verified skills shortages. Due to come into effect in July 2023, this announcement may well have influenced some student perceptions of Australia as a study destination. 

Also in February, there were many media reports that the UK government is planning to cut net migration by placing restrictions on international students and changing the terms of the Graduate visa route. This may also have meant that our student respondents’ perceptions of the UK as a potential study destination changed negatively. 

Two days before the end of the EF3 polling period, the Canadian government announced that from 6 April, 2023, international student graduates with recently expired or expiring post-graduation work permits (PGWPs) will be able to extend them for an additional 18 months, and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said that the policy would enable international students in Canada “to gain valuable work experience and potentially qualify to become a permanent resident”.   This macro political shift and the related media coverage is likely to show Canada’s general attitude to international students in a positive light. 

How Important is the availability of a post-study work visa in study destination decision making? 

Globally, 63% of respondents said the availability of a post-study work visa was the main or an influencing factor in their choice of study destination. This shows the influential relevance of policy positioning and the macro-political stance of each government.   

Interestingly, 55% of students told us they would not change their study destination choice if the post-study work visa duration was reduced – 30% said they would consider changing and only 14% said they would be likely to change.   

Current post-study work rights – in a nutshell

Post-study work rights are changeable. Institutions should aim to understand relevant policy and monitor for change so they can promote positive amendments to prospective students and mitigate the effect of those changes which could be seen as negative. 

Currently, the post-study work policies (and follow-on immigration routes) for the four major education destinations are as follows: 


The Australian Graduate visa is a temporary visa lasting between two and four years depending on the type of qualification gained: two years following a bachelor’s degree, three years following a master’s by research or by coursework, three years for a master’s (extended), four years following a doctoral degree. In July 2023, this allowance will extend to four years for students on one of 400 designated undergraduate programmes, five years for master’s students and six years for PhD graduates in any discipline. All Hong Kong and BNO passport holders can usually stay up to five years following their studies. It costs AUD 1,730 to apply and applicants must have adequate health insurance cover for the duration of their visa stay.  

To stay in Australia once the Graduate visa has expired, holders may be eligible to apply for a second post-study work stream visa. Once this one or two-year visa has expired, holders may be eligible to apply for a skilled work visa. More information about Australia’s Graduate visa route can be found here. 


International students graduating from certain designated learning institutes (DLIs) have 180 days following completion of their programme to apply for a post-graduation work permit (PGWP). The duration of the work permit is dependent upon the length of study – students completing a two-year course may be eligible for a three-year PGWP, while those studying for less than two years (but at least eight months) may be eligible for a permit equal to the length of their study. The PGWP application costs CAD 255 and the rules and eligibility criteria may vary slightly across the provinces and regions. Public healthcare eligibility varies by province or territory, so some students may need to have health insurance in place if they do not qualify. 

International students who wish to seek permanent residence in Canada can apply through several routes. Canadian Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are immigration programs run by individual provinces and regions to help fulfil individual skills and labour force shortages. Express entry is an online application system for skilled workers and may be appropriate for students employed while in Canada on a PGWP. More information on Canada’s PGWP can be found here.   


The UK Graduate visa route allows undergraduate and postgraduate students who have completed their studies to stay in the UK for two years, with PhD students able to stay for three years. Employment does not need to meet a salary requirement or be sponsored, and the role can be anything the applicant chooses. The application fee is GBP 715 and applicants will need to pay the full NHS Healthcare Surcharge of GBP 624 per year of visa duration when they apply.  

Once the duration of the Graduate visa ends, graduates will need to switch onto the Skilled Worker route to remain in the country. This is a points-based visa system based on the UK’s skills and employment-types shortages. More information on the UK Graduate visa route can be found here


International student graduates who are living in the US on F-1 visas can stay in the country for 60 days following completion of their study program. After this time, they can remain for 12 months while undertaking optional practical training (OPT). OPT is a temporary, full-time employment route directly relating to the student’s major area of study. Students can apply for 12 months of OPT after each study level. Certain STEM students may apply for a 24-month extension of their OPT employment authorization if they fulfil certain criteria. An OPT application fee of USD 410 is payable to the Department of Homeland Security and other fees to the training provider may apply. Proof of health insurance is not mandatory but proof of subsistence for potential medical costs might be required.   

