Junior economist jobs at the Grattan Institute

The Grattan Institute is advertising for junior economists to work as associates. The job involves working with a program director (me on higher education and my colleagues who run schools, cities, energy and productivity programs) on various projects. Associates rotate between programs, so there will be opportunities to learn about several areas.

Details here.

Where do journalism graduates work?

The Higher Education Supplement this morning has a series of articles on journalism degrees. I did send some 2006 census statistics in, but they don’t seem to have made it to print.

The good news is that back then there were reasonably good rates of employment in professional and managerial jobs, 74% of bachelor graduates and 83% of masters or above graduates. However, only a minority of them were working as journalists, as seen in the figure below. Around 9 percentage points more were in related occupations such as PR or advertising (and there could be more working in the media industry, but in other roles).

I had a quick look at the broad fields of study of people working as journalists. A caveat here is that the census asks about the main field of study in the respondent’s highest qualification. Many people taking a postgraduate journalism qualification are likely to have a bachelor degree in some other field. With that caveat, the broad “creative arts” category that includes journalism courses is the field of study of nearly half of journalists, with “society and culture” (essentially humanities and social sciences, but also law and economics) providing more than a quarter of journalists with their education.

Bachelor degrees the science employment risk

The Higher Education Supplement this morning ran an op-ed version of my critique of Ian Chubb’s promotion of science courses. About 60 words were cut from the original. Editors often have to shrink articles to the available space, but in this case an important source was omitted. The employment outcomes in the last few paragraphs are from the 2006 census, not the Beyond Graduation survey as the op-ed appears to say. An amended version of the op-ed is under the fold.

Those paragraphs were the only part of the article that I had not reported before. In the past, I have said that science graduates as a whole have about average rates of graduate employment in professional and managerial jobs. However, closer analysis tells a more interesting story. People with postgraduate science qualifications have above rates of professional and managerial employment. But people with bachelor-level qualifications have lower rates of such employment – males 5 percentage points below the male average, and women a massive 13 percentage points below the female average. That’s a pretty bad outcome, and one worth further investigation when the 2011 census is released later this year.

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The launch of My University

The government’s My University website launched this morning.

Overall, I think it is a good start in giving students more information to help with their higher education choices. There is information by university and field of study on student satisfaction with teaching and generic skills development, attrition rates, employment rates, staff qualifications, student:staff ratios, and other things. The meaning of these numbers is often contested – the methodology section suggests caution on some matters – but overall it is better than general impressions or historical reputation.

Here is an example of how the information is presented, for Macquarie University business.

There is also information on general campus facilities. Here is an example for Murdoch University.

Some suggestions for future versions of the site:

* How to get to the course performance information is not intuitive. ‘Course search’ will provide a list of courses in the field of study of interest, but the comparison tool only gives ATARs and cost. The latter will be useful if fees are deregulated, but under the current system the student contributions will be much the same. To find course performance information, users have to go to ‘university search’, and then choose the field of study. Comparison between universities will be difficult without printing out results for each university.

* For non-university higher education providers (NUHEPs), their courses can be located through ‘course search’ but not ‘university search’. No information on admission requirements or cost was in any of the results from random searches. Nor is there any information on course performance, though some NUHEPs are in the relevant surveys (there may be sample size issues). To get a proper market, we need to include the NUHEPs as fully as possible.

An electorate than thinks government does too much, except for all the areas in which it does too little

Today’s Essential Research poll highlights the perils of trying to draw any specific policy conclusions from public opinion on high-level questions.

First, its respondents were asked about the size of government, and the answer suggested that perhaps a large number of voters had suddenly converted to classical liberalism:

But more specific questions suggest that the vague feeling that governments are too big does not translate into wanting government to do less in key areas of activity. In every proposition put to the Essential respondents, a plurality wanted the government to do more, and in most clear majorities wanted the government to do more. The 44% of respondents who earlier in the survey had thought government did too much shrank to a constituency of between 1% and 10%.

This is why governments have so much trouble cutting spending, and why genuine ‘tough budgets’ are very rare.

The low employment relevance of science degrees

Back in February, Chief Scientist Ian Chubb used a report (pdf) on science enrolments to promote the view that we are producing too few science graduates. I disputed that claim.

The recently released Beyond Graduation 2011 report (pdf), of graduates three years out, provides further reason to be very cautious about science boosterism.

One question in the survey asks employed graduates whether their qualification was a formal requirement, important, somewhat important or not important for their job. The figure below shows that after three years those with science degrees are only just saved by the creative arts from having the qualifications least likely to be a formal requirement or important for their holder’s job.

As the text points out, many graduates who rate their degree as not important are in managerial or professional jobs. So the lack of direct relevance may not be a problem from their point of view. But that so many science graduates find employment where a science degree is not required hardly suggests general shortages of science qualifications.