Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Number of UG courses are down...but what about PG?

Last week, we saw stories suggesting a large fall in the number of undergraduate courses available to new students.

It's a pretty substantial drop, although we must stress the figures are disputed and it's difficult, thanks to the UK's laudably flexible system to get a very accurate figure with all the options of combined studies and so on, that are available.

But what of postgraduate study? Well, Graduate Prospects, of course, runs the National Postgraduate Database of PG course and study options, so we're in a position to have a stab at examining how things have changed. We're still working on getting really accurate figures, but we think that between 2006/7 and 2011/12, the number of PG courses available has gone up appreciably, with almost the whole rise in business and finance ( the number of courses available in the arts and in STEM seems to have held relatively steady).

In a way, this is unsurprising - we predicted a rise in PG enrolments as downturn became recession, and we were right about that, so with more students, you might expect more diversity. But it's still interesting, and begs a number of questions about whether this will be sustained, what this means for students and how this feeds into the ongoing and very timely debate on postgraduate provision.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Unemployment again

Is it really that long since I posted? As many readers know I'm working on a magnum opus on regional graduate employment, and in case you didn't then, hi, sorry for not posting, I'm working on a huge report on regional graduate employment. It's going to be really good. Also, long.

Anyway, I just had a chat with a journalist from a national newspaper (that's not unusual in itself) about the new figures produced by the ONS on youth unemployment.

They, rightly, wondered if there was more to the figures showing the unemployment rate for graduates being similar to those leaving school with A levels than meets the eye. There is, of course, something which has passed some other journalists by.

It's all very well quoting a rather unhelpful figure for how what proportion of graduates don't have something sorted out the day they leave university, but it doesn't really address  the real state of the graduate jobs market, as I pointed out last year when similar figures came out (and anyway, rather a lot of graduates aren't 21 when they leave, so even the figure of 24.8% quoted - not, incidentally, the same as the figure of 25.9% for young people with only a GCSE, despite what you might read - isn't giving a real picture of anything much for graduates.

Then, there's the question of how big that cohort of A level students who don't go to university actually is, and what they're doing if they're not signing on.

We lack firm data about what proportion of graduates in the past had something arranged on leaving university. We don't know if three quarters already having something lined up (let's gloss over those people not working on graduation, but due to start in the autumn) is high or low. We do know that destination data shows that a sizeable majority of those out of work at graduation will get jobs over the next few months.

We also know, from the very ONS report being quoted, that the medium term outlook for graduates is far better than for other qualifications.

The job prospects for graduates are not the same as for people with lower qualifications. Always read the full report (and this one's only 7 pages, including appendices. Large type.)