Social (network) destinations

A social network is posting employment data on alumni by university. Chris Parr clicks through

September 12, 2013

LinkedIn, the social media giant, has started publishing details of what each university’s students do after graduating.

When users register with LinkedIn – a social network for professionals with more than 238 million members worldwide – they are asked to give information about their alma mater and their employment history. Now, these data are being aggregated and displayed on dedicated university pages that can be accessed by anyone.

When the service was launched in August, 200 university pages from institutions around the world went live, including 24 from the UK. The network has a goal of 23,000 over the next few months.

David Gauntlett, professor of media and communications and head of the Centre for Social Media Research at the University of Westminster, said that some institutions would be “nervous” about the publication of uncontrolled information about their graduates’ careers.

“However, from the student point of view, it’s a good thing,” he continued. “Social media can provide more direct stories and experiences – as well as some pretty decent statistics about graduate destinations – which you probably wouldn’t expect to get from university marketing departments.”

According to LinkedIn spokesman Darain Faraz, students and recent graduates are the fastest-growing demographic on the social network. “We wanted to provide aspiring young professionals with tools to help them make informed decisions on universities…[and] achieve personal and professional success,” he said.

The University of Nottingham is one of the 24 UK institutions with a live university page. It currently offers career information about more than 65,200 alumni and students, revealing their country of origin, current employer and the type of work they do.

Tom Wright, digital engagement manager at Nottingham, said the page would be a valuable tool that could potentially rival official information sources such as Key Information Sets and the government’s Unistats website.

“In the past, we have used LinkedIn to interact with professionals, and for promoting postgraduate courses,” he said, adding that would-be undergraduates and their parents might now be attracted to the site when applying to university.

The university pages could also become an important information source for overseas students, he said, particularly in China where, unlike other Western social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn is not censored.

However, he sounded a note of caution on the reliability of the data, which is submitted by users and not independently verified.

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