Social Capital and Post-Graduation Destination: International Students in Ireland

  • Zizhen Wang University College Dublin
  • Philip J. O’Connell University College Dublin


Drawing from social network theory, this study investigates the extent to which bonding and bridging social capital influence the likelihood of staying abroad or returning home after graduation among international students in Ireland. Bonding refers to co-national networks and is measured as the strength of ties and the abundance of resources with co-nationals or family members. Bridging implies crosscutting ties beyond one’s co-national network and is measured as contacts with the locals or non-co-nationals. A survey was carried out among Irish university international alumni who graduated between 2014 and 2016. Our main findings suggest: (1) bridging social capital, particularly high-quality and with close bridging ties, are positively associated with the likelihood of staying abroad; (2) human capital, especially field of study and language ability, is positively associated with the likelihood of staying abroad. Policy implications are discussed.