Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Mickey Mouse" Degrees and Employability

Interesting article in today's Sunday Times, that bastion of traditionalism. The argument is made that degrees frequently described as "mickey mouse" - and how often have we heard those comments in the media, including on R4's Today programme - are now proving a hit with employers.

David Willets. the shadow secretary of state for innovation, universities and skills has said:

"“The attitude towards some so-called Mickey Mouse courses is a classic example of the information problem. There is an assumption that all of those courses must be useless, but when you look at the hard evidence, it’s just not the case. Some of these courses are useful, and some of them are useless. Some of them are really valued by employers. Young people and their parents are entitled to that information.”

Peter Bradwell, at the think-tank Demos, has recently completed a study on higher education and the university system, and believes Willetts may have caught the mood. “Whatever angle you look at higher education from,” he says, “the really interesting question is why people do a degree, and why that might be changing.

“Traditionally, going to university was about learning, utility and virtue. As the cost of higher education is increasing, and falling more heavily on the learner, students are going to think much more rigorously about what kind of returns they are going to get.”"

The comment is made in the article of a student who attended a top 20 University, which had a graduate employment rate of only 56% for that course.

Students are becoming increasingly discriminating consumers, especially those who are choosing vocational qualifications, and tables such as the National Student Survey are useful here, giving the kind of data that might help more than a simple ranking in a typical league table. But still, NSS results need to be read with caution - the data provided is still not granular enough to give an indication by course - students would be best advised to read all sources of information, and ask some piercing questions at University open days.

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