Graduates are ill prepared for jobs market

May 19, 1995

Universities place too little emphasis on preparing students for employment, according to the compilers of a new report which shows that, while the demand for graduates is greater than ever, the majority of final-year students do not expect to start a graduate job after passing their exams.

The report, UK Graduate Careers Survey 1995, prepared by recruitment consultants High Fliers Research and based on a survey of 7,000 finalists at 15 leading universities, reveals that only 23 per cent are anticipating starting graduate work after the summer, while a further 14 per cent think they will be looking for a job. The rest - 63 per cent - are expecting to begin postgraduate courses (25 per cent), non-graduate temporary work (7 per cent), or a period of travelling or time off (16 per cent). Just three months away from graduation, some 15 per cent have no definite plans.

Just over 40 per cent of students have made one or more job applications, spending on average between 30 and 40 hours actively preparing and researching a graduate job. Given that the typical student spends about 2,700 hours working towards a three-year degree, the report concludes that "to spend only 30-40 hours planning the start of a career that could last 40 years does seem rather unbalanced".

Martin Birchall, director of the survey, put much of the blame on the universities: "There is no one at the universities who is responsible for drumming into students the importance of career preparation. The careers services do a good job, but they are there primarily on a consultative basis." He added: "We have yet to find a university which offers a substantial career element in its degree. Most tutors are narrowly concerned about the subject rather than what lies afterwards."

The report notes that students at Aston, Bath and Strathclyde are generally more motivated towards careers - something partly attributable to the high proportion of finalists who had been on course placements. On average, almost a quarter of students have not had a vacation job, been workshadowing, taken part in a work placement scheme or attended a business course. Yet at certain universities - notably Manchester and Imperial College London - the proportion was approaching one third.

The report also questions the usefulness of the milk rounds. Only half of those who attended careers fairs go on to make applications, and at four universities which attract the largest number of employer events, advertising and promotion - Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Bristol - no more than 38 per cent of finalists are expecting to start work after graduating.

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