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Half of learners in top study destinations say HE fails to prepare for career

Almost half of learners in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Europe don’t think that higher education prepared them for their eventual career, according to a survey published by Pearson. 

Half or almost half of those in the US, Canada, and Europe said don't think that higher education prepared them for their career. Image: Pearson

By contrast, 73% in HispanoAmerica said higher education had prepared them for work

The Global Learner Survey recorded responses from than 11,000 people aged between 16-70 years to get a full picture of how people are learning across the world, with participants from US, UK, Australia, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, India, Hispano-America and the Middle East.

“Now more than ever, learners understand the need for lifelong education”

Respondents were asked their opinion on their higher education experience and whether or not it prepared them for their career, as part of an effort to shed light on perceptions that major skills gaps persist between what is learned in university and what’s required for the world of work.

In the UK, 51% of survey participants answered that their higher education experience did not prepare them for their career. 

The US and Australia saw similar results, with large numbers of participants (44% and 42% respectively) saying their higher education experience hadn’t prepared them for their jobs.

There was also a similar story in Canada (42%) and in Europe excluding the UK (45%). 

By contrast, 73% of participants in countries in HispanoAmerica said that their higher education had prepared them for work, and in China, it was 67%. 

However, spokesperson for Pearson Laura Howe told The PIE News the results should be taken in context whether or not they were working in the field that had been their major area of study at university.

“More than half of people in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Europe are not working in their degree field. They either initially chosen a job outside their field of study or have changed careers at some point,” she said.

“This could account for their perception of the value of their education and why they feel there is a disconnect between their career and what they learned at university.

“That said, what we don’t know whether people felt ill-prepared for because they chose a different career path or if they deliberately chose to work outside their field of study because they felt university didn’t prepare them in the first place,” Howe added.

In the UK, 90% of the 16,000 international graduates surveyed through UUKi’s International Graduate Outcomes report were satisfied with their learning experience and 83% said that their degree helped them get their job.

“More than half of people in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Europe are not working in their degree field”

“Universities recognise that the skills needs of employers are changing, as are the expectations of our graduates. Institutions are continually responding to these shifting priorities, but there is always more work to do,” Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International told The PIE.

The survey also revealed the extent to which people see the future of learning made easier and more engaging with technology.

When asked about the importance of languages in the world of work in the future, more than a quarter of respondents in the US, UK, Australia and Canada and a third (33%) in China and South Africa said coding was the ‘new second language’, which alongside English would help them better compete in the new economy.

This was followed by Chinese, Spanish and others.

Additionally, the survey found that people believe the world is shifting to a model where people have to keep learning beyond university. 

Over 55% of people from all regions surveyed said that agreed with the statement ‘the world is shifting to a model where people participate in education over a lifetime’ as opposed to ‘education still happens mostly for children and young adults in academic settings’.

“Universities should expand access to mid-career adults”

“Universities should expand access to mid-career adults with short courses, soft skill training and stackable credentials,” noted CEO of Pearson, John Fallon.

“Employers could be working together with learning institutions to re-skill their workforce. Innovators and education companies can use technology to make education engaging and accessible and governments can help address ways to make education more affordable and widely available.”

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