IREG Conference 2014: The Corporate Perspective on the employability of Graduates:

Moderator: Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive, Association of Graduate Recruiters, UK

The meeting presentation started off by citing the McKinsey report of Education which can be accessed via the link below:

The recent AGR graduate vacancy data identified graduate vacancy growth areas in the UK are:

  • IT/Telecoms 40%
  • Public sector 22%
  • Energy 18%
  • Banking/ Financial services 16%
  • Accounting/ Professional Services 12%
  • Engineering 9%
  • Investment Banking & Law still flat

However, there are various factors that feed into the shortfall of quality graduates. These include poor perceptions of the market, weak applications (lack of research and candidates using a sloppy approach), skills shortage e.g. electrical engineers and a lack of “work ready skills” . In addition,candidates exhibit lack flexibility and resilience.

The AGR evidenced that 75% of UK recruiters don’t care about what degree you studied but more interested in your skills. So what are the employer needs and what competencies do they seek?

  • An ability to work collaboratively with teams of people from a range of backgrounds and countries
  • Excellent communication skills: both speaking and listening
  • A high degree of drive and resilience
  • An ability to embrace multiple perspectives and challenge thinking
  • A capacity to develop new skills and behaviours according to the role requirements
  • A high degree of self-awareness
  • An ability to negotiate and influence clients across the globe from different cultures
  • An ability to form professional global networks
  • An openness to and respect a range of perspectives from around from the world
  • Multi-cultural learning agility (e.g. able to learn in any culture or environment)
  • Multilingual
  • Knowledge of foreign economies and own industry area overseas
  • An understanding of one’s position and role within a global context or economy
  • A willingness to play an active role in society at a local, national and international level.


The Link Between Employability and Academic Rankings

By Martin Ince

Senior representatives of the three main global university rankings and the newest arrival on the scene came together for the first time at a conference in London jointly organised by the IREG Observatory on University Ranking and the QS Intelligence Unit.

The discussion of future developments in rankings formed part of the IREG-7 meeting, the seventh major conference held by the global accreditation group. QS’s are the only international rankings to have been accredited so far. The session featured the new U-Multirank publication, as well as QS, the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy and Times Higher Education.

Gero Federkeil, representing U-Multirank, explained that U-Multirank is not a ranking: instead it is a way of comparing universities at large, or in specific subjects, on criteria ranging from research to civic engagement. At present it covers just four subjects (mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, physics and business), but more are promised. Psychology, medicine and computer science will be added next.

More than 170 people from 42 nations took part in the two days of debate at University College London. The 35 platform speakers ranged over the full range of issues raised by the national and international ranking of universities. But most touched on the specific theme of the conference, the link between employability and academic rankings.

With this emphasis in mind, the first major session began with presentations not from rankers but from employers. Three – Shell, Siemens and Airbus – recruit from universities around the world, and spoke fascinatingly about their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the student body they choose from. The fourth body represented, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, is proud to approach the topic of graduate employability from a different angle. As a self-confessed less glamorous destination for the ambitious graduate, the company recruits from a full range of UK universities and in all subjects.

Despite these big differences, all four employers agreed that they are after business-savvy graduates who are literate, numerate, and know how to operate in a work setting. One speaker, Beth Jenkins from Shell, even brushed off a question about the technical abilities of graduates, saying that the subject knowledge of university leavers has never been an issue. Instead, she is more inclined to be impressed by quantifiable evidence of success in a non-academic project. The audience was left in little doubt that while these recruiters read rankings, their hiring practices make use of a far wider range of information than rankings currently capture. In particular, there is no simple metric that captures the ability of a university to produce future leaders.

Despite these issues, delegates were left in no doubt that rankings drive university managers in creative ways. Euiho Suh of POSTECH and Han Soo Kim of Sejong University, both in Korea, described their approach to this task. They use a “Curability-Weakness Diagram” to map how far their universities are from an acceptable performance on specific rankings criteria (weakness), and how feasible it is to improve on that measure (curability). This approach drives university managers to concentrate their fire on the biggest and most tractable issues.

However, perhaps the conference’s biggest tribute to the success of university rankings was paid by Chiara Mio and Achille Giacometti, both based at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in Italy.

They made the case that environmental sustainability is a neglected aspect of university performance, despite the existence of measures such as GreenMetric  which aim to capture environmental achievement at campus level. And they suggested that sustainability be added to existing rankings, in the hope of getting university managers to take it more seriously.

