Employability and the DLHE

These are some thoughts from notes from Assignment 4 that I think were worthy of their own reflective blog post…

Employability has become the buzzword in Higher Education, for both students and HE institutions – and there is no escaping it. Paying up to £27,000 for a three-year undergraduate course, students are selecting degree programmes based on their employment prospects after graduation (Harbour, S. 2005). Employability statistic are an indisputably significant metric all universities use to measure the viability and success of degree programmes. Data from the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey contributes towards university league table rankings and employability statistics are quoted heavily in university prospectuses. The Government’s recent Green Paper has suggested that employment and earnings data would feed into the Teaching Excellence Framework (Ball, C. 2016). ‘To produce satisfied graduates who get great jobs’ is one Falmouth’s five key objectives according to the 2012-17 strategic plan.

It is widely recognised that graduates from Art and Design degree courses take longer to build a career because, ‘establishing a portfolio, setting up in business, developing contacts for freelance or commissioned work all take time.’ (Blackwell, A. and Harvey, L. 1999: 128). Therefore, courses that produce graduates who work as self employed, freelance practitioners are at a disadvantage when it comes to DLHE results, which surveys graduate employment status six moths after graduating. At this early stage of their career arts graduates are often juggling multiple jobs, working in non-graduate level employment to sustain a wage whilst developing their creative practice. Compare this to industries such as advertising, graphic design or journalism for example where students could be working for large multi-national companies and agencies within a few months of graduating.

I teach on a course that is currently in cessation, and one of several reasons cited for the closure was the graduate employment statistics and employment opportunities. Whilst there is a degree of personal resentment, it does bring into question whether the use of DLHE data is reliable tool for measuring graduate success across a variety of disciplines and industries? In his blog post, Has DLHE had its day? Charlie Ball questions whether a longitudinal qualitative system of measuring graduate outcomes is preferable (2016). Current longitudinal research shows that art and design graduates take longer to establish themselves but they ultimately find work in creative occupations and experience a high degree of job satisfaction. (Ball, L. 2003: 14).

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