The policy shift in access and participation for the English HE sector that universities minister Michelle Donelan announced recently is part of a wider government “HE settlement” that could reshape the sector for the next decade.
The new Lifelong Loan Entitlement is designed to open up further and higher education options, enabling, in principle, individuals to build up shorter qualifications over the course of their careers, accessing tertiary education at different times in their lives. And with that opening up, there are additional expectations on universities to work towards improving retention and progression to graduate employment for diverse students.
This change will have consequences for universities. It’s not that graduate employability will suddenly become a priority, because we know that it’s already a core priority for most universities. But it will shift the lens through which university careers services develop and evaluate their work – and will require further close collaboration with subject academics and industry to build meaningful pathways and connections between qualifications and employment across all subject areas.
A technology enabled future
At the same time, just as Covid-19 has prompted an acceleration in the adoption of technology to enhance learning and teaching, technology will be infused across every aspect of the student experience, with careers support no exception. And universities, and employers, will need to adapt their thinking to take advantage of the opportunities – and in some cases ensure they are fairly distributed.
During the pandemic many students took advantage of opportunities to access careers support online, with technology providing opportunities to level the playing field and enhancing access to services. But we also saw in our Netpotism research the digital divide playing out in terms of different students’ ability to engage with employers and recruitment processes online, and employers to some extent falling back on their established networks and contacts to recruit.
Now, as in many professional contexts, careers services are considering how best to configure services post-pandemic. It’s not always simply a question of what should be kept and what should return to “normal” but how the professional landscape is itself shifting and prompting fresh questions about the most effective ways to support students to connect with future careers opportunities as well as contribute to the civic university agenda.
And, as is so often the case, these conversations are taking place against a backdrop of possible funding and resource constraints. The evidence for the impact of the support that is provided will be under scrutiny as never before.
Careers 2032 – share your views
All this change is potentially exciting – offering the opportunity to reflect and create innovative solutions to meet ever evolving student and employer expectations and needs. . But it also makes it hard to plan for the future, creating uncertainty and a lack of confidence that decisions made about where to go from here are the right ones. That’s why we’re working with partners across the university sector on our “Careers 2032” research project, bringing together student representatives, careers service professionals and employers across the UK to develop a shared roadmap underpinned by industry research.
We’ll be running surveys of students and careers professionals, and last week and this we’re on the road with Wonkhe, AGCAS, and the Institute of Student Employers, running a series of fifteen roundtables asking how different students’ needs and expectations for careers support are changing, how employers can recruit diverse talent, how careers service might evolve in the next decade and, crucially, how technology can power these shifts.
We recognise that not everyone can make it to an in-person event, so we want to ensure we’ve heard from everyone with a perspective to share.
We’re interested in finding out:
- What external factors will drive change in student and graduate careers connections and transitions over the next decade?
- What barriers are different student groups facing in choosing and accessing a career?
- How will university actors – leaders, careers professionals, and academic teams – evolve their strategies and practice to build inclusive careers support at the scale required?
So if you have a view on these questions, please do get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll use it to inform our thinking as we bring together our findings.
We hope many of you will be able to join us early in February for the launch of our final report, and at Wonkhe’s Secret Life of Students event on Tuesday 15 February where we’ll be sharing the findings and discussing their implications.
This article is published in association with Handshake. Click here to find out more about the Careers 2032 project and to sign up to receive a copy of the industry report as soon as it drops.