Higher education 'facing challenges in preparing students for work'

Only one in 12 graduates believe their college education fully prepared them for their careers, according to a new international study by Instructure, the US education technology company.

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Instructure, the company behind the Canvas learning management system, surveyed almost 8,000 current and former students from 14 different countries.Although 68 per cent of participants said they felt their university or college had prepared them to a certain extent for their chosen careers, only 8.4 per cent said they had been "fully" prepared."Beyond the liberal arts, higher education is being asked to ensure students have mastered competencies that lead to careers in their fields. We wanted to discover how well colleges are doing in the eyes of students, and whether their perspective changes when they enter the workforce," said Jared Stein, vice-president in charge of research and education at Instructure."By focusing on student attitudes toward career preparedness and lifelong learning, this study gives some insight into how education can adapt to the changing expectations for higher education."Based on online responses, the study quizzed students and graduates in Denmark, United States, Australia, United Kingdom, India, Singapore, South Africa, Colombia, Japan, Norway, Brazil, Sweden, Turkey and China.It found there was a tendency for students to overestimate their career preparedness. While 11.3 per cent of undergraduates said they believed college was "fully preparing" them for their careers, only 5.7 per cent of graduates said this was so after entering the workforce.There were also marked national differences between the number of graduates who found work in their chosen field. While 85 per cent in Colombia said they had been able to follow their chosen paths – followed by Denmark (83 per cent), Norway, Turkey and India (all 79 per cent) – only 30 per cent said they had been able to in Japan. More than two-thirds were working in their chosen fields in the US, UK and Australia.The study found that students who completed their degrees were able to land a job in their field 70 per cent of the time, while those who attended for two years and did not get a degree were only able to land a job they wanted 42 per cent of the time.Graduates who entered a field related to their major felt college prepared them significantly more for work than those who did not."Higher ed faces a challenge today in delivering on the promise of career preparedness," Mr Stein said. "However, it's becoming increasingly clear that students must also develop the skills and habits for self-directed, lifelong learning. This will allow them to adapt to not just uncertainty in the job market, but also new skill requirements that emerge within a field and even entirely new fields or career paths."Don't miss the Re:locate Guide to International Education & Schools, published Autumn 2015.For more Re:locate news and features on education and schools, click here