Practical Guidelines for Joint Programmes on Employability
This article brings together the practical guidelines, suggestions and recommendations from several publications. The main goal of this article is to raise awareness about employability. All practical guidelines are to be considered as general guidance for joint programmes.
- Source: European Commission. (2011) Erasmus Mundus Practical Guidelines on Employability, Clustering Masters Courses and Attractiveness Projects: Lot 2 – Thematic Cluster on Employability, MKW Wirtschaftsforschungs GmbH.
The European Commission's publication concludes with 10 “key recommendations” on how to provide students with prerequisites and resources to increase their “employability”, which are as follows:
1. Learn from different approaches – build up joint solutions
Erasmus Mundus Masters Courses cover a large variety of topics at different levels of specialisation. Nevertheless, the strategies to enhance employability have many common and transferable elements. More regular exchanges between EMMC coordinators would be therefore really profitable.
2. Communicate the Erasmus Mundus Brand Name (EMBN)
The “corporate identity” of Erasmus Mundus should have a clear focus on academic excellence and international competence. Exploiting the full potential of the brand and raising the awareness of the programme in the future requires a form of consistent institutional promotion.
3. Link Erasmus Mundus Masters Courses and labour markets
With the involvement of possible employers and other partners (research institutes, public institutions etc.) the link between EMMCs and the labour market can be strengthened. With the aim of identifying required competences and expectations an interacting network between the EMMC and potential employers needs to be set up. Quality improvement of the courses can be assured if the potential is used to adapt the course structure and curricula to the outcomes of those newly gained networks.
4. Deploy professional alliances for academia
Professional relations that coordinators and other academic staff share with partners outside the university are the most important resources for developing international exchange. These relationships can be of help for the funding for the exchange of top-level international scholars within Erasmus Mundus. This is only one example where the scientific networks can benefit from a wide range of relationships.
5. Give practical learning a place
It is highly recommended to integrate study-related internships as a mandatory element in the curricula. The interest of potential employers and organisations needs to be raised so as to develop a professional network for internships and research cooperation. The survey results have shown that internships are still not commonplace within the EMMCs, but that they prove to be highly profitable for the future career of students taking part in them.
6. Provide and integrate internships
'Practical activities with partners from research should be planned at an early stage. It is important to point out the added value that the Erasmus Mundus students can bring to industry. The objective in this context is to create a pool of internship placement opportunities from which students can choose according to their particular interest. This may lead to enduring contacts and possible employment.
7. Confidence increases commitment
Giving responsibilities to the students is a key element in working out strategies to enhance employability. Many EMMCs have benefited from students’ initiatives, e.g. in building up scientific conferences, useful web tools or alumni networks.
8. Unfold the impact of internationality
Although mobility is a major characteristic of Erasmus Mundus and internationality a main added value, the survey revealed that too much mobility can also hinder orientation and settlement. In addition to the academic requirements students might be negatively influenced through frequent relocations (problems of stress, visa issues and administrative issues, heavy workload). The major recommendation to the consortia is therefore to develop reasonable mobility streams and enable the group to grow together and to deepen relations.
9. Student networks are effective resources
For all the actors involved during the EMMC, keeping in touch is a crucial factor. The follow-up communication, punctual contact and setting highlights (e.g. yearly reunions, international conferences) is regarded as a promising strategy. Moreover, relations built up between students are of help to mediate job opportunities; alternatively alumni might take on a role as potential employers.
10. Activate complementary abilities
Employability refers to a range of abilities or competences asked for by employers. It refers also to the ability to open up job opportunities, the use of professional networks and the need for a clear view on career paths. Both aspects are complementary and the EMMCs should continue working on both. On the one hand courses should contribute to foster knowledge and competences which are required by potential employers. And on the other hand the skills of the students in the search for employment and their ability to “employ themselves” should not be neglected.
A quantitative online survey among students and graduates of Erasmus Mundus Masters Courses (EMMC) was carried out with a total respondent number of 2,820 (n=2,820) from various academic disciplines. Comparing the gathered data of the distribution of countries of origin, gender, study status and academic disciplines the shares of respondents of the different group meet the standards of the actual Erasmus Mundus statistics and can therefore be described as representative. A qualitative survey was also conducted including students, graduates and coordinators in order to further explain the outcomes of the online survey.
The survey revealed insights into the overall perception of students and graduates of the Erasmus Mundus Programme. Furthermore data about the perceived impacts of Erasmus Mundus on academic and personal development, on career and on private networks was gathered. The topics addressed, which served as basis of the practical guidelines, were as follows:
The highest share of respondents (60 %) planned to work directly after graduation. A share of 30 % decided to join a PhD programme and the remaining 10 % were undecided. The respondents perceived it as useful for their future career to have taken part in an EMMC. Furthermore, 84% of the respondents stated that it was profitable to follow a study-related internship during the study program. However, only 60 % of the graduates had benefited from an internship integrated in their study.
Creation of networks among students and graduates
Social networks among students and graduates are perceived by the respondents as offering very high value for their future career opportunities. Besides direct job offers, networks are useful to give insights into the situation on the job market and the requirements for applications.
Assessment of competences
Respondents found it very important that an EMMC equips them with the necessary tools for the job market. However, students and graduates do not feel sufficiently prepared for competition on the job market. Compared to non-EMMC graduates they feel better prepared to work in an international environment.
Roughly half of the graduates from 2006 stated that they found a permanent job in the first five years after graduation. Only 3% are unemployed. Of the employed graduates a share of 72% stated that they are satisfied with their current job situation.
Students can be divided roughly half and half between those who return to their home region after the study program and those who go to a different place. However, it was surprising that Europeans are the least mobile group amongst the respondents with a share of only 11% who go to another region. The reasons given for continuing to stay away from the home region are usually the better job opportunities. It was identified as a general trend that non-EU students try to extend their stay in Europe in order to acquire further educational qualifications such as a PhD and plan thereafter to go back to their home country.
Erasmus Mundus and job search
The respondents stated that the Erasmus Mundus Programme has had a positive impact on their career. In comparison with students from other programmes the job search of Erasmus Mundus students and graduates takes less time. According to the survey the gains with the highest value for the career are the international experience and the intercultural competences acquired. Unfortunately the brand name Erasmus Mundus cannot yet be used as a recognition remark of quality to employers.
Sustainability of Erasmus Mundus
A large proportion of the coordinators stated that the Erasmus Mundus programme delivered many benefits. Quality assurance and constant improvement due to evaluation processes are perceived as of great impact for the courses.
- European Commission. (2011) Erasmus Mundus Practical Guidelines on Employability, Clustering Masters Courses and Attractiveness Projects: Lot 2 – Thematic Cluster on Employability, MKW Wirtschaftsforschungs GmbH.
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