The national student union has welcomed the Government’s move to increase information for prospective students, but believes careers advice needs an overhaul to deal with what it says is information overload.
On Monday, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce announced that from 2017 all universities, wānanga and polytechnics would be required to publish information about the employment status and earnings of graduates broken down by programmes.
New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations national president Rory McCourt said while more information was always a good thing, it was important that future earnings and job prospects are put into perspective.
“Future earnings and job placements don’t tell you whether a degree is any good. All it tells you is that people who took that course did well after graduating. Why they did well is always a more complicated question and could be down to networks, location and employer regard for a degree – justified or not.
“It’s important students weigh up all the aspects of an institution. Academic quality should remain the key focus of government,” Mr McCourt said.
“Steven Joyce is right when he says ‘we know that students expect their tertiary study will get them a job’, sadly with youth unemployment at 5.7 per cent we’re not meeting those expectations and students know it.”
Students up and down the country are incredibly anxious about job prospects, Mr McCourt said.
“The typical student graduates with about $50,000 worth of public and private debt. They have 50,000 reasons to need a job at the other end.”
The union said a parliamentary inquiry to assess the quality of careers advice and transitions was needed, as more and more information became available to students in choosing programmes of study and career pathways.
“When students are asked about what would have made the biggest difference in helping to choose good pathways, they answer that they wish they had better careers advice. The Government is churning out these tools but without the people to interpret them.
“Currently, there is no one agency responsible for the professional development of careers advisors, so there is no way to train the experts on what all these tools mean in context. The Government is risking information overload.”
Mr McCourt said the inquiry had cross-party support from MPs on the Education and Science Select Committee.