International students who wish to stay in the US having completed OPT, or those who don’t undertake OPT, will need to apply for a non-immigrant work visa, such as the H-1B visa for speciality occupations or the E-1/E-2 treaty trader and investor visas. More information on OPT for F-1 visa holders can be found here.  

Student perceptions of post-study visas and employment opportunities

When asked if they intended to apply for a post-study visa, 72% of respondents globally said they will apply. Respondents from China were the most likely to apply (82%) followed by Philippines (79%), Ghana (78%), then Nigeria and India (75% each). 

Across the four major study destinations, the perception of graduate employment opportunities has gone down since our first Emerging Futures survey took place in March 2022. Canada’s 8 out of 10 average ranking has dropped to 7.7, USA has dropped from 7.6 to 7.5, Australia from 7.4 to 7.3 and UK, seeing the greatest fall in perception of graduate employment opportunities, dropped from 7.1 to 6.7. 

Over the same period, the perceptions of post-study work visa policy increased slightly for Canada and Australia but reduced for UK and USA. Canada’s out-of-ten average ranking went up from 8 in March 2022 to 8.1 in March 2023 and Australia went up from 7.3 to 7.4. The UK’s perception ranking dropped from 7 to 6.7 and USA dropped from 6.8 to 6.5. Interestingly, in July 2021, the rankings were even lower for Australia (6.8), UK (6.8), and USA (5.9), but Canada’s ranking was 8.2, and this makes Canada the only major destination country to have suffered a loss of post-study work visa ranking between July 2021 and March 2023. 

Under half of respondents (46%) were highly confident they would find a job once they had obtained their post-study work visa. Respondents from Nigeria were the most confident (54%), with those from Ghana and Philippines just behind (51% each). Students from China were the least confident in finding post-study employment, with only 31% ranking their confidence as high.   

Globally, 65% of all respondents said the opportunity to acquire work experience in their study destination was an attractive feature of the post-study work offer, and 54% said the post-study work visa in their chosen destination provides an easier entry route into the job market when compared to any other type of work visa. Of all respondents, 48% said the duration of the post-study work visa was an attractive feature and only 34% said that the range of jobs it allows access to was an attractive feature. 

When it came to why students chose a destination as their first choice, only 37% of all respondents chose ‘ease of obtaining a work visa’ – 44% of students from Ghana chose this in their replies, 43% of students from Nigeria and 41% of those from the Philippines. When asked why their second-choice destination was not their first choice, 18% of students globally said it was ‘too difficult to get a post-study work visa’ and 14% said there were fewer employment opportunities after graduation. 

What can Institutions do?

Over the three iterations of our Emerging Futures research, we have consistently revealed the importance of student services to the positive experience of international students. Assistance with graduate careers is a service that always features highly.   

EF3 responses show us that prospective students rank careers advice for post-graduation employment as fourth in the list of ‘important student services to have access to’ (and as low as sixth for students from Nigeria and the Philippines). Interestingly, when we asked current students the same question, ‘careers advice for post-graduation employment’ ranked in first place overall – students from India, Nigeria and China, all putting it firmly at the top of their priorities.  

So, while making sure students are getting the quality education they desire is crucial, the value of post-graduation employment support should not be underplayed or undervalued. Institutions need to prepare students for post-study employment and support them as they transition into their new careers. Links with employers are also essential, as is fostering a full understanding of post-study work rights and processes.  

In the UK, a HEPI Policy Note, published in January 2023, shared findings of a fundamental lack of knowledge among employers about the UK’s Graduate visa route. The research found that it had not knowingly been used by more than a tiny handful of employers (3%), while a much bigger proportion (27%) said they were not familiar with it. A further 20% said they had not used the route and had no plans to do so.    

As we have demonstrated, the connection between student perception of a quality education is closely connected to graduate outcomes. While prospective students may be on the lookout for other types of support service provision at the top of the funnel, they will almost certainly be looking at employment statistics as part of their destination search.  

To create the best student outcomes, institutions should create a strong ethos of post-study career and visa support for international students. Perhaps most importantly, this support will assist international graduates to find the work they need and want, and will ultimately go a long way to assist economic prosperity and internationalisation within each destination country. 

*    Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2023/03/canada-announces-extension-of-post-graduation-work-permits-for-up-to-18-months-to-retain-high-skilled-talent.html 

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Jane Venn
Jane Venn09 June 2023