One in four Australian graduates say degree not important for job

Figures from 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey raise concerns about the value of some degrees

January 12, 2018
Graduates celebrate
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More than one-quarter of Australia’s graduates say that their university qualifications are not important for their jobs, raising concerns about the value of some degrees.

Eleven per cent of graduates questioned in the Department of Education’s 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey said that their degree was “not at all” important for their job, while 15 per cent said that it was “not that” important.

Just 40 per cent of graduates considered their degree in management and commerce – the most popular field of study – to be important for their job, with the figure standing at 41 per cent for information technology and 43 per cent for creative arts degrees.  

Workplace supervisors were more positive, although less than half (48 per cent) of those questioned in the survey thought that management and commerce degrees were important for a graduate’s current employment.

Supervisors of creative arts graduates were equally divided, while just 45 per cent of supervisors of information technology graduates believed the degree to be important.

The survey also found that employers showed a preference for graduates with vocationally-oriented degrees, such as engineering and health, over those with generalist degrees.

Overall, however, 84 per cent of employers said that they were satisfied with the qualifications that graduates got at university, showing a slight fall of about one percentage point.

Writing in The Australian, Innes Willox, head of employer organisation Australian Industry Group, said that the survey showed that some graduates were “verging on the unemployable” ­because degrees were not relevant to their profession.

“If there was any advice I would give the wave of young people about to enter tertiary studies in the next few weeks, it would be to focus on employability skills and seriously consider developing the science, technology, engineering and maths qualifications [that] new workplaces increasingly require,” he writes.

But Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia’s acting chief executive, disagreed, saying: “Employers have given university graduates the equivalent of a high distinction.

“These results tell an overwhelmingly positive story about graduates in the labour market and that universities are preparing their students well for their chosen careers.”

Simon Birmingham, the minister for education and training, said that while the results were encouraging, they also reinforced the need to ensure Australia’s higher education institutions were focused on the work-readiness of graduates.

sophie.inge@timeshighereducation.com

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