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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.
Earning potential is a key factor influencing students in their choice of university course, a study suggests.
Almost nine out of ten (86 per cent) of students in the UK who took part in a survey said earning potential played an “important part” in their decision about where to study.
The Student Employability Index research involved 115,000 students at 55 universities and was carried out by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) for the Compass Group.
Almost six out of 10 students (58 per cent) said their decision about where to study had been influenced by whether there was an opportunity to work while studying.
This opportunity was particularly valued by those taking vocational courses, such as tourism and hospitality and media and communications.
Students from outside the UK were more likely to say earnings potential and student work opportunities were important. Among those from the UK, 83 per cent said earnings were important in their decision about where to study, while for students from other parts of the EU the figure was 86 per cent and for those outside the EU, it was 90 per cent.
According to the NCUB, “students carry out in-depth research when choosing what and where to study” and “increasing financial pressures” mean they are considering an “increasing number of factors”.
In terms of the quality of work experience, the researchers found structured placements such as teaching and medicine received higher satisfaction ratings, whilst “less-defined placement pathways, such as languages, philosophy and classics scored poorly”.
David Docherty, chief executive of NCUB, said there was a “huge appetite for structured programmes”.
He added: “Businesses and universities are conscious of the need to increase the UK’s talent pool through more, better and satisfying work experience programmes."
The NCUB said students were generally satisfied with the careers advice they received from university staff. At most universities 70 per cent of students were happy with this. But rates varied between universities, and only four out of 55 scored above 85 per cent.
Students studying foreign languages, multi-subject degrees, social sciences and language and literature were the least satisfied – with scores typically between 62 per cent and 68 per cent. Subjects which scored the highest were English language preparation (91 per cent), medicine, dentistry and related subjects (82 per cent), engineering and business and administration (both 80 per cent).
Dennis Hogan, managing director of Compass Group UK & Ireland, said the findings showed a “clear window of opportunity for businesses and universities to focus on the wants and needs of today’s students in order to cultivate future talents”.
The NCUB said more could be done to improve access to careers advice and to “strengthen the bond between business and universities”.
Loughborough University student William James, who is currently doing a work placement with Chartwells, said: “As someone who studies a non-vocational degree, the opportunity to gain a foothold in the job market is something that I could not pass up, with the skills that I have learned this year being really useful for when I return to university, as well as in future employment.”
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