What Parents and Students should know about University, but no one tells them
Parents naturally want the best for their kids and to provide them with a good education is a key part of preparation for life ahead. Finding the right school can be a challenge, but once selected most parents leave it to teachers to determine the best way of educating their children. This includes directing them towards university (Uni) as the ultimate pathway to a good job.
In a few weeks when A level results come out, students who get the grades they wanted will feel they have done everything asked of them, excited about their future. There will be many proud parents seeing their children accepted into their chosen Uni, whilst school heads will proclaim record grades and showcase the places secured. They will all be buying into the long-established belief that Uni is the best springboard into a career. But does this still hold true ?
As school leaders summer begin their summer break, they might want to look back 3 years, to the class of 2015/16, who will have graduated this summer and should be starting new jobs. If they look to see how they are progressing, they will be alarmed by what they find, with less than half of them in graduate jobs, feeling let down by the assurances they were given about the value of a degree. So where has it all gone wrong ?
Collectively we have over stimulated the Uni market. Successive governments have encouraged Uni entrance and supported it with funding models that promote greater expansion and places. Schools and parents have also endorsed this to the point where today almost half of young adults (49%) go into higher education.
All of this makes sense if there is the demand, in the form of graduate jobs, for this increased supply of graduates. The harsh reality is there is not. Every year around 400,000 students graduate find that there are only 200,000 graduate jobs available. This makes it a 1 in 2 chance before you even begin to apply for positions.
Strip out the jobs linked to vocational degrees ( Medicine, Engineering, and Computing) means that for those studying a humanities subject (English, History or Creative Arts), the ratio is more like 1 in 3.
A frequent retort to this is that those with top grades will be able to differentiate themselves. This used to be the case, but today grade inflation has changed all that. A first is no longer a rarity. Now 25% of all graduates get a first. A 2:1 is simply the average, with 50% of graduates leaving with one. Anything less than a 2:1 puts you firmly in the bottom quarter.
The consequence of all this is a highly competitive jobs market. The best candidates from the best Unis continue to do well, as do those with vocational degrees. Completing a summer internship is also a proven path as employers look first to their own interns to fill full-time positions.
But for the majority it is an increasingly tough job market in which to realise the value of your degree. The remaining unfilled graduate jobs require you to apply on line, which turns into a CV lottery. Very few applicants receive feedback or subsequently discover that the job has been filled internally. Considerable time is spent on applications, with each rejection sapping the confidence of graduates. It is equally hard for parents, with their kids still living at home, questioning the value of Uni.
So where does this leave us ? The reality is that 50% of graduates will end up taking jobs that do not require a degree. The demand is simply not there. For many Uni will be a great option, but for those in doubt, think again before you commit, as there are a number of exciting alternative pathways into the workplace.