Posted tagged ‘graduate employment’

Over-qualified graduates?

February 16, 2012

The European Union publishes an annual report entitled Key Data on Education in Europe. In the 2012 issue there is some interesting statistical analysis of the structure and nature of Europe’s education systems. For me, one finding suggested in the report rather stands out:

‘… A growing number of young people appear to be overqualified for the type of employment they find. This suggests the need for more efficient forecasting of the short- and long-term needs of the labour market with a view to providing reliable educational and careers guidance to students so that improvements can be made in matching young people’s educational qualifications with actual employment opportunities.’

At first sight it is not easy to see the basis for this conclusion in the data recorded, but it appears to rest on the finding that, across Europe, up to 40 per cent or so of graduates find work as technicians, clerks, craft workers or machine operators – the assumption being that none of these jobs require higher education degrees. In other words, it is assumed that the graduates working in them do so because they could not find employment more suitable to their qualifications.

Of course in a recession graduates, like others, will find it more difficult to secure employment, and some will opt for non-ideal jobs that will at least give them an income. But the same report also finds that graduates find work ‘two times faster’ than non-graduates.

In many countries it has been public policy for a while to increase participation in higher education, and to upgrade educational qualifications across the population. It would be highly reckless to suggest now that this has been a mistake. In fact, much more analysis would have to be done before anyone could conclude that people are leaving higher education with qualifications beyond their needs. The European report suggests that maybe students are choosing the wrong subjects, and there is some evidence to support that contention: we know for example that there are significant vacancies in the information  technology sector that, even now, cannot be filled with appropriately qualified graduates. On the other hand the evidence still is that all graduates are more likely to find a job quickly.

Careers guidance and the careful selection of programmes of study is always desirable, but in the end there is still little evidence that a university education, of whatever kind, does anything other than support labour market success. Public policy should continue to recognise this.

Graduate employment

July 17, 2011

Every year the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in the UK releases data on graduate employment and unemployment. More specifically, it shows how many graduates are employed or engaged in further study six months after completing their studies. Leaving aside the position of graduates of smaller specialist institutions, the 20 universities with the best performance in the table published on Friday are as follows, in this order (figure in brackets is the percentage of graduates in work or study after six months):

The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen (95.7%)
Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln (95.5%)
The University of Surrey (94.8%)
The University of Edinburgh (94.5%)
Trinity University College (94.4%)
The University of Aberdeen (94.4%)
Canterbury Christ Church University (94.3%)
The University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (94.3%)
University of Glamorgan (94.2%)
Cardiff University (94.1%)
Harper Adams University College (93.8%)
The University of Keele (93.8%)
The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (93.8%)
The University of Huddersfield (93.7%)
The Nottingham Trent University (93.7%)
The University of Cambridge (93.6%)
Edge Hill University (93.6%)
Leeds Trinity University College (93.6%)
The University of Bristol (93.4%)
Newman University College (93.3%)

At the bottom of the table are the following:

London South Bank University (82.4%)
The University of Wales, Lampeter (81.1%)
The University of Bolton (79.9%)
UHI Millenium Institute (78.3%)
The University of East London (78.0%)

It is an interesting table. Two newspapers (the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail) have suggested that it shows that graduates of post-1992 universities fare less well in securing employment than old universities; this is not borne out by the table, which in fact suggests that at least at the top end old and new universities are not easily distinguishable. Actually, Oxford does not make it into the top 20, and Cambridge is at number 16. More generally the Russell Group universities do not perform particularly well. Scottish universities are, on average, better than English universities. And in that context, I am of course delighted that my own university, Robert Gordon University, leads the field.

Also interesting is the information about subject areas of study. The best post-study employment rates are in medicine and related subjects, followed by education, law, agriculture and biology. Mass communications and computer science fare worst.

Overall, even with the uneven performance between institutions and subjects noted here, a university degree still looks a good bet: 90 per cent of graduates across the UK as a whole are in employment or further study after six months. We do not have entirely up to date statistics for Ireland, but in 2006 the equivalent figure appears to have been 92%; it is likely that in current economic conditions this will have been eroded.

Graduate emigration?

August 18, 2010

Earlier this week I looked at the data, as much as there is, on graduate unemployment in Ireland, based on figures released for those who graduated in 2008. Also during this week we have been hearing quite a bit about graduate emigration. On Monday the Irish Times reported on a protest outside the Cork constituency office of Minister for Enterprise Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, organised by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI); and the Irish Independent has been assessing the case of Carol Flannery, an archeology graduate from Mayo who has been unable to find work and who is planning to emigrate to America or Australia.

We need to be careful that we are not building up a sense of crisis regarding emigration based solely on anecdotes. Some graduates will always emigrate, and that is not necessarily a bad thing as we need to ensure that at least some people with world class skills are internationally mobile. Even in good times some will find it hard to get employment at home, and for returning graduates some international experience will be good for them and ultimately for the rest of us. On the other hand, it is obviously important that many or most of those who have been educated in Ireland stay here and help to build up our society and economy.

But where is the correct balance? In the end I suspect that there is no good answer to this, and that in any case this is not a problem which can be remedied in any specific way beyond measures to stimulate economic growth. Although I feel sympathy for those who feel they must leave Ireland to find employment and who would really prefer to stay, I am not sure what the protestors at Batt O’Keeffe’s office actually wanted him to do. And as for Ms Flannery, I have always understood archeology to be a highly international profession in which mobility is the norm; I doubt that current economic conditions would be the major factor in the availability of employment in Ireland for archeologists.

On the other hand of course, we must aim never to return to the situation in the 1970s and 1980s, when often a significant majority of a graduating class could expect to be emigrating. To avoid a return to that, we must do what is necessary to return the economy to health.

Employing the graduates

August 16, 2010

According to information released recently by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), 10 per cent of those who graduated from Irish higher education institutions with an honours degree in 2008 were unemployed six months later. The figure for those graduating with a postgraduate degree in 2008 (including PhDs) was even higher, at 12 per cent. Both figures showed a very considerable worsening of graduate unemployment: a year earlier the percentages had been 3 and 5, respectively.

The HEA document described this as being one of the ‘full effects of the recession’, and this may well explain the increase. However, this trend will need to be watched over the next year or so; data relating to 2009 graduates should by now be available for comparison purposes. If the trend continues, it provides us with an additional reason for looking again at higher education participation targets, and at the capacity of the labour market to absorb the planned increases. There must necessarily always be some graduate unemployment, but rates of 10 per cent should raise some questions. As I have noted before, it may make more sense to increase higher education participation in a targeted way amongst socio-economically disadvantaged groups than to raise the overall participation rate.

The future for men – a PS

August 17, 2009

Following my recent blog post on the issues raised by under-achieving young men, today’s Guardian newspaper has a report which reveals that, in the UK, women are also more likely to find employment quickly after graduating from university, with a higher percentage in employment within six months. Admittedly, the percentage of those in full-time employment is about the same for men and women, but when you also factor in part-time and other kinds of employment, more women than men have jobs. The percentage of men who are unemployed – i.e. who have no job and don’t go on to take a higher degree – is greater than that of women.

However, the Guardian also reveals that more men than women go on to do postgraduate work. I am not absolutely sure what to read into that, but it is possible that it could indicate that the imbalance between men and women in senior posts will not be redressed as quickly as it should be. At any rate all the figures we have seen over the past week indicate that urgent attention needs to be given to gender issues in education.