UA says science degrees are “great”
Aug 17, 2016 | News | by Learning Press staff
The peak body representing Australian universities has hit back following a report that science graduates are struggling to find jobs post-study.
Universities Australia moved swiftly to counter the findings from the Grattan Institute’s ‘Mapping Australian Higher Education 2016’ report amid fears it could damage a drive to encourage more school leavers to choose science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses.
The Grattan Institute is a leading Australian policy think-tank and the report’s author, Andrew Norton, a respected commentator and former coalition advisor on higher education policy.
Mr Norton said he was “very nervous for the career prospects for recent science graduates” in response to figures showing just 51 per cent looking for full-time work in 2015 had found it four months after completing their course - 17 per cent lower than the national average.
But UA argues new statistics published this week in the Australia Graduate Survey show the majority of graduates find full-time employment within four months of finishing their degree and almost nine out of ten have full-time jobs after three years.
Chief executive Belinda Robinson warned against reading too much into the Grattan’s findings, pointing out that full-time job rates were significantly higher three years after graduation.
"STEM degrees are also great generalist degrees which equip graduates with skills and knowledge needed in a wide range of workplaces," she said.
"The challenge ahead for Australia is not just to create jobs for STEM graduates - but also to boost STEM literacy for everyone as foundational skills for many new economy jobs."
Andrew Norton said beginning a science degree was a "risky" decision and argued: "If people think doing a Bachelor in Science will give them skills that are highly valued in the labour market then they should probably look at studying something else.”
His approach runs counter to the Prime Minister’s promotion of STEM as the driver of our technology-dependent future - with commentators arguing that STEM graduates are crucial to Australia’s development but the jobs to support them don’t yet exist because of a lack of previous investment in the sector.
Ms Robinson cites Australia Graduate Survey figures which show the three-year outlook for graduates finding full time jobs has risen from 76.2 per cent in 2012 to 88.5 per cent in 2015.
She said: “At a time of great economic change, one of the best investments people can make is to get a university education.
“We know that today’s young people are likely to have several careers over their working lives.
“Universities are equipping their graduates with the skills they need for a range of careers and to adapt to ever-changing job markets.
“This adaptability gives university graduates the edge in a competitive economy.
“There’s no doubt that global economic uncertainties and declining terms of trade have taken a toll on jobs growth, but this report shows that recovery in the job market is happening and we are seeing renewed growth in the graduate labour market.”
The graduate survey shows that eight in ten Indigenous graduates found full-time employment within four months of finishing their degree in 2015 and that 94 per cent of bachelor degree graduates felt satisfied with their higher education experience.
The median starting salary for bachelor degree graduates under 25 in their first full-time job was $54,000 in 2015, up from $52,500 in the previous year.