Graduates say degrees leave them short of skills

November 22, 2002

New graduates lack three of the skills they judge most used in the workforce - time management, task juggling and verbal communication - a survey shows.

The skills deficit is a surprise finding of the Pitar project, run by Anglia Polytechnic and Brunel universities, University College Northampton with Purdue University, Indiana, acting as adviser.

Two-thirds of respondents felt their degree helped their career prospects, but only half said their qualification was a prerequisite to their job. Between 15 and 32 per cent said it bore little relation to their work.

The top five skills graduates said they had were: working independently; reading and understanding texts; working under pressure; written communication skills; and learning abilities.

The top five skills graduates said the workplace required were: time management; working under pressure; accuracy and attention to detail; oral communication skills; and managing different tasks and obligations at the same time.

The survey, once seen by the Higher Education Funding Council, may feed into reforms that align curricula more closely with the labour market needs.

Sheryl Randall, head of institutional planning at University College Northampton, said: "The results were a bit of an eye-opener to us. Most employability surveys in the UK and US have looked at what skills employers say they need of graduates. This is the first to look at what skills graduates perceive they require."

Questionnaires were sent 18 months after graduation to more than 3,171 full-time students of computing, English, environmental science/geography, history, law and sociology. There was a 22 per cent response rate. A more refined survey will go out to 3,500 graduates of three years' standing.


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