THE BLOG
29/06/2015 12:55 BST | Updated 26/06/2016 06:59 BST

Students' Expectations of Higher Education Are Changing - It's Time That Universities Caught Up

This summer the first set of students paying £9,000 fees will enter the world of work. The BBC surveyed them and found that 40% don't believe their course was worth the money, while similar numbers doubted that it prepared them for the world of work.

This echoes polling that we recently conducted. Given the higher fees, students today rightly have more demanding expectations of higher education than their parents. While this year's graduates still see a degree as a rite of passage they also see it as an investment and want a greater return for their money. For them, this return is a foot in the door of a successful career.

Given that, despite their expectations, such a significant number of students doubt that their degree prepares them for the world of work, universities need to recognise this feeling and respond accordingly.

Universities need to realise that, for students, the hope of a rewarding career after graduation is as important as the pursuit of intellectual curiosity. Building career-focused learning into courses should become a key part of the university offer, rather than an added extra taken up by only the keenest of students.

One way of doing this is to design courses in partnership with major employers. This practice is embedded into our approach at Pearson College and has proved successful in ensuring that courses are geared towards the needs of graduate employers. It also ensures that the soft skills that graduates need - time management, interview training and managing clients - are taught before they take up their first job.

Another option for universities to consider is building internships and work placements into degrees as standard practice. I work with students who have benefited from this and by the time many of them graduate they already have two years' experience in their chosen industry - a huge advantage in the competitive frenzy of the graduate job market.

We found that 67% of undergraduates believe that the world of work will be significantly different or completely unrecognisable in 20 years' time. They are undoubtedly right. If degrees are going to continue to be worth the cost, then universities need to respond to this challenge and the increasing expectations of students and show some genuine innovation in their approach towards higher education.