I think a positive outcome should mean only one thing: landing a graduate level job that pays a decent salary and allows you to develop the skills you gained throughout your years at university.
Surveys carried out to measure positive outcomes for graduates after university don’t quite look at it this way, however. They tend to define a positive outcome as meaning you go on to further studies or employment.
When graduate outcomes are lumped together in this way it masks the true picture of university employment success rates, and the quality of their careers services.
I don’t agree that they should include further studies – but that’s okay because the surveys don’t agree with each other anyway.
Experts disagree on graduate job success rates
The Lloyds Bank University Quality of Student Life survey of just a week or so ago shows that those students who go to Glasgow Caledonian University come out on top with 96 per cent from the academic year 2011/12 landing a positive outcome.
A YouGov survey, released a few weeks before the Lloyds one, shows that it is the graduates of Imperial College that tend to come out on top when it comes to leaving university.
We need a better measure of positive outcomes for graduates when it comes to employment because that’s why students go to university in the first place.
And just as such a measure shouldn’t include further study, it shouldn’t include menial jobs either. Graduates don’t go to university in order to land a menial job (why would they spend three or four years studying for a job that doesn’t need those qualifications?), although I do believe that recent comments made by Mayor Boris Johnson, that graduates shouldn’t shun those jobs they consider to be below them altogether, have some merit.
The merit in Boris Johnson’s comment
Boris was picking up on what Jamie Oliver previously said about Eastern Europeans being harder working than British kids and how his restaurants would close down without them (another topic entirely). Boris “urged young people not to dismiss certain jobs as beneath them but to see them as ‘stepping-stones’ to greater things”. His comments have some merit in them in as much as such experiences can be certainly considered useful in helping a graduate build the skills he or she needs to move forward. But that’s all.
As we may recall from the YouGov survey, half of employers say graduates are not work ready when they leave university and the top rated universities aren’t necessarily getting that any better than their lesser competitors. That’s because graduates need help to create those stepping-stones to get the jobs they want.
A league table that measures outcomes for graduate level employment
My overriding view is that we urgently need a league table for students’ opinion of how much help they get to find a graduate level job, since ultimately this is what matters most to them.
It should show a breakdown of what universities are doing to help graduates find and prepare for employment, and measure the quality of their careers service support.
Then we can really see which universities do manage to get graduates jobs and, hopefully, build a good picture of those that provide the best employment outcomes rather than those that bury the figures by mixing it up with results on further study.
After all, it is far easier to get a menial job or to get onto a postgraduate level course than it is to land a graduate level job straight after leaving university.