University of York Students' Union (YUSU)

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Some Thoughts on Employability

Posted by Benjamin Leatham, 17/08/2015

Universities up and down the country are increasingly focusing on employability. From what I can see this is for two primary reasons:

Firstly, prospective students are now expecting to finish their undergraduate degrees not only highly educated, but also highly employable. This is largely due to the increase in fees and the increasingly competitive graduate job market. As a result, if an institution can't convince young people that they are likely to get a well-paid job after graduating then the institution will be seen as a less desirable option for applicants.

Secondly, the DLHE score is a contributing factor in a majority of university league tables. The DLHE measures the percentage of graduates who have a job 6 months after graduating. The higher the percentage, the higher up the league table. League tables play a huge role in the number and type of applications a university gets. As a result, in order to stay high / climb up the league tables universities are trying to produce highly employable graduates.  

The question is whether we should consider this increase in focus amongst universities a good thing. I think yes, and I'm certain a majority of students at York would agree with me. It is something that students are calling for universities to focus on and universities are listening. Despite this, I think this shift in focus is contributing to a wider problem with the perception of higher education. Students are starting to see university as a stepping-stone; a process you have to go through to improve your career prospects. The problem with this mentality is that the intrinsic value a university experience can bring is overlooked. What ever happened to education for education's sake? Why must your degree and everything you do in the meantime only be for the benefit of a more extensive CV? Young people should be excited by the prospect of university, not just because of the job they'll get at the end of it, but because it's an opportunity to further explore their subject of choice, get involved in opportunities they are passionate about and have experiences that will help develop their core values and beliefs. By doing this, and then reflecting on those experiences, employability comes naturally.