Last week’s Graduate Outcome Survey, which looks at employment rates about four months after course completion, showed that full-time employment rates continue to improve. However, the proportion of new graduates looking for full-time work at this time is still high by historical standards, as the chart below shows (many of them have part-time jobs; this is not necessarily unemployment).
At the margins, there are things universities can do to make their graduates more employable. They can offer courses in fields likely to be in labour market demand, and they can offer work-integrated learning to improve graduate employability. Both were happening under the demand driven system.
But unless there is overall job growth graduate employment is unlikely to improve. When the labour market is tight the first thing to go is new entry-level positions, and so this disproportionately affects recent graduates. The effects of downturns are visible in the chart on annual growth in professional occupations and the labour market overall.
The good news is that growth in the professional labour market has fully recovered from the post-GFC crash and the second crash that started in mid-2012.
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This morning The Australian very much delivered in the government’s attempts to use annual data releases to support its case for not paying universities the full funding rate unless they meet various performance indicators. “More than a quarter of the nation’s graduates say their degrees are close to useless for their jobs” read the opening line of its page one lead story.
Concern about graduates taking jobs that don’t require degrees is very long-standing. The other day I was reading a report from 1972 – when hardly anybody had a degree compared to now – that mentioned the issue. In the past, using the approximate method of looking at what jobs graduates are doing, I estimated that in 1979 about 20 per cent of graduates were in jobs unlikely to require degrees. The equivalent figure now is about 30 per cent.
But the survey that triggered today’s story shows how complex these judgments can be. As the chart below shows, the supervisors of graduates are more likely than the graduates themselves to think that the graduate’s qualification is important.
The other interesting aspect of the chart is the very imperfect match between ABS classifications of occupational skill levels and the views of graduates and their supervisors. Read More »
At the Grattan Institute, we are nearing completion of a report on not completing university degrees, one of the measures that could be used in the new performance funding regime.
We’ve got lots of interesting new data on how much time students spend enrolled before they leave, how much they have spent, and the risk factors that can help predict who will complete and who will drop out.
But the data and literature on how people feel about incomplete qualifications is very sparse, and so we decided to run our own online survey.
It’s obviously not a random sample, but with over 800 responses to date we are able to identify some general themes. With more respondents we could start to see whether reactions to not completing differ across student categories.
The survey is going to close in a few days, so if you have dropped out a degree yourself, please take it. Or if you know someone who has dropped out, please forward the link to them.
Our report is going to focus on people who have left university without any degree, but we are also interested in people with a complete degree as well as a complete one.