Amid Fee Hikes, Brit Uni Grads Questioning Value of Diplomas

Just as the new fee regime put in place by the Coalition government goes into effect this year, there's a report that more UK university students are beginning to question the value of their diplomas. A recently released study from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit finds that many graduates are unsure about what value a university diploma provides in finding employment almost immediately after earning their degree.

When asked if the diploma will prove useful in landing their first job, 67% of students in the final year of their course said yes. Yet, when students were asked this question again merely 18 months after graduation, only half continued to believe that their diploma made it easier to find employment. The researchers, who followed a group of students entering university in 2006, also found a similar decline in assessment of the students' field of study. While 77% thought that the major they chose would lead to lucrative employment opportunities prior to leaving school, only 60% believed the same thing 18 months later.

Conclusions of another recent study show that the graduates' attitude might not be just a case of pessimism run amok. Another report commissioned by the HECS has shown that due to the ongoing economic recession, the so-called "wage premium" enjoyed by university graduates over their peers has shrunk by more than a fifth since 2003.

Teachers long have complained about the way Bennett talked about them, that they felt he was blaming teachers for all the state's education woes. For example, when Ritz said during the campaign that Bennett was testing obsessed, his answer to me was to say: "Our problem is not assessment. Our problem is instruction." A lot of teachers took that personally.

It is anticipated that this year's hike in tuition fees will cut the premiums further in coming years.

The findings offer more bad news to university students who are graduating into the worst economic and employment environment that the country has seen in decades.

Still, the news wasn't uniformly bad. While some degree programs proved to be less useful in securing graduates their first job, there were others that offered their degree holders great opportunities right out of school.

The Daily Telegraph polled students about their perception of the usefulness of their degrees, and ranked them according to how strongly graduates agreed with the statement "The undergraduate subject I studied has been an advantage in looking for employment."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those graduating with degrees in history or philosophy had the highest rate of dissatisfaction of any major, along with those earning a diploma in mass communication. Although creative arts and design students reported slightly higher rate of satisfaction, fewer than half were able to land post-graduation jobs in their field.

It also was not surprising to find out which majors ended up on top. With the exceptions of biology, veterinary science and agriculture, STEM graduates thought that their degrees allowed them to land their first jobs quickly. Similar sentiments were expressed by those who earned a degree in education, as well as medicine and dentistry.

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