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Graduate recruiters specialising in engineering now see China as behind only the US and Germany in terms of its graduates’ employability, according to a snapshot from a global survey of employers published each year by Times Higher Education.
The first data from the annual Global University Employability Ranking, which will be revealed in full by THE this autumn, shows how Chinese graduates are increasingly being favoured by firms around the world.
Almost 2,500 graduate recruiters from some 20 countries were questioned for the survey, which was designed by the French human resources company Emerging.
Recruiters were asked to name up to three countries that they felt had the most employable graduates, and the US was cited by more than a third of respondents (34 per cent), followed by Germany (24.5 per cent) and the UK (20.7 per cent).
China came in fifth, with 15.1 per cent of respondents choosing the country. However, more than a fifth of recruiters (20.1 per cent) specialising in engineering said that Chinese graduates were among the most employable – third, following only the US and Germany.
Laurent Dupasquier, associate director of Emerging, said that China's performance reflected the “meteoric rise” of the country’s universities in the overall employability ranking: Peking University reached 17th position last year, and three other Chinese universities made the global top 60.
He also pointed to evidence from the survey that countries such as China were benefiting from the worldwide trend for more graduates to gain fluency in English.
“As English has become the lingua franca even for non-English speakers, this gradually removes a bias in favour of graduates from native English-speaking countries,” he said.
Meanwhile, German graduates’ position appears to have remained strong in the eyes of employers as the UK and the US have slipped back slightly compared with last year.
Ulrich Müller, head of policy studies at Germany’s Centre for Higher Education, said that the traditional separation in the country between vocational training and higher education had been fading in recent years.
He also noted the “dynamic” development of more private universities of applied sciences offering “innovative courses of study” and pointed out that other universities were rethinking their focus to move away from concentrating solely on research.
“An HEI cannot only be excellent in research, but also in [knowledge] transfer, regional engagement or teaching and learning,” he said.
Alison Heron, chair of the UK’s Association of Graduate Recruiters, said that some universities in the UK were “rising to the challenge” on employability, given the fees system, competition from overseas institutions and alternatives to university such as apprenticeships.
“UK students are consumers, and they are demanding more from universities. If they see they can get a better ‘deal’, then they may look elsewhere,” she said.
The full graduate employability ranking, including a list of which individual universities are seen as the best by recruiters, is due to be published in November.
This year, the survey will also include a detailed look at the skills that employers are seeking in graduates to help them meet the challenges of the digital age.