Norwegian employers do not see an exchange abroad during their studies as an advantage, compared to candidates who have not spent time abroad.
This is according to the Employer Survey which the research institute Nifu has carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Education.
“The results challenge the widespread belief that education abroad provides a competitive advantage in the labor market,” write the Nifu researchers.
Nifu has asked employers to consider three variants of foreign experience: having no experience at all, having an exchange stay and having completed the entire education abroad. In the survey, the exchange stay is set at one year, although the length varies between different educations.
Political adviser Aurora Ørstavik at Ansa, the organization for Norwegian students abroad, thinks it is a great shame that employers do not prioritize foreign experience in the recruitment process.
— It is sad that foreign students are not recognized and appreciated for the resource they are. They bring valuable and essential competence to Norway, in addition to an understanding of language, culture and international cooperation, Ørstavik points out.
She says there is no doubt that Norway is completely dependent on students going abroad in order for us to be able to meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.
“Then the students must know that they will be well received on the labor market when they return home,” says Ørstavik.
Does not provide additional competence
Just over 10,000 employers from all types of industries have responded. The conclusion is that there are no signs that employers attribute to a person who has a study stay abroad a different or stronger competence than those who do not have a stay abroad.
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Furthermore, the answers show signs that employers are less likely to want to hire people who have completed their education abroad than people who have an education from Norwegian educational institutions.
– This contradicts the idea that international experience provides higher quality education and a more competitive workforce and is in line with the international literature which finds that employers give little priority to education from abroad in recruitment and employment, the report states.
Wants the students to travel abroad
In the Storting message “A world of opportunities” from 2020/21, the government emphasizes the value of students’ stays abroad and points out that Norway has committed itself through the Bologna process to 20 per cent of students who complete a degree having had a study or internship abroad.
In the long term, the ambition was for half to have a stay abroad.
The 20 percent target should have been reached by 2020, but in 2022 the proportion was approximately 16 percent after a dip during the pandemic.
The students travel on exchange again
State Secretary Ivar B. Prestbakmo (Sp) in the Ministry of Education comments on the employer survey as follows:
— We want Norwegian students to travel abroad and gain international experience. We know this contributes to professional development, new perspectives and cultural understanding. Not least, it equips the students to participate in a European and globalized working and business life, he says.
Despite the results of the survey, he says:
– It is also known that employers also demand qualities such as flexibility and independence, which are among the general skills a student can develop during a stay abroad.
— Does the government stand by the ambition that half of all Norwegian students should have experience abroad?
— Yes, we stand firmly by the ambition that, in the long term, half of Norwegian students will have spent part of their study time at a foreign place of study. That is why it is gratifying that so many Norwegian students are now going abroad again after the pandemic during their studies, says Prestbakmo.
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In the Employer Survey, employers are also asked whether they themselves have employed people with foreign education.
One in four had employed a foreign person with a foreign education, while under one in five had employed a Norwegian person with a foreign education.
The Nifu researchers point out this as an important finding: While Norwegian companies place little emphasis on exchange stays in their employment, considerable emphasis is placed on whether the person has their education from a Norwegian institution of learning or a foreign institution of learning.