Graduate employment and the imminent attack on the humanities


It’s been a bad week for young people aspiring to go to university. Not only has the cost of tuition doubled (at least) but the stats on graduate unemployment (up to 9% unemployed  6 months after graduating) are worrying. The twin effects of globalisation and technology now mean that knowledge workers can be outsourced as easily as call centres. Knowledge Process Outsourcing is a rapidly growing phenomenon, and it’s only going to get bigger. Some estimate that  countries like India, with vast numbers of graduates and very low wages, will generate $17b this year in outsourced knowledge processing.

University VCs would do well to take a look at the attached chart. It shows the industries who are outsourcing knowledge – these are not low-level service sectors. And the number of graduates who  get ‘graduate level’ jobs continues to fall (down, this year, to 62%) with those working in retail and catering rising. The likely withdrawal of teaching grants for Humanities Degree Courses, and the support for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) flies in the face of where the competitiveness of UK plc lies. We can’t compete with the globally emerging economies and the vast number of graduates they’re producing. Our edge lies in our creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation. And the humanities are particularly good at developing those skills.

According to the report, the graduates most likely to be unemployed are in IT (16%), media studies (14%) and electronics and engineering (13%). No surprise on media studies, perhaps, but IT and engineering? And which graduates are least likely to be unemployed? Those studying Geography and Psychology – both humanities subjects. Go figure.

Removing teaching grants from humanities subjects amounts to taking a bloody big sledgehammer to crack the wrong nut. If the government want to tie places available more closely to jobs available, by all means reduce the numbers of places on media studies courses – but do the same for IT and engineering. And our economic future prosperity, in an age of  outsourcing knowledge, lies as much in  humanities graduates as it does in science and technology.

One Response to Graduate employment and the imminent attack on the humanities

  1. Susan Jane Harper-Reneau says:

    Outsourcing is the scourge of America’s job market. We are influenced by teachers and parents to get a good education so that we can get good jobs that market what we have learned through higher education. However, the facts are that over half of graduate degreed applicants don’t have a chance to find that job when it is being sent overseas to workers who don’t mind working for a lot less than what we expect to be paid.Administrators should have paid attention when the technology stocks fell a few years ago. This was a prediction of what was going to happen in the technology, media, and computer engineering job market.I read yesterday that many for-profit universities were being sued because they promised their students that their credits could be counted for transfer into major universities and that degrees from those institutions could lead to promising jobs. What the research really found out was that students became indebted through college loans and that the job market would not take these degrees seriously, even in India or Israel.I don’t know what the answer is but, instead of supporting poor countries and borrowing from rich countries, we should take back our status as being the number 1, or 2 for awhile, country which can provide a place where if you want to go to school you can, and if you want, and are qualified for a decent job, you can get one.

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