Monday, December 18, 2006

How could a third be wrong....?

A third of UK graduates believe they have chosen the wrong degree. (Full story is here.) An excerpt:

'A third of graduates believe they studied the wrong course at university, a survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests. Most of these said, with hindsight, they would have taken a more scientific or technical course, a business-based or a professional qualification ... The survey found that within 12 months of graduating, 63% are paying into a pension. But evidence of a gender gap emerged again, with only 57% of women who graduated in 2005 saving for a pension compared to 70% of men. The poll found two-thirds of those surveyed felt their university could have offered better career advice'.

So why exactly did any student think anything went wrong? The worry seems to be that in the end far fewer started in careers with a proper pension scheme. Does this mean that students genuinely think they made a mistake of what to study at university? I doubt it. See the following excerpt from the same news piece:

'.....The overwhelming majority of respondents were positive about their time as a student - 90% said they would go to university if they had their time again. And 84% said their time at university had been helpful in gaining independence and life skills. Three-quarters said it had helped them in terms of communication skills, presentation skills, team-work and confidence...'.

The problem seems to be not that students thought they spent their time poorly, but that their expectations for post-graduation were unrealistic. Then perhaps they might be right to think they could have received better advice to lower unrealistic expectations, but it isn't entirely clear that they would choose their degrees differently otherwise. Given how few students apparently take maths at A-level, it is hard to believe so many honestly think they should have studied science. Don't get me wrong! I think if this was true, it would be great: I nearly pursued a minor in chemistry myself---I loved it. However, it seems too implausible.

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