‘Unemployed graduates? Don’t blame us,’ says uni careers adviser

It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between Graduate Fog and the university careers advisers.

So when Dr Dan Ferrett, from Oxford Brookes’ University Careers and Employment Centre, stepped forward to answer the questions we know you want to ask him, we had to give the guy some credit.

Especially as he had no idea how harsh our questions were. The list kicked off with ‘Why is uni careers advice so bad?’ – and got progressively meaner.

– Is uni careers advice stuck in the past?
– Whose fault is it that so many students never visit their careers service?
– Does a sinister careers ‘mafia’ put its own interests before those of students and graduates?
– And is it true that most uni careers advisers have never had a proper job? (Ouch!)

To be fair, Dr Dan didn’t storm off in a huff – he answered every one of our questions. Here’s how our (pretty uncomfortable) chat went…

Why is university careers advice so bad?
“I don’t think it is! If someone has not found their ideal job on leaving university or started a postgrad course that didn’t work out after talking to an adviser then that’s hard and I can see how the narrative that ‘careers advice is so bad’ gets off the ground. I think that some people present an over-simplified picture of the graduate labour market. We are all doing a good job under trying circumstances at the moment so I disagree that university careers advice is so bad. We try and inspire people to take their life experience, skills, motivations and values and develop them further.”

Do careers advisers know that what they’re doing isn’t working? Why do they refuse to acknowledge it?
“I don’t agree that what we do isn’t working. We get some fantastic positive feedback from the work we do in the curriculum – from the regular fairs we put on and from successful individuals who send us cards saying “thank you” for supporting them through a gruelling recruitment process. What is your measure of ‘isn’t working’? If you are referring to the relatively high number of graduates now unemployed then I suggest that you are looking in the wrong place.

“It’s unrealistic to suggest that university careers services can come up with comprehensive solutions to a global economic crisis. We can do our best given the current difficult circumstances but we can’t overcome them. I would say that it has less to do with refusal to acknowledge or accept failure and more to do with circumstances beyond our control. It’s also unrealistic to suggest that we can somehow rig the labour market so that every graduate who leaves university can walk into a graduate level job. Sorry to be the prophet of doom but life is not like that.”