How Many Students In University After The Recession?

Almost half of British industries have no intentions of employing any of the hundreds of thousands of new graduates who will flood the job market in the next three months, according to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and KPMG, reported in today’s Independent.

Gerwyn Davis, public policy adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has said:  “It is going to be a long, hot summer for many of this year’s graduates and school leavers, as they sweat over their chances of finding work. Employers have for a long time had doubts about the employability skills of those leaving education, and this year’s crop face employers in a more choosey mood than ever before. Against this backdrop, graduates and school leavers need to sharpen their case for being picked ahead of their classmates – and fast.”

The question is, what will be the lesson learnt for those who are still in high school, but who observe what is happening to their older peers after graduation. In all likelihood they will take it into account when deciding whether to go into higher education when their time comes.

What will be the outcome for universities in the future, when government targets of getting 50 per cent of young people into higher education are weighed against consideration that the average graduate today, who is likely to be leaving university owing £16,000 for tuition fees, is considered for employment by only 50% of employers? And given that bodies like the very Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, mentioned above, come forward with advice like “Employers have for a long time had doubts about the employability skills of those leaving education… students need to get work experience, demonstrate a broad range of non-study related skills…” A university degree is no longer the surest way to a good job. In fact, the winner of the “Best Job in the World”, (care-taker of a tropical island with a salary of 70 000 UKP) advertised by the Australian Board of Tourism landed the job in tough global competition, after an innovative marketing campaign that highlighted the power of social media, rather than qualifications and diplomas (you can see some of the applications on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=islandreefjob&view=videos&start=40).

The first universities were institutional innovation centres which emerged in the 12th to 14th century Europe as a result of the need to consolidate and expand intellectual resources in response to increasing demands for knowledge and skills in the economy and society. Despite debates whether universities have remained these “medieval organisations,” unchanged over the 700-800 years of their existence or have been transformed by major changes, consensus seems to prevail about intensifying pressures for reform in higher education institutions today. It is important that planning and management are not dominated by short-term thinking about immediate problems and maintaining established practices. Neglect of the long term is increasingly problematic in meeting the challenges of complexity and change in higher education. In order to be able to look beyond the constraints of the present, especially when the investment of significant resources is concerned, higher education institutions need to sharpen their capacity to systematically explore and connect together various driving forces, trends, and conditioning factors so as to envisage alternative futures for themselves and for higher education.

Sandra Romenska

BDRA, 26 May 2009

Device Flicking

I’ve often reflected on my teenage daughter’s abilities to multi-task with multiple digital devices and still produce amazing pieces of school work. I frequently come home from work to see her sat on the floor in the living room with the TV on, the laptop on her knees so she can type up her school work, whilst ‘MSNing’ her friends from school (probably about matters I do not want to know about!), updating our dog’s popular Facebook profile and sometimes she even manages to squeeze in a bit of collaboration in an online game through her Nintendo DSi with an old friend from our days in Sheffield all at the same time. Maybe you see similar behaviour with your own children too?

A recent publication from ChildWise (the leading research specialist on children, teenagers and their parents) reports that one in three children told their researchers the possession they could least live without was their computer. The survey of 1,800 children ranging between the ages of 5 and 16, which was undertaken last autumn, found they were spending on average 2.7 hours per day watching television, 1.5 hours on the Internet and 1.3 hours on games consoles.

It was also reported that a casualty of all this screen time has been reading – with only 0.6 hours per day on average and with the number of children reading for pleasure in their own time falling from 80% last year to 75%.

All of this interests me (even if it does not worry me) because in October 2008 the Next Generation Learning initiative was launched to ensure all of England’s school-age children have computer access at home. In January 2009 the Oxford University Press attempted to get boys to enjoy reading with books illustrated with computer- generated images.

I sometimes interrupt my daughter and ask how she copes with all this information, technology and tasks simultaneously – she just stares back at me with a blank expression on her face and says, “It’s natural!”

Is this the latest phase of evolution? Are we developing and promoting a new generation of multi-taskers who will be able to cope with all the stresses and strains of modern employment?

Matthew Wheeler

Keeper of the Media Zoo 

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