Many students feel they are not learning job skills, survey says

Significant number in higher education say it is not boosting their employment chances

Many students in higher education feel they are not learning skills that  will boost their chances of employment, a new survey indicates. File photograph:  ThinkStock

Many students in higher education feel they are not learning skills that will boost their chances of employment, a new survey indicates. File photograph: ThinkStock

 

Significant numbers of students in higher education feel they are not learning skills which will contribute to their chances of getting a job, a new national survey indicates.

More than 27,000 students from 30 universities, colleges and institutes of technology responded to a Higher Education Authority-funded study this year aimed at gathering students’ experiences of college.

A total of 63 per cent of students felt they were gaining knowledge and skills that boosted their chances of getting a job.

But 37 per cent reported they “sometimes” or “never” gained these skills.

In general, scores for “work integrated learning” were lowest among students studying courses in the arts and humanities, which tend to be broader and may not include work placements.

The figures were highest in areas such as education and health, which often include internships as part of the course.

The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (studentsurvey.ie) also found relatively low levels of student-staff interactions.

For example, a large majority (77 per cent) of students said they “never” or “sometimes” discussed their grades or assignments with teaching staff during the current academic year.

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These figures were highest among first-year undergraduate students, suggesting many are still grappling with the transition from second level.

Similarly, large numbers (87 per cent) said they “never” or “sometimes” talked about their career plans with advisers, though these numbers fell among final-year and post-graduate students.

Despite these findings, many students reported experiencing a supportive learning environment.

Some 68 per cent of all students reported positive relationships with teaching staff, describing them as friendly and supportive.

A total of 14 per cent were more likely to agree that staff were unavailable, inconsiderate and rigid.

Direct comparisons

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Last year, however, Ireland’s scores were broadly comparable to those in Australia and reflected relatively well on the Irish higher education system.

An exception was the area of “student-staff interactions”, where Ireland performed poorly against New Zealand.

Overall, the survey results indicate there are high levels of satisfaction among Irish students with their places of study.

Some 79 per cent of students selected “good” or “excellent” when asked how they would evaluate their entire educational experience at their college.

Valuable insights

The survey was developed in response to a key aim of the national strategy for higher education to 2030.

It recommended that every higher education institution should put in place an anonymous student feedback system to inform institutional and course development, as well as national policy.