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Students Wanting ‘Jobs-Based’ Degrees? UCAS

According to new research based on published UCAS figures, students are plumping for less traditional degrees with a focus on direct applicability to certain careers, like medicine.

As the number of applicants in disciplines like English, history and languages are down over the last 5 years, school leavers are choosing more subjects like business, medicine, engineering and science subjects.

The research has been conducted by HSBC.  Anne-Marie Koukourava, head of wealth at the bank  in the UK, said: “The combination of challenging employment prospects for young people with the introduction of higher education fees appears to have been the catalyst for a swing towards vocational university courses, which are seen as a safer investment in terms of graduate job opportunities.”

Student tuition fees have increased – they went from £1,000 to £3,000 in 2006 and in 2012 went up to £9,000-a-year, so it would be quite natural for students to consider carefully their chances of a well paying job at the end.

A separate survey carried out by the bank found that parents ranked vocational courses and the sciences most highly for graduate employment prospects.

According to the report, the increases in ‘work based’ and scientific subject applications between 2007 and 2012 was as follows:

  • Medicine +12% (to 95, 309)
  • Engineering +17%
  • Chemistry +13%
  • Biology +19%
  • Physics +29%
  • Management and business studies +9%

Additionally subjects “allied to medicine” increased from 192,114 to 371,045, and this was partly attributed to changes requiring nurses to have a degree.

However, English and other linguistic subjects were down by 11% overall, European languages dropped by 11% overall, history and philosophical studies went down by 5%.  Earlier research showed that graduates with art-based degrees had a much harder time finding employment at 6 months after graduating as compared to subjects like medicine.

But Prof Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, cautioned that this wasn’t necessarily the best thing for students:

“Fees are causing students to think a lot more seriously about the part that going to university is going to play in their future lives and whether they will get a good return for their investment,” he said.

“But it is a little bit short-sighted to simply concentrate on a career above all else at the age of 18. Studying a subject you love, such as the humanities or English literature, will enhance your life and could throw up future employment opportunities that you’re not yet aware of.”

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