International student mobility and labour market outcomes: An investigation of the role of level of study, type of mobility, and international prestige hierarchies

Christof Van Mol*, Kim Caarls, Manuel Souto-Otero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
225 Downloads (Pure)


Over the last decades, there has been increasing interest in the topic of international student mobility (ISM). However, there is surprisingly little analysis of the ways in which different characteristics and types of short-term ISM or the importance of host education systems and labour markets may affect early career outcomes of formerly mobile graduates. Therefore, in this study we explore, first, the relationship between participation in ISM at the Bachelor and Master level and graduates' wages and the duration of education-to-work transitions. Second, we investigate variations in ISM labour market outcomes according to the type of mobility: study, internships, or combinations of both. Third, we examine the relationship between labour market outcomes of formerly mobile students and the country of destination's position in higher education international prestige hierarchies and labour market competitiveness. We use the Dutch National Alumni Survey 2015, a representative survey of higher education graduates in the Netherlands, conducted 1.5 years after graduation. Before controlling for selection into ISM, the results suggest the existence of labour market returns to ISM and that the heterogeneity of ISM experiences matters as labour market outcomes vary according to the level of study, the type of mobility, and the positioning of the country of destination in international prestige hierarchies. However, after controlling for selection into ISM through propensity score matching, the differences in early career outcomes between formerly mobile and non-mobile graduates disappear, suggesting that they cannot be causally attributed to their ISM experience. We explain these results with reference to the characteristics of the Dutch education system and labour market, where restricted possibilities for upward vertical mobility limit returns to ISM in the local labour market.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1145-1171
JournalHigher Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • International student mobility
  • Labour market returns
  • Location-specific capital
  • The Netherlands


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