Beyond the headlines

by Apr 23, 2012 No Comments

Bright, young and jobless

The class of 2011 left university knowing they were facing the biggest scramble for jobs for a generation.

But UCAS figures for the same year also showed that applications for a university place soared by 2.5 per cent – with 8,000 more hopefuls than in 2010. The surge was explained by the large number of students, desperate to bag a coveted university place, who had missed out on a place the previous year.

University degrees were once considered the main route to a secure and reasonably if not well paid job.

But this month an online survey by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) asked recent graduates what their hopes for the future were. Within eight hours of the launch, more than 500 graduates had responded.

Their answers were indicative of a generation disillusioned by the value of their university education after what has been a crippling four-year financial crisis. Asked what words of wisdom they’d give to current students keen to enter the jobs market, the surveyed graduates did not hold back.

Advice ranged from the considered: “Get as much relevant experience as you can,” to the doom-laden: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Many of the responses encourage prospective graduates to think about taking vocational degrees that will lead directly to a job. Others say abandoning the idea of university altogether and getting work experience is wiser — and won’t burden you with debt.

CAS acting chief executive Susan McPhee said: “It used to be the case that a degree would lead to economic security. Since the recession, however, the outlook for recent graduates has been bleak. In the final quarter of 2011 the unemployment rate for recent graduates was 18.9 per cent – more than double the national average.”

Recent reports have shown work experience candidates are in a better position than recent graduates, some of whom believe they are entitled to a job because they are armed with a well-respected degree from a leading university. And with the cost of a degree now at up to £36,000 a year, the practical worth of a degree is being called into question.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency has released data showing that 28 per cent of 2007 UK graduates were still not in full-time employment in 2011, many ending up having to pursue further study, and greater debts, or being forced into part-time or voluntary work. And this recent study shows graduate cynicism is at a dangerous high. Perhaps it is time to rethink the standard university degree – particularly the arts – and how it prepares young talent for a global jobs market.

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