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The government's announcement of a major review of the National Student Survey signals a worrying shift in the HE regulatory landscape, warns Jon Scott, higher education consultant and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (student experience) at the University of Leicester.
Statements from ministers this week have made it clear that higher education in England is facing significant reforms, re-setting its focus towards helping to plug the UK's skills gaps and rebuilding the economy. Fariba Soetan, Policy Lead for Research and Innovation at the National Centre for Universities and Business, argues that the proposed changes bring a welcome focus on graduate outcomes and supporting the careers of young people.
Universities UK and GuildHE have commissioned the Quality Assurance Agency to develop a new approach to reviewing and enhancing the quality of UK TNE. QAA will consult on a new review method later this year and will launch a programme of in-country enhancement activity in 2021.
After a week of largely disappointing news for UK higher education, Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University, fears that gloomy forecasts for the future of the sector may prove to be uncomfortably accurate.
The class of 2020 will be less prepared for work and face fewer career opportunities because of the pandemic, according to new research.
A survey of nearly 5,000 students and graduates by Prospects, the graduate careers and employability service that is now part of Jisc, showed that 29 per cent of final year students have lost their jobs and 26 per cent have lost their internships while 28 per cent have had their graduate job offer deferred or rescinded.
The poll also found that job losses and fewer opportunities have left almost half (47 per cent) of finalists now contemplating a postgraduate course and 29 per cent are considering a career change.
Almost two-thirds of final year students now feel negative about their future careers. The majority reported that they are lacking in motivation (83 per cent) and feel disconnected from employers (82 per cent). Their biggest concerns are that there will be fewer jobs, internships or apprenticeship opportunities in their chosen industries.
Conversely, 18 per cent of university finalists are feeling positive about their career prospects, which was more evident in men (29 per cent) than women (14 per cent). Respondents commonly reported that the pandemic had given them more time to research their options and make plans.
The research also showed that final year students would like more information from employers, particularly around job opportunities or changes to the recruitment process as well as information on working from home.
While research by the Institute of Student Employers reported that the majority of its members have moved to online recruitment methods, 60 per cent of finalists said they were worried about virtual interviews and assessment centres and 72 per cent wanted help and advice.
Executive director of student services at Jisc, Jayne Rowley, who manages Prospects' services, said: "There is a serious problem brewing for this year's graduates. This is a critical time for finalists who should be developing their skills in part-time jobs and internships and we need to do everything we can to support them.
"Graduating in this pandemic may have taken many important opportunities away, but getting a career started is not insurmountable.
"We are all adapting to extraordinary circumstances and I think students would be amazed at how many valuable skills they are developing during lockdown, such as organisation, communication and resilience. Students may be supporting vulnerable people, shopping for neighbours, setting up a virtual group or sharing their talents online. My advice to students is to reflect on all of the positive things they are doing and use them to demonstrate their skills to employers.
"There is lots of advice and guidance for students and graduates on our website and don't forget university careers services, which are doing everything possible to support students and graduates during this difficult time."
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