I watched last week’s ITV Tonight programme on the value of a degree with dismay.
The focus of the investigation was on the importance of employability. But “employability” to them meant whether a degree certificate and CV of work experience results in a more highly paid job. All institutions aim to provide impressive figures on employment rates of their graduates but who is to say that these are jobs they couldn’t have got without a degree? What is it that universities can offer that really add value and give graduates something extra for their fees over their long term career?
At induction, I stress to new students that a degree certificate and CV of work experience may get them an interview but it is who they are as a person that will get them the job and career they want. University should not just be an educational experience, but a transformational one; it should shape who you are – your values, beliefs, interests, passions.
Prospective students need to be thinking beyond what degree subject and work experience placement they need for their chosen profession. They also need to look at what personal and professional skills and values they will be able to bring to an organisation when they graduate. Three important things to consider are:
1. Choose a degree subject you are passionate about
Your choice of degree subject should be led by what you are passionate about. That way, you will be motivated to extend your learning and experiences beyond the classroom. Employers don’t look for teams of people who are all the same. Any good team needs diversity, strong values and the ability to challenge each other. I know big accountancy and law firms that take on English and History graduates because of their ability to research and delve into issues or physicists and chemists because they are trained to challenge premises and solve problems.
2. Make sure you can gain university experiences beyond the classroom
We encourage students to think about what life experiences they can gain to make themselves a more interesting, well rounded person when they leave university. This could be anything from pursuing hobbies, joining campaign groups and volunteering to travelling, work or studying abroad. In the classroom, we teach students to be independent learners and assess them on what they bring back in assignments that they weren’t taught by the lecturer. But ensuring that the ability to learn independently translates into their personal lives is important because it makes them the sort of people that strive to continue learning and gaining new experiences throughout their careers and lives. These personal transferable skills make them effective communicators, problem solvers, leaders and innovators.
3. Look at what values the university celebrates
The values you learn in and outside of the classroom at university will help to shape who you are as a person and what you can bring to an organisation. The values of the institution you choose will run through all of their programmes, both curricular and extra curricular. At Bradford, we are highly focused as a university on sustainability and this runs throughout every module on every course and into other experiences we encourage students to gain. And by sustainability, we mean that we teach students to do things in a way that will continue into the future and have longevity. This gives them the ability to take a long term, well informed approach to decision making, problem solving and relationship building, whether as a leader of an organisation or valuable member of a team.
How did you or someone you have employed get the most out of university and how has it benefited your / their career?