A project at Monash University has received funding to look at career outcomes for Vietnamese women who studied in Australia, hoping to shine a light on the professional challenges they face as overseas returnees and how universities can better support international graduates.
Thanh Pham, a member of the team for the Advancing Australia-trained Women Leadership in Education in Vietnam project, has spent years researching educational outcomes for returnees, demonstrating that they benefit most from professional skills such as independence and critical thinking.
“Many international students have an issue with using their technical knowledge,” she said.
“Many international students have an issue with using their technical knowledge”
“In many cases, their technical knowledge is too advanced and they can’t use it in developing countries because they simply do not have resources.”
Adapting to local environments can also be a challenge.
“When female returnees return to Vietnam, many of them are actually more advanced compared to their male counterparts in terms of having professional skills,” she continued.
“But because of the system, because of the culture there, the space for them to use overseas educational outcomes is quite limited.
“We simply just aren’t talking about these problems because it’s a longstanding issue in many countries, especially in developing or less developed countries.”
Last year, Shane Dillon, founder of Cturtle and UniAdvisor, argued data on graduate employment outcomes “illustrate clearly to consumers the value and return on investment an international education delivers” and that “employability is the most important consideration impacting student choice across Asia”.
The main focus of the new project is to look at how returnees have been able to navigate the system so that they can use their overseas education outcomes, which will help universities to better understand how to support their international graduates.
“If they want to support international students, they should not only think about the qualification,” said Pham.
“They need to create connections and opportunities for international students to develop social capital and social networks with alumni.
“In Japan [for example], they bring the alumni from industry back to the university to select and to find graduates and students, and they become mentors of students at the university before they graduate.”
With 45% of local and international Australian graduates finding their first job through family members, friends, university lecturers, and placement and internship mentors, Pham argued that “almost everyone’s aware of the fact that qualifications are not the only factor that can decide our career”.
“But because of the idea of commercial education, we don’t really talk about it,” she added.
“And when our students graduate, suddenly they realise there are so many other factors [beyond qualifications] that they are not aware of.”