Is there a mismatch between what employers expect and higher education produces? The video game industry was worth $99.6 billion in 2016. That’s a lot of money. A recent study of UK video game programs found that only 12% of graduates from specialist UK courses are employed in the games sector six months after graduating. More students are studying specialist video game courses in the UK than there are jobs in the industry. Despite this surplus of graduates, 71% of video games employers with more than 100 employees say that it is difficult to find graduates with the required skills straight out of higher education.
A survey of a variety of large companies found that 75% of them think that graduates are poor across a number of domains, including written and spoken English, technical skills, and interpersonal skills.
We have become a dishonest broker between incoming students and industries looking for employees. At one end, the product bought by higher education is largely made up of 18-year-olds who are interested in the student experience while at the other end, the higher education seller’s market is made up of employers who are looking for a set of skills. We make the noises that are supposed to satisfy both ends of the market, and eventually, we end up letting everyone down.
Why not guarantee the skills of our graduates? Why not put an ironclad guarantee on what a graduate from our department/school/institution can do, backed by our reputation and cold hard cash?
Let’s look at how that might work. I guarantee that a student who graduates from my degree programme with a B average can write at Level X, speak at Level X, manipulate numbers at Level X, engage in critical thinking at Level X, and evaluate evidence at Level X. If you are not satisfied with the quality of my graduate (barring any unforeseen circumstances) after one year in the workplace, I will reimburse you the full year salary that you paid my graduate.
Different skill levels would be attached to different program outcomes. Students could enroll in a course knowing that it would be tough, but that they would be guaranteed to have the skills necessary for the workplace, and employees could hire new graduates knowing that if they did not get what they were expecting, their money would be refunded. In the long run, doing this would satisfy both ends of the higher education market. If the students didn’t want to do the work required for the guarantee then they could do something else.
We could do this today — so what is stopping us? Simple, the need for the undergraduate cash cow machine that is used to fund countries research infrastructures, the really important and actual function for which universities are made.