So what are you expecting of your university?
This is the time of year when thousands of young people prepare to go to university for the first time; and of course many mature adults are also taking this step. But what are they expecting to find there, and what do they hope that their studies will secure for them?
The UK version of the Huffington Post website carries a piece setting out some common misconceptions of university life; in particular the assumption that it’s all about fun, friends and partying. Most students already know this before they come – they are more likely to be focused on the added value they will get in the labour market.
I am pleased to lead the university that has the best record in the UK for graduate employment, but it doesn’t work like that for all institutions. Australian universities, as we have just been told, are much less successful in this regard: in a number of universities and in some subjects fewer than one-third of graduates have been able to secure jobs within four months of graduating. But even in elite Australian universities and in traditional or mainstream subjects (like law) over a quarter of Australian graduates may be without a job (where in my university it would be fewer than 3 per cent).
Does this matter? Is it the role of a university education to secure access to employment? As universities develop new strategies, harness technology, move into new interdisciplinary courses and enter into partnerships and alliances it will be important to have a clear concept of what students should be able to expect from their studies. This may of course not be the same for all institutions; but it is unlikely that students generally will regard employability as an irrelevance.