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International Pathways Students: professional networking for career readiness

19 Jan 2022 | Dr Victoria Wilson-Crane Dr Victoria Wilson-Crane, Director of Innovative Student Learning at Kaplan International Pathways reflects on an offering for international students aiming for higher education in the UK which is giving them a unique insight into their future careers.

We have a wealth of opportunities on offer on our Pathways programmes through our Career Focus initiative, to help students gain employability skills during their time in our colleges. Given the importance of students gaining transferrable skills during further and higher education in readiness for their next step to get a job with the employers of tomorrow, at Kaplan International Pathways, we strongly encourage students to engage with professional networks in their pre-university courses.  

Our students are in a particularly betwixt-and-between state, something that researchers call liminality (as posited by Van Gennep and Victor Turner in the 1960s). International Pathways students are there between their home countries and the UK, between school and higher education and between the Pathways college and their chosen university. Joining a network can help students build valuable connections, form friendships and make contacts. Given they are particularly far from home and in unfamiliar surroundings, this might offer stability and a new sense of belonging. 

Pathways students can be particularly focused on simply gaining their qualifications. Some aim for this at the exclusion of anything else. This is completely understandable as it’s their Kaplan Pathways Award, achieved at the required level, which means they can progress to their chosen university and degree course. However, as presented by the World Economic Forum in 2020, we know employers are looking for much more, in addition to academic qualifications. The workplace of the future is expected to require so-called ‘hard skills’ including project management, digital literacy and coding, along with more human and communication skills such as active learning and social influence.  Students need to be helped to understand that the achievement of academic goals, alone, is short-sighted.   

How it works is students are introduced to relevant networks in college and can look at materials on the VLE to get a feel for what is on offer. Former students have provided some useful video testimonials and stories about their own experiences; we all know students love to hear from other people like them. One college introduced Networking Awards to reward students for their efforts in this area, to recognise they rose to the challenge of putting themselves out there. Meanwhile, a national coordinator developed relationships with the networks. The number grew from 12 organisations in 2019-20 to 18 in 2021-22 with something on offer for all students. Choices range from the generic, for example, the Association for Project Management or to others that are more discipline-specific like the Institute of Biomedical Science. 

College coordinators make sure students receive appropriate guidance on recommended networks. Tutors use academic subject focus and contact time with students to further promote the relevance and benefits of joining, referencing appropriate materials in formal learning opportunities.   

In 2019-20, one in four students registered with a professional network. Evidence submitted indicates networks have been used to find volunteering and paid employment opportunities and students have taken advantage of in-person events, webinars and online learning materials. Some students received e-Certificates of Achievement on completion of a Kaplan entrepreneurship module and registered with the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IoEE).   

Students submitting outstanding or particularly strong evidence achieved an additional award for their e-Portfolio, which we call  KapPACK. 

Student soundbites 

On attending a networking event, a former Nottingham Trent International College student commented: 

“I didn’t speak very much but I did learn a lot – I took a lot of notes from the speakers which opened doors for me.” 

As part of our Connect Benefit Series for 2021-22, our Student Success longitudinal project focuses on embedding employability in higher education as well as access, retention, attainment and progression and flexible learning. Look out for our third Employability Case Study Compendium 3 Es for Wicked Problems: Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship:

Solving Wicked Problems due to be published on 31 January 2022. Find out more about Student Success

This is actually a very helpful and valuable opportunity for all students. I am so happy I joined this association.”

Former Bournemouth University International College student

In 2020-21, again, approximately one-quarter of students registered with networks, many joining online from their home countries.  250 students registered with IoEE. The year-on-year increase was marginal, but impressive given many more students in 2020-21 studied remotely.  

Students have appreciated, valued and reflected on this activity in KapPACK which has encouraged us to continue to develop this strand of our Career Focus work. 

We have several ways we want to develop this offering in the coming years, including: 

  • Build relationships with the networks which we hope will mean we can try to add more certificates or micro-credentials which will mean students can specialise in areas of interest. This helps us to offer a personalised learning experience for students and will motivate students if they’re working on areas of interest to them.  

  • Encourage students to engage yet further with the offerings from networks getting involved in competitions or live events could be ways that the offer might be improved.   

  • Expand the offer of Networking Awards. This is underway as we start to offer digital badges to students who get involved in elements of Career Focus. Students will be assisted to continue to document networking experiences and achievements in KapPACK. 

  • Engage more closely with our many university partners. What could this mean for them as students progress – maybe we could collaborate more? 

  • Work more closely with the most popular networks. This is a great chance for them to learn more about these potential members of the future and they could use the experience of working with us to further shape offerings for students or other entry-level members.  

I’d be delighted to hear from colleagues who think they can learn from our approach or indeed who have suggestions for how we might make this offer even stronger. Please contact me at 


Relevant references: 

King, Z., & Scott, A. (2014) Who Is In Your Personal Boardroom?  How to choose people, assign roles and have conversations with purpose. 

Turner, V. (1969) The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-structure. Pelican Books: Suffolk. 

Van Gennep, A. (1960). The Rites of Passage. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 

World Economic Forum (2020) Top 10 Work Skills of Tomorrow and How Long it Takes to Learn Them 

The Advance HE Employability Symposium 2022

Our fifth employability symposium on 26 April will provide a space to discuss and share latest practices in developing graduates for successful trajectories beyond university.

The call for papers for the Employability Symposium 2022 is open until 4 February. Submit a proposal or book a place here


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