Thames Valley graduates are on the fast track to work

TVU leads league table for getting students into employment. Phil Baty and Hannah Fearn report

July 17, 2008

Thames Valley University tops a new league table of universities with the best record in getting their graduates into employment.

Almost 95 per cent of TVU's graduates went into employment or on to further study within six months of leaving in 2006-07, according to performance indicators released this week by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Although this was not the best record in the sector (some smaller specialist institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music and London's School of Pharmacy achieved 100 per cent), TVU exceeded its target benchmark by the widest margin of all general universities.

While 94.8 per cent of its students were working or continuing to study, its benchmark target, calculated with its individual characteristics such as student profile and subject mix in mind, was 89.8 per cent.

Across the sector, the proportion of graduates assumed to be unemployed fell from 7 per cent in the five years from 2002-03 to 5.7 per cent in 2006-07. The overall graduate employment rate rose only marginally in the same period, from 62.9 per cent to 63 per cent. The proportion of graduates in full-time study after six months remained static at 14.8 per cent over the period. The proportion categorised as being in both employment and further study rose from 7.9 per cent to 8.4 per cent.

TVU's success proved that its strategic policy of being a "business-facing" university was not mere "hyperbole or rhetoric", said Andrew Ward, director of policy and communications. "All our programmes are applied, and we have good links with employers. We encourage students to think about careers right from the beginning."

But the students themselves were crucial. Some 63 per cent of TVU students are part time and a high proportion are mature students, so many undergraduates are familiar with the world of work. "There is a different feel here than at other places," he said.

Napier University obtained a measure of 97.5 per cent against a benchmark of 93.7, making it among the best in the UK, and the best in Scotland, for employability.

Joan Stringer, Napier's vice-chancellor, said the ranking was the result of a number of initiatives. "All Napier programmes are developed in conjunction with employers to ensure that our students are given the skills they will need. This is supported by our Confident Futures programme, available to all our students to help them develop well-founded confidence and the soft skills and attitudes demanded by employers. We continually revise all our study programmes to ensure that the content of these programmes aligns with the changing needs of our key industry sectors."

Among those falling behind were: London Metropolitan University - 82 per cent of its graduates were in employment or further study, but its benchmark was 89.3 per cent; and London South Bank University, whose 83.4 per cent mark was shy of its 89.6 per cent target.

Neither London Met nor London South Bank had responded to requests for comment as Times Higher Education went to press.

Pick up a stick, get a job

Graduates of the University of Leicester picked up more than just their degree certificates at the recent graduation ceremonies at De Montfort Hall.

They were also handed a "Graduate Employability Stick", a computer memory stick packed with information and advice about job-seeking that was provided by the university's careers service.

Some 94.9 per cent of Leicester's 2006-07 graduates were in employment or further study six months after graduation, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency's annual performance indicators. This was exactly in keeping with the university's official benchmark.

But Leicester is keen to boost graduate employability further. The stick, which can be used on any PC, is loaded with interactive presentations and information on job-seeking, making applications, writing CVs and preparing for interviews.

John Constantinou, the careers adviser jointly responsible for developing the information loaded on the stick, said: "Many good graduates these days leave higher education without securing a graduate job, although the evidence is that, within a year or so, most will have done so.

"We expect that the stick will give them the necessary skills and confidence to apply for graduate jobs successfully sooner rather than later. This resource is particularly useful as some graduates find it harder to access careers support after leaving university just when they most need such help."

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