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Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations for the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD), reviews a week of higher education news in which concerns emerged over universities’ financial stability due to Covid-19 and the impact of the crisis on students.
A growing number of higher education conferences and events are being postponed or moved online in response to the Coronavirus restrictions.
Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.
The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
Brexit is unlikely to affect the demand for graduates or halt an upward trend in the number of graduate jobs, some of the UK's largest employers have said.
The Institute of Student Employer's Pulse Survey 2019 has found that firms are increasing their apprentice and graduate vacancies by 27 per cent this year, offering more than 17,000 entry jobs, and nearly three quarters (70 per cent) do not expect Brexit will have any impact on their recruitment needs.
However, more than half (55 per cent) of employers admitted they were unable to find suitable candidates for entry-level jobs last year, with 1,839 jobs left unfilled, and there are concerns that Brexit may make it more difficult to source the talent they need. Filling specialist and technical jobs both at entry level and in more experienced roles is of greater concern than filling more general positions.
Graduate roles continue to dominate the market, accounting for two thirds of posts. However, apprenticeships are growing much more rapidly than graduate jobs. Growth in vacancies is reflected in how much of the apprenticeship levy employers are spending, which is expected to increase by more than a quarter this year.
Demand for graduates has increased the most in the public sector (up 32 per cent). More graduate jobs are also more likely to be found in finance, fast-moving consumer goods, the built environment and IT.
The number of apprenticeships available has increased the most in retail and IT, up 128 per cent and 65 per cent respectively. While there is also significant demand for apprentices in energy, engineering and industry (up 40 per cent), this is the only sector to reduce the number of graduate jobs (3 per cent fall).
Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the ISE said: "It will be welcome news to students and graduates that companies are optimistic about the number of jobs they'll be offering this year. There are more routes into some of the country's best jobs and apprenticeships continue to grow at pace, suggesting the government's apprenticeship strategy is maturing and starting to have the desired effect.
"There are, however, concerns over the supply of talent: that the market is contracting and Brexit may compound the issue and make for an even tougher climate. Getting the specialist and technical skills necessary for businesses to not just survive, but also grow and thrive, will be vital over the coming months and years. Clarity is needed as soon as possible to enable employers to plan."
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