Our graduates doomed to unemployment

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In a High Fliers graduate recruitment survey that came out just over a week ago St Andrews, apparently the 4th best university in the UK, failed to make the list of the top 25 best universities for graduate employment.

The results of this survey found that the University of Nottingham was the best university to go to if you were hoping to get a job after graduating. Since obtaining employment is one of the primary incentives to attend university in the first place, it’s a pretty serious issue. High Fliers conduct a number of surveys every year looking at graduate employment, from the companies that hire the most graduates to most prosperous industry areas.

With the exceptions of Aston, Lancaster, Reading, Strathclyde and St Andrews, all of the universi- ties they look at are of the Russell Group, an organization that recruits universities ‘committed to maintaining the very best research’. For its survey, High Fliers looks at 18,000 students in total, conducting face-to-face interviews as well as consulting statistics.

It is curious that every year Oxbridge ranks in the top ten universities in the United Kingdom, but never at the very top of the university employability pyramid. After all, Nottingham and Manchester are 24th and 25th respectively in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2014, but among the top ten in employer attractiveness.

The High Fliers survey is therefore somewhat questionable. Even the press release announcing the survey results expressed surprise at the fact that Lancaster University and the University of St Andrews did not make the top 25, despite being 12th and 4th on the overall league tables.

A thread on The Student Rooms revealed that perhaps this is not due to the quality of the university at all, but rather the size. Nottingham and Manchester both have an overwhelming 40,000 students at their universities. St Andrews and Lancaster – completely absent from the table – have 7,500 and 12,000.

The survey was based on where employers focus their advertising and publicity; it is only natural that they should target larger student bodies in order to reach a wider pool of applicants. This doesn’t mean that an application from a well-regarded university like St Andrews will be shunned, just that it may not be given preference when placed be- side one from a larger, Russell Group university.

In addition, the survey neglects the number of students who go on to further study. Highly academic universities at the very top of the league tables are more likely to have a considerable contingent of students continuing with postgraduate study rather than joining the workforce immediately.

Finally, it is worth bearing in mind that St Andrews is one of the most ‘international’ universities in the world. We have a huge population of foreign students, meaning that in an average graduating year, fewer students will be looking for jobs within the UK than at less diverse universities.

This reduces our overall output of graduates even more significantly; perhaps if this were a worldwide survey, rather than a national one, St Andrews might have fared better.

This survey fails to take into account key factors like size and the possibility of further education. The rather damning headlines ex- pressing apparent incredulity that Nottingham is now ‘beating’ traditionally more academic universities are therefore only half-true; perhaps by electing to come to a smaller university we have limited ourselves when it comes to the scope of graduate opportunities available.

However, because we are so small, jobs accessed through events like the Law Fair and alumni networks are readily achievable because, quite simply, there are fewer of us, so our chances of scoring that dream internship are statistically higher.

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