Graduate employment and the imminent attack on the humanities

November 4, 2010 at 4:40 pm 1 comment

It's been a bad week for young people aspiring to go to university. Not only has the cost of tuition doubled (at least) but the stats on graduate unemployment (up to 9% unemployed  6 months after graduating) are worrying. The twin effects of globalisation and technology now mean that knowledge workers can be outsourced as easily as call centres. Knowledge Process Outsourcing is a rapidly growing phenomenon, and it's only going to get bigger. Some estimate that  countries like India, with vast numbers of graduates and very low wages, will generate $17b this year in outsourced knowledge processing.

University VCs would do well to take a look at the attached chart. It shows the industries who are outsourcing knowledge – these are not low-level service sectors. And the number of graduates who  get 'graduate level' jobs continues to fall (down, this year, to 62%) with those working in retail and catering rising. The likely withdrawal of teaching grants for Humanities Degree Courses, and the support for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) flies in the face of where the competitiveness of UK plc lies. We can't compete with the globally emerging economies and the vast number of graduates they're producing. Our edge lies in our creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation. And the humanities are particularly good at developing those skills.

According to the report, the graduates most likely to be unemployed are in IT (16%), media studies (14%) and electronics and engineering (13%). No surprise on media studies, perhaps, but IT and engineering? And which graduates are least likely to be unemployed? Those studying Geography and Psychology – both humanities subjects. Go figure.

Removing teaching grants from humanities subjects amounts to taking a bloody big sledgehammer to crack the wrong nut. If the government want to tie places available more closely to jobs available, by all means reduce the numbers of places on media studies courses – but do the same for IT and engineering. And our economic future prosperity, in an age of  outsourcing knowledge, lies as much in  humanities graduates as it does in science and technology.


Entry filed under: Education & Children's Services.

Read the latest report from Learning Futures – ‘The Engaging School: Principles and Practices’ Is The Schools Accountability Edifice Getting A Make-Over?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Claire McEneaney  |  November 5, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    David – couldn’t agree more. I think the direction the UK is moving into with relation to further education is quite worrying.

    I think the suggestion that graduates who get well-paid jobs when they leave having to pay a higher rate of interest on their student loans is of real concern. Not only will higher tuition fees put off those from lower-income backgrounds, we’ll also be penalising those graduates who are aspirational and successful upon leaving university.

    It’s basically a no-win situation – how do either of these proposals attract able, aspirational students, who are arguably key to our economic future?!


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