Students ‘want universities to find jobs for them’

Institutions urged to outline more clearly what undergraduates can expect of them

May 27, 2019
Source: Getty

While students increasingly expect work experience to be embedded in their courses, new research suggests that many want universities to take the next step.

In a survey of 1,000 Australian students, three-quarters said that universities had a responsibility to help them find employment. More than one-third of respondents to the survey, commissioned by study assistance company Studiosity, thought that universities should be “partnering students with jobs after they graduate”.

Studiosity chief academic officer Judyth Sachs said that it was the first time she had heard students express such opinions. She was not aware of previous research conflating the roles of universities and work placement agencies.

Professor Sachs, a former provost at Sydney’s Macquarie University, said that the findings raised issues about “alignment of expectations” and the need for universities to meet students halfway by arranging practical learning experiences.

She said that many universities that she had worked with expected students to find their own placements. Others regarded lining up such opportunities as part of their duty of care to ensure that students were in safe environments, learning things aligned to their courses.

“Is there value in students applying their learning through work-integrated learning placements, service learning or whatever you call it? That’s the overarching question. Then there is a question about what role the university should play, so that responsibility for finding placements also gets clarified,” she said.

“But I certainly don’t feel it’s the role of the university to find jobs. Universities are not recruitment agencies. Students have to go and find jobs themselves. That’s what life is like.”

Most responses to the survey came from women aged under 26. Thirty-six per cent of respondents said that universities should match students with jobs, while 25 per cent said they should offer more work placement courses and 15 per cent wanted more practical elements in classes.

Just under half said that universities had a “duty” to help transition students from the classroom to the workplace. Another 17 per cent said that helping students get jobs was “part of the education process”, with a further 13 per cent insisting “that’s what people pay for”.

Professor Sachs said that such attitudes reflected “the whole zeitgeist” of today’s students. “There is a sense of I’m paying for a service, and this is a service that I expect,” she said.

She said that the primary function of work-integrated learning was to counter exactly these types of attitudes. “The most important thing these sorts of programmes do is [promote students’] ability to self-regulate, to be resilient, to work as part of a team and solve problems.”

Professor Sachs said that the main message from the survey was that expectations needed to be more clearly outlined. “Universities need to clarify what [they] will deliver, what students can expect and what the university expects of students. A sort of a contractual relationship needs to be developed between the student, the university and the organisation offering the placement.”

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Professor Sachs's reference to 'issues of the alignment of expectations' is neatly illustrated by the report that students believe “that’s what people pay for”.

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