Indian graduates ‘unprepared’ for workplace, study warns

Bournemouth University research reveals gap between expectations of employers and university curricula

February 24, 2018
Sikh pilgrims walking past Golden Temple in India

Indian students are woefully unprepared for the workplace, according to a new study.

Researchers at Bournemouth University gathered the views of 270 higher education leaders, educators, students, employers, policymakers and non-governmental organisations in India through interviews and surveys.

Their findings, published in the report Global talent in India: challenges and opportunities for skills development in higher education, reveal a substantial gap between what is taught at university and real-life developments in the workplace.

Of the academics questioned, 65 per cent agreed that students in Indian higher education are unable to demonstrate that they have had the opportunity to apply graduate-level skills and competencies and gain industry exposure.

This finding was reinforced by students themselves – with just 37 per cent agreeing that Indian universities offered relevant and up-to-date training-development opportunities.

Only a third (33 per cent) of employers and industry representatives believed that students and graduates have the necessary high-level skills and knowledge that they are looking for in their industry.

Of the NGOs surveyed, just under half (45 per cent) thought that higher education fails to prepare students for the global workplace.

“There is a very clear higher-level skills gap in India, which is estimated to cost the Indian economy as much as $8.6 billion [£6.2 billion] in lost productivity,” one of the researchers, Sonal Minocha, Bournemouth's pro vice-chancellor for global engagement, told Times Higher Education. “Our report offers preliminary findings for consideration by educators, employers and policymakers in tackling India’s graduate-level skills development challenge.”

The policymakers wanted universities to do more in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation. Nevertheless, only 30 per cent of them said that universities had the necessary academic and professional staff to provide students with industry-relevant knowledge and skills.

One of the biggest areas of consensus was that more needed to be done to ensure that the curriculum was far more contemporary and better linked to the world of work. Introducing students to ideas about enterprise and entrepreneurship was also considered to be critical.

“There was a huge recognition that a number of our graduates and youth in India will be going into self-employment,” Dr Minocha said. “So they felt that [while] there was a lot of emphasis on embedding research in the curriculum and in universities, [there was] perhaps not as much importance given to enterprise.”

Other recommendations included embedding internationalisation at the core of Indian higher education, providing more employer integration in universities, and enabling wider participation and equality.

The roles of NGOs, in particular, would be crucial to achieving these goals, Dr Minocha said.

“[While] interviewing them there was a recognition that the future of education here in India in large part depends on how the NGOs are working in the economy. For example, in rural India where there are no schools and colleges, it is only through the NGO network that education can reach those remote parts of the country.”

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