At NUS Scotland, the future of graduates is increasingly of importance to us


Today’s graduates face youth unemployment levels of 21% and some of the highest unemployment levels since the early 1990s. Employability is therefore becoming increasingly important for students, and for the universities and colleges from which they graduate. And if it is important for students, then it should rightly take its place on the agenda of NUS Scotland.

The Scottish Government has funded the Developing Scotland’s Global Citizens project and, for the past two years, NUS Scotland has led its implementation. Last year, the Scotland Goes Global initiative was launched under this project to encourage Scottish-based students to study abroad during college or university. Since then, the project has been a cross-sector one engaging with schools, colleges, universities and employers.

The importance of studying abroad

Why employers? Because of the increasing evidence that shows that studying abroad enhances graduates employability. We have released a research publication looking how studying abroad plays a key role in developing global graduates for a global economy. There are many more skills to be gained from study abroad, in addition to the obvious and important ones of learning a language and recognising just what a global era we live in. Some of the skills that students interviewed for the research cited include increased confidence, enhanced intercultural skills, boosted resilience, ambitiousness and improved work ethic. A great example of a student who is definitely going places as a result of his time abroad is Blair Bowman, a student of Hispanic studies from Aberdeen University (pictured above). When studying abroad, Blair enjoyed sharing Scottish culture with friends through whisky and was inspired, on his return to Scotland, to create World Whisky Day, which just took place this weekend. So enjoy a wee dram to celebrate study abroad, and watch Blair Bowman talk to us about how studying abroad got him on the track to entrepreneurship:

Within the UK, there are clear signs that employers are keen to recruit graduates with study-abroad experience: a report from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) in 2010 found that 55% of employers warned of ‘shortfalls’ in British students’ international cultural awareness.1

In a recent British Council/Think Global survey, 75% of surveyed chief executives and board level directors of businesses in the UK think we are in danger of being left behind by emerging countries unless young people learn to think more globally, and 74% are worried that many young people’s horizons are not broad enough to operate in a globalised and multicultural economy.2

Scotland goes global

Skills development is a major issue right now, and in an increasingly global business world, employees who have the type of resilience and intercultural competence we are talking about will become increasingly important to employers. To this end, we organised a conference to bring together employers and education experts and staff to talk about study abroad and employability.

On Friday 17 May, we gathered at the University of Strathclyde to hear speakers from the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, IBM, Santander, Scottish Development International, and more. We hope the event will inspire employers to seek to emphasise to the education sector how study abroad can benefit your business. Employers, we hope you discover new skills in your workforce, or look to recruit new graduates with study abroad or international experience.

For more information on the Scotland Goes Global initiative, go to:

Follow the discussions from the event: @ScotGoesGlobal and #globalgrads

Robin Parker, President National Union of Students Scotland

[1] Ready to Grow: Business Priorities for Education and Skills (CBI, 2010), p. 23.

[2] The Global Skills Gap: Preparing Young People for the New Global Economy (British Council/Think Global, 2011), p. 4.