More money than job skills

October 13, 1995

British students are graduating without the right job skills because universities are concentrating too hard on money-spinning recruitment and research priorities, according to a report commissioned by the Association of Graduate Employers.

The AGR report, Skills for Graduates in the 21st Century, said that universities need to change the funding mechanism so that the focus is on learning rather than research and student numbers. Report author Peter Hawkins, a fellow at Liverpool University, said there is "a very real crisis" because universities are placing too much emphasis on what he called not only "bums on seats" but "golden bums on seats" - full-fee paying foreign students.

By focusing on teaching, universities could redirect resources so that career experts could be hired to teach a mandatory career development programme for graduates. Dr Hawkins said: "We need more than the occasional nice careers seminar or workshop on a Friday afternoon." To place a premium on teaching, the AGR suggested the establishment of a professional body for university teachers to set standards for teacher training The AGR also called for universities to emphasise so-called "self-reliant or enabling skills". Co-author Jonathan Winter said: "Will graduates need IT skills? Of course they will. Will they need foreign language skills? Of course they will. But will those skills be the defining characteristics of success in the 21st century? I don't think so."

The skills for the future include self-promotion, action-planning, networking, coping with uncertainty and "political awareness" - or "an understanding of the hidden tensions and power struggles within organisations".

Skills for Graduates in the 21st Century is available from the AGR, Sheraton House, Castle Park, Cambridge CB3 0AX. Price: Pounds 25

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