Thursday, September 17, 2009

Only three quarters of graduates have full time jobs.

HESA recently launched their findings from the most recent longitudinal study of graduates, looking at the outcomes of graduates from 2004/5.

The press coverage of Longitudinal DLHE was especially interesting, as much of it was actually plain wrong.

This piece, from the Times, is typical.

There are some contentious statements. “According to figures suggesting that a bachelor’s qualification alone is no longer a passport to a well paid job” is sufficiently a cliché that the same words (substituting ‘degree’ for ‘bachelor’s’) come up as appearing in the Times at regular intervals since 2004. It also suggests that at some point a degree was a “passport to a well paid job”. Setting aside that this phrase is essentially meaningless, I take it to mean that the writer feels that at some point, getting a degree guaranteed the holder a “good” job. Well, it never has and it never will.

That’s not the worst of it. The Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian all reported that ‘a quarter of all graduates were not in full time jobs’. This is actually not true. What actually happened is that the data contains a series of categories, including people who were in full-time employment, people who were in part time employment, people who were combining work and study, people who were in further study, and so on.

Now, some of (in fact many of) those people who were combining work and study were also working full time. But the papers all didn’t realize that – or didn’t mention it. Maybe it’s because it was on the first line of the press release?

They also, shall we say, selectively reported the data in such a way as to create a negative impression. Would you say people studying for a PhD represented positive or negative outcomes for universities? The headlines about ‘full time employment’ suggest it’s negative.

That’s even before you get to the question of whether people working part time actually want to work part time or not. Some might. Some might not. For those who want a full time job, it is not good. For some who might be combining work with family life (don't forget that 'part time' means 'less than 30 hours a week' - or, in other words, anyone working less than 5 days a week), it's not.

My wife works part time. She's a graduate. It's not because of educational failure, it's because we have an 11 month old machine for throwing books on the floor that is dressed as a little girl. Lots of graduates could actually have families - last year, a quarter of graduates were over 25 on graduation, and 15% were over 30.

Buried in the press stories was the fact that in a recession, three and a half years after graduating, 2.6% of the 2004/5 graduating cohort were unemployed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fabulous Triumphant Return

Uncommon Elements returns in September.

The pressure of new fatherhood, and my own work requirements have meant I had to go on unplanned hiatus, but with higher education becoming more prominent, it's time, not just to resurrect this blog, but to try to publicise it a little.

It'll be much the same, only, hopefully, a little more frequent.

Stick around.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Jeff Randall Gets It Wrong

If someone like Randall can't even get simple HE policy right, then what chance for other commentators.

In today's Telegraph, Randall has an entertaining knockabout pop at education policy, and comes out with the depressingly common fallacy:

Yet Labour clings to its ludicrous target of driving 50 per cent of British school-leavers into university

Setting aside whether an HE participation target is 'ludicrous' or not, as any fule kno, that's not the policy.

Once again with feeling,

The policy is not to 'drive 50% of school leavers into university'.

It's for 50% of 18 to 30 year olds to have had some experience of higher education.

Jeff Randall is an experienced and influential journalist, and here he is reciting a popular, simple factual error that any graduate could have researched in a couple of minutes.

Yes, the standard of critiques of education standards remains depressingly low.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The National Internship Scheme is the name of the proposal for companies to offer three month internships to graduates having trouble in the labour market this summer.

As yet, details are a bit scanty. The companies named actually already offer internships. Does this mean that they'll be paid to do what they were going to do already, or will they add more interns?

Is three months long enough for graduates to gain useful skills (I think so, but will the employment market)?

What about other, established internship schemes? Will they be getting money? Who will administer these schemes, and how will students get onto them? Will it be limited to certain institutions (either purposely or effectively)?

And when the recession is over, will the companies then start to claim they can't offer internships without public money? This is the question that bothers me.

That said, I'm glad that John Denham and his departmnet are actually thinking about the situation that students will find themselves in and trying to do something about it. Let's hope they've got this right and the graduates benefit.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

And finally (for today)

Stuff on internships for later.

Just a note about the Telegraph's coverage of the internship idea: 400,000 people get HE qualifications of some kind or other in a given year. About 270,000 people will get first degrees, and I'm sure the Telegraph didn't mean to imply anything else.