In recent years, brain drain has been a major issue in Hungary, in particular with regard to talented young people studying abroad who may not decide to return to their homeland, being attracted by higher earning opportunities in the host countries.
The Milestone Institute recently hosted a public forum in collaboration with the Hungarian Youth Association, to present their respective findings on whether high-performing Hungarian students return home after finishing their studies abroad.
The conference was held in Budapest on 6 September, with Deputy State Secretary for Higher Education Dr Veronika Varga-Bajusz delivering the opening speech.
Milestone Institute, the organizer of the forum, was established in 2010. It offers personalized education for secondary school students. Their English-language programmes, developed locally and recognized internationally, run concurrently with secondary school education, focusing on intellectual development and academic immersion. These educational programmes aim to cultivate a community of future leaders dedicated to shaping a competitive Hungary in the 21st century.
During the forum, two research papers were presented. One examined the career and mobility data of former Milestone Institute students, while the other explored the financial situation of Hungarian students studying abroad.
The first research study analysed profiles of 1,180 students who graduated from the Milestone Institute between 2011 and 2022. Career and mobility data were collected from 785 students in the autumn of 2022. The findings revealed that Milestone students are enrolled in 22 universities worldwide, with 65 per cent studying at one of the world’s top 100 universities.
Over the past decade, the gender distribution of Milestone alumni has remained balanced, with males and females each representing 51–49 per cent of the alumni. Regarding their choice of fields of study, they follow the global trend, with females showing a slightly higher preference for humanities and males leaning towards the natural sciences.
The proportion of Milestone graduates opting for Hungarian higher education has remained unchanged since the institute’s inception, with a majority choosing health and science programs. Those selecting arts and languages are the least likely to pursue further studies in Hungary. Over the past 11 years, the UK has attracted the highest percentage of students for further studies due to its numerous top universities offering English-language courses.
Two-thirds of Milestone alumni return to Hungary after completing their studies, with one-third of those returning after three years.
61 per cent of Milestone graduates studying abroad come back to Hungary after graduation. Over half of the graduates from top international universities (58 per cent from the world’s top 100 universities and 51 per cent from Oxford and Cambridge) decide to settle in Hungary after their studies. Currently, 39 per cent of alumni work in Hungary, with 90 per cent of them based in Budapest. Among those residing outside Hungary, 78 per cent live in the UK, but there is at least one Milestone alumnus in 33 different countries across all continents. The majority of alumni are employed in education and research, with a substantial presence in the IT and financial sectors.
The second research study aimed to assess the financial situation of Hungarian students studying abroad. The survey was conducted between May 2022 and August 2022, with respondents from 12 countries, including the US, Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, and Singapore.
Since Hungary’s accession to the EU, the number of students studying abroad has increased, rising from just under 1.7 per cent to 8 per cent. Students predominantly choose to study abroad for the knowledge and experience gained in different countries.
The survey found that 94 per cent of students believe it is easier to secure a job with a foreign degree compared to a Hungarian one, and 97 per cent consider the value proposition of university courses abroad to be better. Contrary to popular belief, studying abroad is not limited to the wealthiest; 76 per cent of students work while pursuing their university education.
It is also a common misconception among companies that students who study abroad have excessively high salary expectations when starting their careers in Hungary. However, the research indicates that the average entry-level salary desired by graduates would be 510,000 HUF (EUR 1,307) in Hungary. Graduates who completed their studies in Hungary have an expected salary of 330,000 HUF (EUR 845.8).
The research underscores the gradual increase in the number and proportion of students studying abroad, emphasizing their value in contributing to Hungary’s cultural, economic, and innovative development, given their competitive knowledge and experience gained at the world’s leading universities and in competitive job markets.
Following the presentation of the two studies, students who went to Milestone, studied abroad and then returned home held a discussion about their experiences and future plans.