Social enterprise should be made central to higher education strategy
Thursday, August 23, 2012
When I went to university in the late 1970s, fewer than 20% of school leavers when on to higher education. Some degrees were clearly vocational (medicine perhaps the most obvious example), but most were not. My module on the Comparative Government of Indonesia and Nigeria has not, I’m afraid to say, been of direct relevance to me in the world of work.
However, a degree did give graduates an experience that most of their contemporaries did not have and with that experience some unique opportunities. The ’Milk Round’ university recruiting fairs, run by large often blue-chip organisations, offered a route into management that was by and large exclusive to graduates.
Wind forward 35 years and the Milk Round is no more. The UK now has 50% of school leavers going on to universities to do a degree, competition for graduate level jobs has hugely increased and, significantly, universities are now measured and compared on the number of their graduates that get ’graduate level’ jobs. However, employer organisations, including the CBI, regularly criticise universities for failing to give students the skills they need to operate in the world of work.
In response to this criticism, UK universities have developed a series of initiatives to ensure that the ’student experience’ – both in degree courses run and extra-curricular opportunities provided – give students the competencies that employers want. Compared with the late 1970s, employability is now a strong feature of nearly all degree courses.