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.




September 24, 2012 — 1 Comment

Welcome to my blog and very first post!

My name is Jeffrey Williams, I am originally from Perth (Australia), however for the last 5 years have called London (UK) home. For the last decade or so I have worked and studied in and amongst Universities in Australia, UK & USA. The majority of this time has been spent in international student recruitment, and over the years I have held roles from student admissions to Head of International Marketing & Recruitment.

Research suggests that by 2020 5.8 million students will opt to study Higher Education (University) outside of their home country! This figure is up from 2.4 million that studied abroad in 2005, making international education one of the largest industries in the world!

I am not exactly sure what Higher Education will look like in 2020 and beyond, however am confident the norm of today will not be the norm of tomorrow. I once heard at a conference that “The Western World” will need to build a new University every week in order to keep up with demand. Obviously this is madness, and the forecaster is accounting for no change in the method in which education is delivered. A little bit like the mayor of London forecasting how many horses will be in London before the invention of the motor car, or Xerox forecasting the demand for fax machines before the invention of the internet. So does this mean an online future is inevitable? Just have a look at what Harvard, MIT etc. are doing right now – today (https://www.coursera.org/ & https://www.edx.org/.

If these questions excite you then you are in the right place!

Having been an international student myself, and now with professional education industry experience in over 40 countries, I have a lot to say about international study options, and hope I can impart some of this knowledge on anyone who needs it. Hopefully at one point or another I will cover every stage of the international student recruitment process for students and cover the latest trends for those in the industry.

Please note, I don’t take myself seriously, I love to rant and now I have a blog! So from here on out you can choose to read or ignore, either way, I would love to hear your feedback, including anything of the good, bad, constructive, perspective or experience variety. Therefore please feel free to leave comments, email, facebook, twitter or google+ me.