IREG-7 Conference: Employability and Academic Rankings – Reflections and Impacts

14-16 May 2014, London, United Kingdom

Organized by
IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence
QS Intelligence Unit, UK


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.


Topic and Its Context

One of key function of higher education is providing those who graduate from its institutions and programs with knowledge, skills and competences which allow them to enter and function on a broadly-understood labour market. There is ample evidence that the likelihood of having a job is greatly enhanced by being a higher education graduate.

Relations between higher education and labour market and skills supply have never been simple or straightforward. In recent years, due to structural transformations in economic and social systems, there are arguments about emergence of a new paradigm – moving from a provider-driven model to a consumer-driven one. In this context, higher education institutions are expected to be responsive to “signals” from the economic and social sectors.

Changes in study programmes as well as pedagogical practices to ensure a more prominent role for work-based learning, availability of internship programmes, sandwich courses, problem-based learning and learning outcomes focused learning are the response coming from higher education institutions. In addition, higher education institutions are requested to demonstrate that their study programmes provide a set of qualifications and competences [often referred to as “learning outcomes”] which give employer reliable, comparable and easily interpreted information about qualifications of the graduate. It is an increasingly usual practice [and expectation] that higher education “follow the graduate” by collecting information about his/her early stage of post-graduate employability and professional career.

It is therefore evident that cooperation between higher education and those representing a “world of work” are seen as important engine for improved employability of higher education graduates. Such cooperation is even more relevant considering that professional development as well as assurance of employability is growingly seen in relation to continuous education and lifelong learning (LLL).

If in general terms there is a positive correlation between employability and “university diploma”, a number of elements are determining graduates career/employability success. It is not surprising to observe that variations in employability and earnings depend on the type of institution, study programme graduates attended and the type of degree they obtained. It is not surprising to note that those who graduated from more prestigious institutions fared better than those from less prestigious ones, and, on average, that those who majored in engineering and economics earned more than those in the humanities.

It is evident that university rankings are symbiotic with the above presented developments. Taking into consideration that they are seen as one of information tools for variety of stake-holders, including those directly and indirectly concerned with em

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