SSH News: Back-to-school reports, opinions, and advice

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Good news about employment and earnings for university grads

University education is in the spotlight as students across Canada head back to school.

A good news report from The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) confirms that university students in the province are securing well-paying jobs in their field within two years of graduating. Humanities and social science graduates fall within this trend as well. The COU report includes a survey and infographic with interesting data, including employment rates and salaries.

This good news continues with an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, which notes that salaries for new grads exceeded their expectations. This is partly because media reports about the poor economic prospects of university grads had taken a toll on students’ expectations. The Wall Street Journal breaks down average salaries by discipline as well.

But not everyone is optimistic

Still, others are more reserved about the value of university education.  

South of the border, a book called Aspiring Adults Adrift by Richard Arum and Josipa Rokso paints a picture of recent college graduates struggling to transition into adulthood. This follows an earlier volume by the same authors, on the weak learning that takes place at college. An overview of Aspiring Adults Adrift can be found in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

An article in The Star Phoenix says that Canada’s outcomes in matching graduates to the right skills “leaves a lot to be desired.” The articles focuses on the lack of people with those specialized skills that are most in demand, as well as the entrepreneurial skills required to start your own business, and create your own job.

Advice from economists

The sentiment about entrepreneurship was echoed by an economics Nobel laureate in an article calling for a greater focus on the “spirit of innovation” that appeared in Project Syndicate. According to the author, this does not mean a focus on STEM and technical skills. Rather, he suggests that high schools and universities return to the humanities, the lessons of which will “reinvigorate economies today.”

But not everyone wants to blame schools. Students play a huge role in their own success. A prominent economist gives advice to students in The Globe and Mail about the reforms they need to make to succeed at university and finding a job. And, yes, this includes taking courses in the humanities!


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