Students fear university won't prepare them for work


With the exception of a handful of very specific vocational degrees, university is NOT a training ground for employment. It is a place to have your mind expanded, to develop the transferable skill ...

Read More Dr Graham Wilson
Add a comment

​As A-level results are announced, research reveals that students lack confidence in the opportunities available to them

Almost half (44%) of students completing Year 13 do not believe a degree will prepare them for a job, according to research from AVADO.

The research found that 8% believe going to university will only delay them getting into the world of work, with one in five (20%) believing that two to three years of work experience would better prepare them.

The survey of 500 A-level students highlighted a need for better careers guidance for young people, with over a quarter (28%) saying there was not enough careers advice available to help them make important decisions about their future.

When asked what they thought about the opportunities available to them, students said that universities could do more to champion alternatives to traditional degrees. Almost half (49%) said they should be offering more degree apprenticeships and 41% said they should be creating more internship or apprenticeship opportunities for students.

But despite these concerns university continues to be the preferred route for school leavers, AVADO found. Almost three-quarters (73%) of school leavers surveyed said they plan on going to university when they finish school, compared to 10% who plan on getting a job straight away, 5% who plan on doing an apprenticeship, and 4% who intend to take a gap year.

Clare Whittingham, chief growth officer at AVADO, said that she did not believe that universities offer enough support for students, which is putting pressure on employers. "[We] don’t believe universities are giving students the skills they need to enter the workforce after university," she told HR magazine. "We’ve encountered numerous organisations who are looking to use tools such as the apprenticeship levy to support graduate development programmes, and create the right skillsets within their graduate hires.

"Most university courses are not created in response to employer demand or need, so students are leaving university without the required practical and technical skills to effectively enter the workforce, resulting in graduates struggling to find roles and employers having to invest in reskilling graduates to give them the right level of practical knowledge."

Whittingham added that employers must work with educators to ensure that young people have the right skills for the future. "There is huge opportunity for employers and educators to collaborate more to create relevant skills programmes which can help foster the right talent and skills in the existing and future workforce – from accelerating the pace of apprenticeship standard development, and providing the right flexibility in an apprenticeship to ensure it meets employers’ needs, to developing the right skillsets in university courses to ensure whatever route to work people take they can be equipped to thrive in the future," she said

"We all need to become clearer on the skills and behaviours that employers – from start-ups to SMEs to multinationals – are looking for and ensure our education system is set up to ensure it can foster these skills. But we also need to celebrate the different routes into the workforce and invest time in raising the profile and brand of apprenticeships as a comparable alternative to university with students, parents and teachers. We need to enable people to choose the option that is right for them, their learning style, their ambition and their mindset to help everyone achieve their potential."

Students in Scotland found out their SQA results on Tuesday (6 August). Other British students will find out their A-level results tomorrow (15 August).


With the exception of a handful of very specific vocational degrees, university is NOT a training ground for employment. It is a place to have your mind expanded, to develop the transferable skill of analytical thinking, and to discover options that you had never dreamt of. The same is true of secondary education. It is not the job of the education system to pander to the whims of employers, nor to become clone-mills producing brain-ready workers. Sure, it is nice if employers support educators but it is unequivocally the role of an employer to provide the nurture and training to take an intelligent young person, with good skills at whatever level, and help them to apply these to become a valued contributor to their organisation. This is just another example of the kind of thinking that says that poor-paying employers can be subsidised by the state through the benefits system. They should be paying their staff properly in the first place.


Consider what my friends at US firms are doing with universities in Florida, expanding their minds through experience as developing crucial competences for the future world of work. Education and employment are inextricably linked, each prospering through that inter-dependence. Here is education pushing on the interface and responding to employers' justified needs and expectations, watch and especially listen to the academics' remarks in this short film, .


Interesting idea, David. Teaching university students about the natural world and human relationships (to quote the video) by means of animations and avatars... I'm not entirely convinced that this is preparing them for the real world of work but... Equally, if I was a student on the receiving end, I think I would feel I was being patronised rather than educated. Each to their own.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

All comments are moderated and may take a while to appear.