Careers survey founded on wrong criteria

June 2, 1995

The results of the UK Graduate Careers Survey 1995 compiled by High Fliers' Research recruitment consultants (THES, May 19) were not very impressive.

First, there is no indication as to why the survey was conducted at the 15 universities listed. Were they chosen arbitrarily? I think not. They appear to represent the more traditional universities, with the exception, perhaps, of Aston and Strathclyde. Bamboozled as to why these universities were chosen, other than to pander to traditional snobbishness, I was even more surprised by the findings of the survey.

Martin Birchall, the survey director criticises these universities for not including "a substantial career element in their degrees". Is it not self evident that this is because these more traditional universities' courses are primarily intellectually, rather than vocationally motivated? There are plenty of institutions which could have been cited whose degrees are structured with industrial and vocational aspects in mind, but the survey instead judged their 15 universities by a set of criteria which seems inappropriate.

Second, the charge was made that the 30 to 40 hours in which the average student prepares for interviews does not reflect a career which could last 40 years. None of the full implications of any job can be fully realised until a person actually does that job. To assume that people can learn about a career beforehand, or that they cannot try out a job, and after receiving experience and training, make a positive rejection, is ludicrous.

Finally, careers services are portrayed as passive institutions, who can only act on a "consultative basis". The careers service at Bristol University successfully promotes many of its activities. The tone of Mr Birchall's comments implies that careers must be spoon fed to undergraduates as part of their degrees. This opposes the ethos of universities. Individuals must be given the opportunity to participate, but ultimately it is their choice.

Donald C. Mowbray

University of Bristol

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