Tuesday, 6 March 2012

More graduates are in low paid work because... there are more graduates!

The BBC's website has the following headline:

Pointing to the fact that around a third of graduates from 2011 were in low skilled jobs at the end of 2011, in comparison with around a quarter in 2001.  Quite an increase.  

This is ridiculously intuitive, yet at no point in their article/post do they mention that in 2001 there were 504,401 students who qualified from higher education of which 272,665 obtained "first degrees", whilst in 2011 there were 762,540 qualifiers with 369,010 obtained "first degrees"

In other words people qualifying from higher education has risen by 51% with the amount of students obtaining their first degrees has increased by 35% over the 10 year period - this also isn't a surprise given Labour's goal of getting as many youngsters as possible to University.  Unless there is also a greater demand for the skills (or unless the correct skills are being learnt) then the number (and proportion) of graduates in low skilled jobs is bound to rise - it's not rocket science!

I have always thought that getting people to university shouldn't be the end goal, as far too many students chose a degree which wont have a use for them once they complete their course and as such they have basically just earned an expensive piece of paper.  Rather than the policy of encouraging everyone to go, we should make sure that the right people go (those who will benefit from it), on the right courses and that enough other options are available to those who chose not to.  

Typically the BBC balance their article with statistics that "prove" that it is still worth while going to University:

  • The typical hourly wage for graduates between 21 and 64 is £15 in comparison with £9 for non-graduates.
  • Proportion employed 86% for graduates and 72.3% for non-graduates.
However these statistics are meaningless - because there is a huge bias in the sample!  Those who go to University are likely to be more intelligent and more driven than those who do not so would tend to be better off irrespective of a degree.

I'm not saying that students shouldn't go to or aspire to going to university, but they have to do what is going to be best for them in the long run and for many an apprenticeship, a trainee programme or even setting out on their own would be more beneficial.

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