All Penn AHEAD Papers


Employment of international education graduates: Issues of economy and resistance to change

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version




International Education


International higher education, study abroad, scholarship programs, human capital development, Kazakhstan

Copyright/Permission Statement

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


The use of international scholarship programmes is part of a long-standing approach to human capital development in many developing and middle-income countries that finance studies at universities abroad and locally. Yet, many scholarship alumni struggle to thrive in their home country and encounter numerous difficulties in their transition to the job market. This paper examines the employment experiences of Kazakhstan's government scholarship alumni in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields and identifies the challenges they encounter navigating the labour market. Our analysis of 45 interviews demonstrated that although alumni hold a positional advantage in the job market and many succeed, there are also many alumni whose employability and career success are impeded by an intersection of socioeconomic and cultural factors, intergenerational clashes and scholarship programme regulations. The implications for scholarship programmes and government policy goals are discussed.

Funder Acknowledgment

This research was funded by Nazarbayev University, Faculty Development Grant. The number of the grant award is 240919FD3930.



Date Posted: 21 January 2022