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University Choice: Employment Before Self Actualization

 

Employment, employment, employment! Since the financial crisis of in 2008, youth unemployment has become regular headline news around the world. Enhancing the employability of recent graduates is a priority for the global higher education sector.

 

The golden days where one could easily secure a decent job after graduating from a good university are probably gone. The massive expansion of higher education means universities are producing more graduates every year in a wider range of subject areas than ever before. At the same time, a contracting labor market in many countries around the world is not able to create enough demand for new jobs. As a result, employers are becoming increasingly selective, recruiting candidates with higher levels of qualifications and relevant work experience.  In this competitive environment, many decide to further their education by investing in a master’s degree or a PhD, while others often have to lower their expectations in order to secure their first full-time job.

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International work and study experience is becoming increasingly important to employers. This is highlighted in the QS Global Employer Survey over the past three years, where 60% of 27,957 employers from 116 countries value an international study experience when recruiting graduates.

 

An important factor to consider when selecting a university is deciding where one wishes to live and work, post-graduation. The world power is gradually shifting from the traditionally affluent developed countries, mainly in the West, to the developing countries such as the BRICS and others, especially in Asia.

 

The economies of developed countries appear to be experiencing some kind of stagnation or saturation. Cutting fiscal deficits while finding foreign investment to stimulate domestic demand is a tactic employed by a number of governments in order to contain the detrimental effects of recession. Weakening economies offer fewer job opportunities; therefore, governments are often under pressure to tighten up immigration policies to limit the ability of companies to employ foreign candidates in an attempt to secure more jobs opportunities for domestic applicants.

 

Some of the most popular study destinations in the West are implementing new immigration regulations; hence it is advisable for international students to consult visa information from official government sources as part of their research for the best study option.

 

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Things seem to be quite the opposite in the emerging world where their economies are on the rise. The BRICS countries continue to show record GDP growth, especially when compared with the traditional super economic powers. Noticeable is also the rise of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, which, with a cumulative population of over 600 million and a combined nominal GDP of US$ 2.1 trillion in 2012, are predicted to grow 5.5% in 2013.

 

ASEAN countries are committed to integrating their economies by 2015 and create a free economic zone with free movement of labor, finance and trade between its ten member countries. Similar initiatives have been planned in Latin America and in Africa.  Some of these countries are increasing access to university education at national level, investing heavily in R&D and are welcoming talented minds from all over the world. Hence, when evaluating their next study move, students of the Millennial Generation should seriously consider the study and work destinations that will offer the best post-graduation career opportunities.

 

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Many will argue that going to university is not only about getting a job. I complete agree. I am a big fan of Maslow’s theory of the ‘hierarchy of needs’. In an ideal world, as advocated by many, education should be a human right to which everyone has equal access, whatever their background. In essence, university should be a ‘physiological’ layer, a basic need. Choosing the right university program should increase a student’s chances of reaching the most motivating layer of ‘self actualization’ in the work force and personal life. However, in reality, the bottom layers of the pyramid must be satisfied first.

 

The same theory should be applied when choosing the right degree program, university and country in order to unleash one’s full potential. In the short term, be realistic and pragmatic; find the right course in order to secure the ‘physiological’ layer first. Does the university have a good reputation among employers? If you wish to remain in the host-country after graduation, consider factors such as whether the country has favorable post-study work visa conditions for international students. Is the economy of the country vibrant enough to accommodate more graduate job-seekers? If these needs are satisfied, the ‘self actualization’ will follow behind closely.

 

The QS World University Rankings is particularly relevant to internationally-minded prospective university students because it is the only global ranking that takes into account the opinion of employers, who are asked to indicate the domestic and international universities from which they prefer to recruit. Students should use the rankings to glean information which can help them achieve their pragmatic goals before hopefully reaching the top of the pyramid in the long-term.

 

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Oxford vice-chancellor challenges tuition fee cap

According to a recent article published by The Guardian, Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, suggested that the cap on tuition fees is not the best for the British higher education system.

“The idea of a market – and that is what is ostensibly being created – in which every item, virtually regardless of content and quality, is the same price seems, well, a little odd,” he said. “On the other hand, given the great diversity of the institutions in our higher education system, the notion of different universities charging significantly different amounts doesn’t feel inherently unnatural. It is the current situation that seems out of kilter.”

Regardless you agree or not with  this statement, it compels us to think higher education in a different way. From an economic point of view, is it instrinsically different from other markets? Does it require a special set of regulations? Is there a breaking point after which ‘affordability’ may start harming teaching and/or research quality?

Although there are no easy answers for these controversial questions, a voice coming from one of the top universities of the world is worth listening to.

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Dealing with social media: follow the leaders

Times are changing, and so do the ways universities communicate their activities to the world.

Although traditional channels still matter, Twitter, Facebook and other services are key features in any serious communication strategy. But, how are universities doing in social media? To answer this question –or, properly speaking, to satisfy our own curiosity- we extracted some basic Twitter metrics for the top 10 institutions in the 2013 QS World University Rankings (QSWUR). Here we present the results.

As displayed in the charts below, Harvard University, the second best in the 2013 QSWUR, is showing the way in social media (or, at least, on Twitter). Its main account (@harvard) had 273,101 followers on 27/09/2013, easily the highest amount in this group. Stanford University (@stanford), the 7th best university in the world according to the 2013 QSWUR, is the second best here with roughly half of Harvard’s followers. University of Oxford (@UniofOxford), 6th in the QSWUR, comes third in terms of Twitter popularity with almost 90,400 followers. This is better than University of Cambridge’s (@Cambridge_Uni) 70,525.

It is true, however, that institutions have different sizes and, for this reason, we adjusted these numbers to a “per capita” basis.  We took the total number of Twitter followers and then divided it by the sum of faculty staff and students for each institution. Using this figure, Harvard is still the leading university with over 11 followers per capita, while Stanford keeps the second position with 7. On the other hand, Oxford falls to the 7th place, holding less than 4 followers per person. Inversely, Princeton (@princeton) achieves the third best ratio (6.7).

Interestingly, British universities perform lower than most American peers in this group. In fact, the University of Chicago (@uchicago) is the only US institution performing at the bottom of this group with less than 1 follower per capita. This suggests that top universities hailing from the United States are doing a better job in the social media area.

Of course, this is only a superficial approach to the topic and much more research and analysis would be needed in order to reach conclusive results. In the meantime, it would be interesting to know your views: Are universities paying enough attention to social media? Is there any particularly successful case you are aware of? Do you think your institution is following a sound social media strategy?

Important: the figures presented in this article were extracted on 27/09/2013.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

UK Outward Student Mobility Strategy

“Too few UK students currently go overseas, which is why we are investing in this programme. To compete in the global race the UK must create graduates with a global outlook that makes them more attractive to potential employers and benefits the wider economy.” British Universities and Sciences Minister David Willetts has announced on 29th July 2013 the creation of UK Outward Student Mobility Strategy developed by UK Higher Education International Unit aiming to send more UK students abroad. Read more