Dunces annoy business

September 4, 1998

Most students are "dunces" when it comes to knowledge of the business world, a national survey has found.

The majority, 75 per cent, never read the business pages of national newspapers because they are not interested. They are largely ignorant of developments in business and industry and unfamiliar with common terminology.

A telephone survey of 1,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students found 56 per cent did not know that IMF stood for International Monetary Fund and 53 per cent had no idea what a human resources department was.

Only 10 per cent correctly named former Body Shop chief Anita Roddick as the founder of a well-known high street shop or knew that MBO stood for management buy-out.

Students were more likely to attribute business success to luck (28 per cent) or a readiness to take risks (62 per cent) than intelligence (19 per cent).

The probe also found a disparity between the skills employers say they want and what students believe they want. Six out of ten recruiters thought the main weakness of graduates was their lack of business knowledge and placed practical experience of work high on their list of priorities. But fewer than half of students thought practical experience was important, and a third saw gaining qualifications as the way to a job.

Asked what changes they would make to degree courses, six out of ten employers called for more training in practical business skills and more than a quarter wanted more communication skills training.

Psychologist David Lewis, who analysed the findings for Apex Computer Recruitment which commissioned the survey, said: "Some employers seem to be placing graduates in an impossible Catch 22 situation by insisting on practical experience while denying the opportunity to gain such experience. But the students are hardly helping their case by such a lack of general business knowledge."

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