New research on what students think about how their universities prepare them for working life was published today (Thursday 17 January) by GTI Media Research.
Great Expectations is based on a survey of more than 2,300 undergraduates conducted at the end of 2012 by GTI Media Research, part of Group GTI, Europe’s largest graduate careers specialists.

97% of students said that they fully expected their university to help them develop employability skills and over a third said that the university had the main responsibility for preparing them for work after graduation.

Usage of the careers service is growing and the careers service is now seen as the main source of employer contacts on campus. Satisfaction amongst users is high but a worrying 36% said that they had not used it because they hadn’t got round to it or didn’t have enough time.

Practical help on the job search process – CVs, applications, interviews – was valued highly and students also asked for advice specific to their degree courses or career aims.

It’s a big challenge for universities to meet the desires of a more customer-like student body to receive (of course) a top-quality education while simultaneously giving them opportunities to develop skills, reflect on their learning, gain work experience and receive practical help in becoming a better job applicant. The careers service is clearly positioned centrally to help universities implement their employability strategy but must work hard to engage the unengaged student.

Here are some of the main findings:

  • 97% of respondents recognise the importance of developing employability skills while at university
  • Over a third of respondents believe that the university has the

MAIN responsibility for preparing them for working life

  • The percentage who said they had used the careers services has gone up compared to six years ago but over a third had not used it yet
  • There is a big increase in the percentage of students using the careers service to contact/network with employers compared to six years ago
  • Six years ago, the main reason students gave for not visiting their careers service was that they didn’t know where it was. Now, the main reasons given were that they hadn’t got round to it yet and they had no time
  • Email and internet communication are heavily used and liked by students. Social media communications are not well used and not as well valued as other methods of communication
  • Survey shows the enduring popularity of practical skills workshops/sessions above all other services
  • Students want advice, information and job opportunities tailored to their needs and aspirations

Chris Phillips, GTI Media’s Information and Research Director, commented: “With the cost of higher education rocketing and the economy suffering, it’s more important than ever to examine how well universities and the ‘university experience’ prepare students for life after graduation. Almost all students surveyed said that developing employability skills was their No.1 aim. The careers service has a big role to play in helping the university give students multiple opportunities to improve the skills needed in a competitive job market.”