Principal Investigators: Mag. Sofia Kirilova, MA (Austrian Integration Fund, www.integrationsfonds.at)
Collaborators: Mag. (FH) Roksela Miha, Prof. (FH) Dr. Elisabeth Kübler (Lauder Business School); MODUL University Vienna
Duration of the project: October 2012 – March 2013
Point of departure
Recent statistical figures show that approximately twenty per cent of all students in the Austrian tertiary education sector are foreign nationals. However, less than a fifth of third-country national graduates remain in Austria. At the same time, Austrian employers are eagerly headhunting highly qualified students and graduates who, besides their academic and professional training, also display multilingual and intercultural competences. It was in this spirit that the Austrian Integration Fund selected Lauder Business School to conduct a survey on students’ motivation to study and subsequently start their careers in Austria, and to learn more about the difficulties to retain them in the Austrian labor market.
The sample comprised all LBS students who are about to enter the job market and presumably have already gained some professional experience (i.e. the 3rd-year bachelor students and master students from both cohorts, N=100). Based on exploratory qualitative interviews with selected students and the head of the Practical Professional Training semester at LBS, a questionnaire was delivered. 61 international students and ten Austrian students responded. This ratio represents the extremely high number of international students at LBS, but also rendered valid comparisons between non-Austrians and Austrians impossible.
Results and findings
The findings demonstrate that Vienna and the Austrian higher education system are considered attractive, whereas numerous respondents also pointed at the challenges to establish themselves in the local qualified job market. For example, 70 per cent of the international students appreciate the high quality of life, and at least 44 per cent mention the good reputation of an Austrian academic degree. More than a third of all respondents based their decision to come to LBS on the opportunity to gain professional experience in Austria. Rather unsurprisingly, the LBS’s international orientation, degree programs entirely taught in English and, not least, the Jewish environment constitute key pull factors. The quality of life (82 per cent), the desire to work in Austria (76 per cent) and excellent infrastructure (76 per cent) recur as core motives for soon-to-be graduates to remain here.
However, one also has to examine the downsides of labor market integration in Austria. Bachelor graduates are currently not eligible for the Red White Red Card migration scheme, and hence forfeit realistic chances to find employment in Austria. It is likewise alarming that more than 40 per cent consider leaving Austria after graduation due to xenophobic attitudes and feelings of alienation vis-à-vis the host society. An unmistakable call for more administrative support with immigration bureaucracy can be identified. The study also revealed that future graduates self-critically discern an insufficient command of German to be a major obstacle to success in the local job market. In the qualitative section of the research, the placement expert advises students not only to improve their language skills but also to proactively seize network opportunities and get acquainted with the Austrian working culture. In spite of these imponderabilities, 44 per cent of the respondents wish to integrate in Austria, with an interesting number of 20 per cent who would like to move globally and not return to their source country.
The full version (in German) can be downloaded here.