Less than half of students say their university has met their expectations in helping them prepare for life after graduation – and more than a third say they haven’t even used their university careers service. As hundreds of thousands of young people face a hostile jobs market and a gloomy economic climate in 2013, Graduate Fog sees this as a shocking failure on the part of the higher education institutions, many of which charge young people tens of thousands of pounds for their degree.

The appalling results came from a new report by GTI, which surveyed 2,300 students at 125 universities. It found that only 48% of students answered “Yes” to the question: “Has your university met your expectations in terms of the help it provides to prepare you for life after university?” A quarter (25%) said “No”, 18% said “I don’t know” and 10% said “I didn’t have any expectations.” The report appeared to gloss over these findings, saying only this:

“Nearly half of respondents felt that the university met their expectations in this regard, although a quarter didn’t and there was a sizeable number yet to form a view.”

On the under-use of university careers services, the report simply said:

“Student use of the careers service is high, with 64% of all respondents saying they had used it either in person or online. This is a small but significant increase compared to six years ago when the figure was 58%. This does leave more than a third who have not used their careers service, of course.”

Hello? Is this small jump in six really something “significant” that universities should be congratulating themselves for? That the proportion of young people who use their careers service has gone up by a measly 6% in as many years, even against a backdrop of some of the fiercest competition ever for graduate jobs? Because to Graduate Fog that sounds like a pretty poor effort. Even when the figures are studied again – looking just at final year students – the proportion who used their service was only 73%. Which means that over a quarter of final year students hadn’t used their careers service.

More embarrassment for the universities was yet to come, as it also emerged that vital information about what employers look for in their young recruits is simply not reaching students. Almost half of students (47%) said they had had no contact at all with potential employers – a major mistake, as readers of Graduate Fog know. Only 29% of respondents realised that commercial awareness is “very important” and only 41% had twigged that contacts are “very important”. Why aren’t crucial messages like this getting through to young people? University careers services are forever whining about cuts to their budgets and the difficulties with encouraging young people to think about their career before they graduate. But this does not fit with our experience at Graduate Fog. We know that undergraduates – and graduates – are seriously worried about their futures, and they want to find out about what happens after graduation. It just needs to be presented in the rights way. Our conclusion is that careers services are doing a terrible job of attracting, engaging and assisting the young people they are paid to help.

Whenever we raise questions like these, universities retaliate by asking us what evidence we have that they are doing such a bad job. But these figures don’t lie. And Graduate Fog is still frequently asked basic questions like “What should I do if I don’t know what career I want?”, “What should I do if I haven’t got on to any of the big graduate schemes?”, “Are unpaid internships legal?” and “Should I do further study just to try and wait out the recession?” This is basic, basic stuff. Why don’t graduates know it? If university careers services are doing such a fantastic job, why are these questions still coming?

Were you impressed with the advice they provided? Are you surprised that less then half of students said that their service was helpful? What sort of help did they give you – and was it what you wanted?


NOTE TO USERS: This headline for this post “Less than half of students find their uni careers service helpful” has been changed since it was first published.  Thanks to the readers who pointed out that it was almost accurate, but not quite.

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