Archives For Course Decisions

Education Inflation

Inflation is defined as the “substantial rise in the general level of prices related to an increase in the volume of money and resulting in the loss of value of currency.”

Education Inflation is a concept I have been thinking about for some time, professional employment opportunities are diminishing for graduates and the number of degree holders is increasing. You can see where I am going here, your degree is currency and the price of securing that dream job is rising rapidly.

Many students I speak with still hold a belief that simply completing a degree is a ticket to that dream job. That may have been the case previously; however in 2012 a degree is quite simply a ticket for your application to even be considered for interview and little more.

Whether you’re an international or domestic student you need to make sure you add as much value as possible to your qualification. So select a degree programme employers are looking for, ensure it’s at a reputable institution and most importantly seek out valuable practical / extra-curricular experience.

Now more than ever, it is important that your education and work history tells a story to employers, so make sure that the degree you choose will look like a appropriate chapter in the story of how you got your dream job.


UK university rankings

Depending on the country I am in, institution ranking can mean everything or nothing to students. It’s safe to say that in most cases rankings are a very important factor in deciding on a university, but it’s interesting to note that students often don’t understand what rankings actually mean and / or how they work.

Across the globe there are countless ranking systems, however today I would like to look at the UK system, which will commonly be either the Times or Guardian rankings. The Times occupies the world of academia and as such is typically respected due to research-focused criteria, whereas the Guardian table is largely based in student experience & satisfaction. For the average international student choosing to study in the UK I personally recommend the Guardian, though this is a personal choice that many may disagree with.

Once you pick a system you can begin to look at the rankings themselves. The first thing to consider is that each institution will have an overall ranking that amalgamates all course and faculty performance into one value, and a number of individual course rankings to measure how each individual programme stacks up against the competition. The majority of students will look at the former, when the latter may actually be more applicable to their decision.

Take this example, say you want to study BEng Mechanical Engineering; many students / recruitment agents will go straight to the rankings table and try to find the highest ranking University. For example, one desirably ranked option could be City University London – you think “wow, great overall ranking (21st in UK), great location and they offer BEng!” I will apply here!

Now, don’t get me wrong, City is an amazing University I would happily pay to study at / recommend. BUT you may be surprised to hear that, for example, Plymouth University, an institution you may never have considered, has a BEng Degree individually ranked 13th in the UK, despite their overall ranking being 61, much lower than City’s 21st overall and hence easy to overlook. But City’s BEng course happens to share 42nd spot with University of Bolton for BEng, who might I add occupy last place on the overall table at 120th

Therefore, before you simply look at the league tables (Guardian in this case), make sure you keep the above in mind. This will ensure you get the most relevant information to inform your study decisions.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for similar ranking information on Australia, USA & Canada!

Which course is right for you?

Economies collapsing, job markets contracting, education fees rising… The days of attending University without a clear graduation (employment) goal are becoming less and less viable. Well for us mere mortals anyway.

Employers are faced with an enormous stable of University graduates and have the luxury of selecting the best person for the particular job available. Therefore, regardless of how you want to interpret the saying “horses for courses”, there are two main questions:

1)  Are you going to be the best candidate for the role?

2)  More importantly, is there even a relevant job available when you graduate?

Today I want to focus on course choice to answer these questions, as your course will usually dictate your appropriateness for certain roles and launch your trajectory to employment. To simplify things (heavily), the way I see it, there are two alternatives you can pursue:

Option 1: Degrees that lead to specific employment e.g. BSc Accounting Degrees = Accountant

Option 2: Degrees that lead to non-specific employment e.g. BA Philosophy

In my experience international students have heavily favoured option one as they generally intend to return home with a specific skill in hand, even Ghandi studied Law at UCL in 1889. In comparison, domestic students have historically been more likely to select option 2. However, that said, times are changing and return on education investment is now a consideration for all as people need a skill they can sell.

As a result of this shift, Universities are releasing an increasing number of skill-oriented courses. One of my favourites is the Ethical Hacking for computer Security BSc (Hons) from Northumbria University. This modern day programme couldn’t be more ‘option one’ if it tried, specific skills for specific roles in an industry that is developing faster than the course material can be taught!

So with the push towards practical degrees for specific jobs, what are the benefits of a degree like philosophy? Philosophy Graduates from the University of Kent report a 60% employment rate, and it is interesting to read the list of diverse occupations they go into. What does this mean? Here is where we shift ‘courses’ to one where the finish line is not entry into a particular industry. There’s a lot of merit in the goal of personal growth and learning about a part of life that interests you, and in many cases this approach will inform your views and make you a better fit for jobs that require, say, problem solving or personal interaction.

So this approach is admirable and can lead to rewarding careers, but it’s a tough road at the moment. If your study goals include landing a particular job it may be wise to consider a practical degree, or if you are already studying, add a postgraduate qualification that can provide you with specific skills.

There are horses for courses; it all depends on your goal. What do you think? I’d be interested to hear some experiences.