A Times Higher Education report discusses Employability: which university is doing the best by its students? Whether it justifies the subhead, The Global Employability University Survey reveals where to study to get a job, is debatable, but it is an interesting article with some interesting aperçus. For example, “Earlier this year, professional services firm Ernst & Young announced that it would remove degree classification from the entry criteria for its hiring programmes, having found no evidence that success at university is correlated with subsequent success in obtaining professional qualifications.”
However, there are some subtly conflicting issues here.
(1) What does the report mean by “employability”?
Is it (a), a set of personal, interpersonal and other characteristics which a student would do well to develop the better to secure a job that suits them?
Or, is it (b), developing a personality that suits the prospective employers? “I am not suggesting that employers dictate what students study at university”, says Anna Vignoles, professor of education at the University of Cambridge, but I bet there are plenty, particularly short termist politicians, who think that that is entirely reasonable.
(a) and (b) are not at all the same thing.
There again, given that “the majority of respondents (53 per cent) agree with the statement that “only universities able to establish links with companies can promote the employability of their graduates””, is not a student’s future capacity to get a good job actually:
(c), no more than a function of their university’s capacity to develop productive relationships with the business community?
Whilst it is interesting to tabulate the favourite universities of employers, the total number of employers surveyed must be tiny as a total of all the businesses in the countries surveyed. I don’t think it is unfair to say that most employers, particularly the small and medium size ones referred to, are rather unclear about the whole process of recruitment and don’t have the data or insight to express a preference for a university. To be honest, they aren’t that interested and it is hard not to agree with them.
In any case, is the article about universities or about students? If the university places its need to be at the top of a table ahead of the needs of its students, then it cannot be said to be serving is students well.
(2) I merely ask, why isn’t it the job of employers to ensure their staff are employable?
Or, why isn’t it the job of parents to ensure their offspring have a strong, well-round, preferably benign personality?
Or, again, schools—might not leaving it to universities be too late?
My prediction is that, in a few years, “professional services firm Ernst & Young will announce that it has removed degree subject from its requirements, having found no evidence that what you study at university is correlated with subsequent success in obtaining professional qualifications.”