Graduate level jobs: Day of reckoning draws near

Apr 3, 2014

Tories’ plan is a blow to universities that fail to help graduates get good jobs

The day of reckoning draws ever closer for universities that fail to ensure students graduate adequately equipped to land graduate level employment.

No longer will institutions be able to hide behind lofty towers while churning out unsuspecting graduates who end up in dead end jobs because they are ill prepared for the working environment.

The pre election banter between the present government and the opposition reminds me of the warm up punches in a boxing ring.

Within days of the release of figures showing a grave miscalculation in the government’s estimation of the numbers of students that would not be able to repay their loan (in the region of 48% to 50% as opposed to 35%, as previously claimed) the Labour opposition announces its manifesto showing how it would cap university fees to £6000 it were in government today.

Pow. That was the first punch.

The next day the Tories hit back with plans to:

  1. Remove the cap on the numbers universities can enroll – universities can accept as many top performing students as they wish but can only enroll students on a finite number of funded places. This will be lifted in 2015.
  2. Introduce minimum qualifications for graduates who take out loans – universities will now have to meet minimum standards in the quality of the degrees students receive.
  3. And, critically, end the right to charge fees for universities that fail to meet these minimum standards – where fewer than 60% of students fail to achieve at least a first or 2:1 these universities will not be accredited for student loans.

Pow. Pow!

More help for graduates to find graduate level jobs

Universities would be therefore required to do more to produce graduates who are in a position to pay back their student loans. This makes absolute sense and would ‘encourage’ universities to do more to help curtail the black hole created by the student debt crisis.

Paul Kirby, former policy chief for the Tories, told the Guardian that these universities currently ‘offer limited chances of graduate level employment and cost students more than they gain financially’.

These plans would draw the proverbial lines in the sand that determine ‘which universities should be attended and which courses followed’ to guard parents, students and taxpayers from ‘wasting time, effort and money’.

Is this is the wake up call for universities that has been long coming? If a graduate cannot get the graduate level job they need to repay their loans because the university they attended failed to provide them with a good quality of education and preparation, and the university risks financial set back from this as a result, then we should see a good number socks being pulled up.

Universities that already do a novel job in helping their graduates develop the employability skills they require need not fear: it is the estimated 30 per cent whose graduates currently fail to get a graduate level job and the 24 per cent who have a higher than acceptable student drop out rate that need to pull their socks up.

Meanwhile, it will take some skill in the ring for Labour to come back from this right punch with something significant. The Tories say there may be a slight increase in the £9000 fees to fund their plans so perhaps there is opportunity for a left jab there.

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