Why UK business graduates are turning job hunters?

Almost all business school aspirants look up the rankings by prominent publications while shortlisting their choice of schools; the United Kingdom secures a respectable second place, right behind the United States, in all major rankings. With London Business School always finding a place in the top 5 business schools across the world other UK business school programs fall short of job market expectations.

According to Financial Times ranking 2016, as many as 15 UK business schools make it to the top 100, if one juxtaposes FT ranking with QS Graduate employability ranking 2016 then most UK universities perform abysmally. Barring University of Cambridge and University of Oxford none of the UK universities scores above 90 points. The ranking calculates the score on five parameters – employer reputation, partnership with employers, alumni outcomes, employer’s presence on campus and graduate employment rate. Though the ranking does not focus solely on business schools but it gives an indication as to where UK universities stand as far as employability of their fresh graduates is concerned.

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Employability concerns of students are negligible in top business schools like London Business Schools, Judge Business School, Said Business School, King’s College and Imperial College; however, when we move down the list we figure out that not all is well with the employment figures. As per FT ranking 2016, only 70% and 72% students from Cass School of business (ranked 37) and Alliance Manchester Business School (ranked 38) respectively found jobs three months after completion of their course. These figures were based on the data provided by business schools to Financial Times.

If we explore the reasons further then it emerges that UK business schools are indeed working to improve the employability of their students. According to a survey by Association of Business Schools conducted in 2012-13 only 10% students spent some time abroad to finish course credits while 13% took internship/placement abroad, the figure is quite low in comparison to its US counterparts. It must also be noted that US business schools offer a two-year business program, on the other hand, UK business schools offer one-year program hence they cram lots of credits and activities in a year. Therefore, it becomes all the more important to offer students more exercises and networking opportunities to make them job market ready at the end of the course.

UK market has seen a dip in demand for fresh graduates for the first time in last four years, as per Association Graduate Recruiters (AGR) survey, while according to the Business Insider report as many as 46% fresh graduates lack in communication skills followed by public speaking and writing proficiency. It has become all the more important for business schools to bridge the gap in industry demands and the shortfall in students’ skill set.

Another way to look at it could be The Telegraph which derided UK school education system for not taking a keen interest in technical and vocational learning, and clinging on to archaic academic curriculum hence leading to a scenario where a UK school curriculum is similar to what it was in 1904. Any shortfall in education cannot be met by internship and apprenticeship alone as it may require a relook at the current learning system first.

The latest report by Hays Skills Index has also highlighted the shortage of required skills among UK students, especially in the technical and financial industry; however, UK made progress in overall skills position globally. With a score of 6.2, UK does fare better in the list but among the seven parameters, one that needs maximum attention is education mismatch where its score is mere 4.4 in comparison to that of US 6.6 indicating the need to introduce courses relevant to the job market. Besides that UK fares well on all other six parameters.

Overall, it is not all doom and gloom for UK B-school graduates, though it must be noted that upgrading their skill set needs to be a perpetual process in today’s job market. The onus is on UK business schools to interact more with the industry to bridge the gap between desired skills in today’s evolving job market and the skills possessed by fresh graduates.

 Abhishek Bhardwaj