As the world prepares for a global recession, students are asking more questions about employability than ever before.

 

17 September 2020
Employability has never mattered more

Of course, employability matters to your prospective students. They want to know that if they’re investing in a degree, they will be able to get a job at the end of it. 

But facing a recession and a shrinking jobs market, prospective students are more concerned with the employability of courses than ever before. We’ve seen the data to back it up. 

What does this mean for universities? Offering careers support matters to your prospective students, and highlighting employability figures and the support available could go a long way.  

A sharp rise in enquiries to vocational courses

Unibuddy allows prospective students to chat directly with a current student or member of staff at over 300 institutions. 

You won’t be surprised to learn that the number of student enquiries sent via Unibuddy shot up in May – as a result of growing uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic. 

The number of students signing up to enquire about academic courses increased by 91% from April 2020 to May 2020 – and 75% higher in July 2020 compared to April 2020. 

But we compared the enquiries sent to academic courses (such as English Lit or sociology) to the enquiries sent to vocational courses (such as medicine or engineering) and found the rise for the latter was even steeper. 

The number of students signing up to enquire about vocational courses was up 116% in May compared to April, and up 85% in July compared to April. 

Employability

Using a proprietary Machine Learning technology, we can determine the topic of questions asked by students. Over 5 million messages have been sent on Unibuddy globally.

Students ask questions about the social life, how safe it is on campus, what their dorm rooms are like. 

In August 2019, 7% of all questions were about employability after university. So far in August, that has risen to 9% of all questions asked. 

The topic of employability after a degree has also risen during the year: 6.8% of all questions were about employability in April, rising to 7.6% in July and up to 9% in August. It’s consistently becoming a more and more important topic for students.  

And while employability rises as a key topic, other topics have fallen in importance. Last July, almost 14% of enquiries were about halls of residence and living options. This July, just 8.7% of questions were asked about that topic. 

“Job after” 

Finally, we looked at the specific phrase “job after”. It’s not the most scientific way to study student concerns, but it is a good way to illustrate what our machine learning found. 

The phrase “job after” is a good one to look at to illustrate these overall trends as students ask questions such as “can I get a job after?”, “what support is there to help me get a job after the degree?”, “How likely am I to get a job after I do this course?” 

And what we’ve found is that the number of students using the phrase “job after” has also shot up. In July 2020, the phrase was used 5 times more than in July 2019. 

What does all this mean? 

And employability is particularly key for international students.  

Louise Nicol, Founder at Asia Careers Group, said: “Employability has always been a key concern of International Students, particularly those from Asia. This new, insightful data from Unibuddy based on 5 million questions asked by all students on their platform shows that on average 1 in every 10 questions about employability.  

“This is likely to increase in the months to come, as the global recession bites and students become more concerned about getting jobs after their studies and the return on investment of their degrees.  It is time to provide students answers to their questions based on robust data by country, to enable them to make informed decisions regarding where they want to study.”

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