Students unrealistic about skill level of jobs

Expectations of fast track to graduate-level job are overoptimistic, suggests report

June 26, 2014

Students are “massively overestimating” the skill level of jobs that they will get after graduating, according to a new report.

Almost 80 per cent of students expect to be in a graduate-level job within six months of leaving university. But comparable government figures suggest that only 53 per cent will be in such positions within five years, it says.

Humanities students are more realistic about their employment prospects than those from other subjects, finds the survey of 4,000 students in a report by the National Centre for Universities and Business.

This could be “because of media narrative around those subjects and their [perceived] lack of real world application”.

Just 56 per cent of history and philosophy students expect to have graduate jobs within six months, compared with more than 90 per cent of students in medicine and dentistry, engineering and technology and subjects allied to medicine.

“While students seem to have fairly realistic estimates of their likely salaries after graduation, they massively overestimate the skill-level of the jobs they will get on graduation,” says the report, published on 26 June.

Although 62 per cent of students said that employment prospects were an important factor when choosing their institution, just 6 per cent of them collected information about employer recommendations. “[This suggests] a potential gap in understanding reflected in later destinations,” says the report, the second part of the NCUB’s Student Employability Index 2014.

Aaron Porter, director of external affairs at NCUB and former president of the National Union of Students, said: “Universities and employers, as well as students themselves, have a role to play in making sure that students have the information they need before they choose an institution, and as they plan a career.”

He added that if students “are to fulfil their ambitions, they need to seek out and have access to greater information about the skills that employers want”.

Prospectuses, open days and league tables were the most popular sources of information about universities and courses used by students. The least popular were employers and Twitter, according to the report.

The quality of the course and overall reputation of the university ranked at the top of the list of factors that students found important when deciding where to go, with 85 per cent and 74 per cent of students specifying these factors respectively.

Meanwhile, the number of contact hours and nightlife were the least important factors, with 19 and 25 per cent of students citing these.

The proportion of students that cited job prospects as an important factor in choosing their university varied nationwide. More than 70 per cent of students from Wales said this, compared with 53 per cent from the North East. The average across all home regions was 62 per cent.

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