Skills for the job

October 27, 2016

The ongoing spiel you hear from employers is that graduates lack the skills they need to succeed in the workplace. I wonder if we’ve produced graduates in recent years who have highly specialised knowledge in their fields but not the ability to apply this knowledge to unexpected cases and situations.

The general trend in higher education is to move away from general education and towards specialism. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the number of joint honours courses has dropped in the UK over the past 20 years.

I think what the National University of Singapore is trying to do is excellent but is in a way a waste of money: the results are already there (“National University of Singapore’s use of skills data sparks debate”, News, 13 October). Just look at what they do in countries such as the US, where students have to undertake a wide curriculum and specialise later on. This produces graduates who are well-rounded, knowledgeable about the world at large and skilled in a variety of subjects, including the arts, humanities, social sciences and the sciences.

It’s not just the US that produces such graduates. In Poland, students have to complete a set of general education modules from first year all the way through to final year. These modules include subjects such as literature, world affairs, philosophy and even PE.

I wonder if the president of the Technical University of Munich, whom you quote in the article, has got it right by reintroducing the arts into the curriculum.

Anthony Ash
Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts

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