As Ben Sowter, director of the QS Intelligence Unit, put it, it is one thing for us to rank universities on important aspects of their behaviour, but quite another to measure them on things that we wish they were more serious about. That way lies the prospect of rankings as social engineering. Do we want a mediocre university to decide it can up its ranking by spending money on solar panels, or on better professors?

The highlights of IREG-7 will soon be online at The conference concluded with Jan Sadlak, president of IREG, announcing that IREG’s next event, on university subject rankings, will be at Aalborg University in Denmark in June 2015.


University College London to host IREG-7 conference

By Martin Ince

The IREG-7 conference in London, organised by QS and its partner organisations, is now only a few weeks away. It will be held at University College London, the fourth-ranked institution in the World University Rankings.

The theme for this conference is Employability and Academic Rankings, although there will be sessions on a full range of rankings topics.

To help us think about the link between university rankings and graduate employability in the global market, we have a distinguished panel of speakers from employers including Airbus, Siemens and others. Contributors from universities, and external observers from bodies such as the World Bank, will look at employability and skills as a new measure of higher education performance. This issue has emerged in recent year as a major concern for universities around the world.

There are also to be strong sessions on current and future rankings systems, globally and increasingly regionally, for example in the Middle East and the BRICS nations. An especially strong set of presentations will look at developments in Russia and Eastern Europe. In addition, the QS Asian University Rankings for 2014 will be released on May 13, immediately before the opening of the conference.

We very much hope to see you at IREG-7. The full programme is here and you can register here.



IREG-7 Conference in London


If you care about global higher education, London is the place to be in May this year. The IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence is working with QS to hold the IREG-7 conference at University College, London on 14-16 May, bringing the world’s top rankings event to its fourth-ranked university.

Like previous IREG Observatory conferences, this one has a specific focus, this time on the connection between academic ranking and graduate employability. We know that the desire for a well-paid job is the main reason many students go to university, and that this applies with special force to internationally-mobile students, the principal audience for world university rankings. This is one reason why the QS rankings methodology involves an extensive global survey of where international employers like to recruit graduates.

The full programme for IREG-7 is available here. The speakers come from 20 countries with a full range of university systems and approaches. Most are based in higher education, but there are also employers such as Siemens, and independent observers of higher education and labour markets. The discussions will have a particular focus on the links between employability and rankings, and on the growing pressure on universities around the world to expand the employability of their graduates.

For QS, IREG-7 forms part of the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the World University Rankings, which were published for the first time in September 2004.

So the programme will naturally include briefings on the latest rankings developments, including new international rankings and the use made of existing rankings systems by universities around the world. All the main rankings organisations will be speaking, and a particular highlight will be the first presentation of some initial results from the EU’s U-Multirank project.

We very much hope to see you in London in May. Sign up here  for IREG-7.

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IREG-7 Call for papers

The IREG-7 Conference will be held on 14-16th May 2014 at University College London and this year the theme centres on Employability. However, the IREG conference plays an important role in facilitating the discussion and debate around academic rankings in general. As such the programme is designed to emphasize employability but also explore other trends and developments and how they influence, or are influenced by academic rankings.

The first session will feature employers’ views in panel form, but for the remaining sessions the IREG-7 Programme Committee would like to invite you to submit papers in tune with the identified themes of the six other sessions:

Read more


IREG-7 Conference 14-16 May 2014

The IREG-7 Conference organized by IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence and QS Intelligence Unit will be held in University College London, United Kingdom. The theme will be Employability and Academic Rankings – Reflections and Impacts:

What does the average student go to university for? By far the most substantial subsequent destination is the world of work. A job. Whilst statistics suggest that a university degree is still, on average, a ticket to better job and a better salary, with the massification of global higher education it has become a hirers’ market and employers are beginning to expect and even demand that graduates are more than their degree certificate. As the cost of higher education escalates around the world, students are turning to their universities expecting to be equipped with the skills employers are seeking.

Students look to universities to get employed and rankings to help them choose a university, employers look to universities to provide work-ready graduates and to rankings to help them identify where to find them.

Programme: Click here to see the IREG-7 Programme.

The registration fee includes the Welcome Reception, Conference Gala Diner, coffee breaks and lunch on Thursday 15th May.

If you want your institution to be featured as a key partner please contact Jason Newman for sponsorship opportunities:

Practical information:

When: 14-16th May 2014
Where: University College London, United Kingdom
Registration fee: IREG members – 250€ – full rate 475€.


To attend and find more information, please register now to enjoy the early bird rate (valid until 31st December 2013).


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