Students and employers question the value of university degrees

Posted on Jan 8, 2018 by Graham WynnGraham Wynn

Students and employers question the value of university degrees. The below report published in “The Australian” today, should not be surprising to most of us.

Having interviewed many job seekers, it is clear that a large number of graduates are not work ready and clearly this is something which is lacking at College / University / TAFE.

We are also aware from talking to employers, that unless the qualification is essential for the role, such as a trade, lawyer etc, then they will be seeking people with either the right experience, or if a graduate / entry level role, then the person who has the right personality and attitude.

I have already spoken a number of times about this issue at different institutions, and clearly, there appears to be no change.

This does not also deal with the high dropout rate, caused by people signing on for degrees and part way down the track realising it is not what they want to do. There is a far greater level of people not completing Uni courses then there ever used to be.

We have a long way to go to correct this issue.

Full media article below.
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The university sector is held up as a great ‘‘export industry’’ but one wonders how much quality education we’re really selling when more than half of employers think the bulk of graduates’ degrees aren’t vocationally useful.

The government’s latest survey of employer satisfaction, out today, appears to give a big tick to the nation’s universities: 84 per cent of businesses said they were satisfied with the attributes and skills of the graduates they hired.

The fine print is more sobering: most businesses thought qualifications in ‘‘management and commerce’’ and ‘‘society and culture’’ weren’t important. And graduates themselves in those areas were even more scathing, with barely 40 per cent suggesting they were important to their job.

If these management, commerce and arts courses aren’t providing useful vocational skills, and — forgive me for being cynical — if they aren’t fostering a capacity for innovation in graduates that stands to benefit us all, then why are taxpayers subsidising them so lavishly? More than 11 per cent of graduates surveyed, which would mean about 33,000 a year at current enrolment levels, said their degrees weren’t “at all” useful for their job. A royal commission into the value provided to taxpayers of higher education subsidies would be a far more worthwhile exercise than yet another examination of the financial system.

The Turnbull government is right to chip away — fingers crossed with a view to scrapping — the so-called demand-driven university admissions system introduced by Labor in 2012, where taxpayers are forced to subsidise carte blanche however many students the revenue-­hungry universities can sign up.

The proliferation of dubious degrees alongside the even faster growth of high-fee-paying, non-English-speaking students has eroded the quality of Australian university education.

Public scholarships for bright students, especially from lower-socio-economic backgrounds, is one thing; encouraging larger shares of the population to attend university has sapped the efficiency with which universities are able to sift out the truly brilliant, who might then enlighten us all. Except for highly specialised fields such as engineering and medicine, university is a signalling exercise, a place for individuals to demonstrate their abilities in a verifiable way. We should try to minimise that cost to the public, not maximise it.

There must be more efficient ways for the diligent and able to signal this to potential employees than by spending more years obtaining more credentials at huge public and private cost. If young people want to read books and party for a few years, that’s fine, but it’s hard to make the case this is a public good up there with ­national defence.