It’s nearly that time of year again, when a new wave of graduates hit the job market. This year’s cohort are the first in the UK to have completed the process paying “full” tuition fees of up to £9,000. A couple of recent surveys published in June 2015 caught our eye.
A ComRes survey commissioned by BBC Radio 5 Live tells us that only 52% of final year undergraduates (2015 graduates!) consider their university education to have been value for money. 40% think that it has not been value for money. (There’s an interesting variance around subject 65% consider their STEM course to have been good value for money, only 40% of those studying creative arts and design thought it had been good value for money).
The question this raises in our mind is “On what basis do you determine value?” Is it value for money if the experience was full of academic rigour and purpose? Contact with expert teachers? Are they trying to measure the whole experience over three years including the non-academic socialising? Networking? Employability skills? Or simply Employment?
A second survey (“The Student Academic Experience” carried out by the Higher Education Policy institute and the Higher education Authority) considers a similar issue of Value for money. This survey has only 41% satisfaction with value for money.
Let’s give universities some slack here. Even though these sound like less than perfect numbers, it can’t be easy having your industry customer satisfaction scores published when other industries do not need to do likewise. I’d dread to think what score the company who deliver my broadband would get. Let’s not forget that we don’t get to hear what universities think of the students in question.
One observation that I do feel comfortable making is this. If students are dissatisfied at the point of graduation, I fear they might be in for a greater shock during the next 12 months as they try to convert that degree into a career.
The HEPI research (second survey) was conducted by a company called YouthSight. The same research company published a report in 2012 (Sponsored by Sodexho) listing the top ten reasons students had for going to university. The top response (by at least 15 percentage points) was “To improve job opportunities”.
Some things might have changed over 3 years, but I would be surprised if employment prospects and outcomes weren’t still amongst the most important reasons any young person had for going to university.
We’ve said it before, and will repeat it again., We are not critical of higher education for the situation which arises because of how they are funded. We’re merely keen to highlight that what employers want in job applicants is not found exclusively in a formal academic environment. Sitting exams doesn’t automatically lead to employment. We worry that students aren’t more aware of the requirements and expectations employers have for them. The majority of these students need to do more than graduate in order to build the foundations of their career. (If you want more help with this, please contact us at bizenko).
Only around 10-15% of students will secure a “graduate” job. Many more will find their way into employment, and possibly do very well thereafter. But in terms of a formal programme designed to introduce a graduate into the world of work, it’s as little as 10-15% (a 2015 survey for Milkround showed that 6 months after graduation, only 12.6% of graduates were employed in a graduate job or scheme, 46.7% were in regular employment and 31.6% were still looking for a job) .
Perhaps, in addition to this survey, these questions should be asked of graduates a second time once they are at least 12 months out of university. Sadly it’s not likely to happen, but we’ll keep monitoring the situation.