(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s universities insist they are producing graduates with practical skills enabling them to get straight to work.
The sector is highlighting its efforts to produce career-ready graduates with a new report on the vast array of opportunities for work placements, internships, industry projects, fieldwork and real-life simulations on offer to students.
Almost half a million students – just over a third of all those enrolled – took up one of these opportunities in 2017, the report Universities Australia released on Wednesday reveals.
“This is a very large number – and a noteworthy one,” the peak body’s chairwoman Margaret Gardner will say upon releasing the report, according to speech extracts.
“Universities don’t just equip students with skills for learning, life and leadership, we help prepare students for the careers that beckon after graduation.
“This is about far more than making them knowledgeable in their chosen field.”
Business and federal education ministers have repeatedly called on universities to do a better job of making sure their students have the skills needed when they graduate and head into workplaces.
The report, funded in part by the education department, shows they have heard that message.
“These figures testify to the extent and diversity of work readiness activities now available at every Australian university and reflect a strong commitment to graduate employability,” it states.
At Charles Sturt University, engineering professors have done away with lectures and exams, instead sending students out to work on four real-world projects plus a series of paid placements.
The feedback from employers indicated the approach was “a program that trains student engineers, not engineering students”, Foundation Professor of Engineering Euan Lindsay said.
In Newcastle, budding lawyers and social workers provide a Law on the Beach clinic each summer, offering free legal advice under supervision while preparing themselves for a career in the courts.
Universities are also releasing new polling showing two-thirds of Australians oppose government cuts to research funding, such as the $328 million trimmed from the sector in December’s mid-year budget update.
The polling by JWS Research also found just over three-in-five people also oppose cuts to student places and the same proportion agree that while cutting university funding may save money now, it will damage Australia in the long term.