At the intersect between education and technology

Are Australian universities failing their students?

Higher education is big business, especially in Australia where it’s a billion-dollar industry. Around a million young Australian’s attend university under the perception that the degree they get upon graduating will be their best chance at securing a stable future. But is it really?

Over the last decade, the higher education industry in Australia has shifted to a demand-driven system, courting higher numbers of students than ever before. Australian universities spent three-hundred million dollars on advertising over the course of the last financial year, and have spent 1.7 billion dollars over the last seven years, pouring funds into digital marketing and SEO strategies amid a climate of fierce competition for both local and international students.

But despite spending big on marketing, it seems universities have been failing to teach it. There have been complaints from within the marketing industry that graduates are coming out of their studies unprepared and lacking the needed skills to perform in the workplace. With the rapid pace at which digital technology and related marketing strategies develop, many students finishing a three-year degree are a step-behind the industry standards.

In fact, business related degrees in general, seem to be failing students once they reach the job market. Accounting and finance degrees have seen little change over the last thirty years, despite massive disruption within the industries themselves. Education too, has come under fire for not adequately preparing graduates for the reality of the classroom. And programming graduates are entering the workforce without any security training.

The truth is, courses at Australian universities still assume a relatively static workforce, where graduates aren’t required to continuously adapt to new environments and engage with new technologies. 60 per cent of professions will be impacted by automation within the next 10 years, however students today are still training for today’s jobs. Training for jobs that, very likely, won’t exist by the time the time they enter the workforce.

Universities are archaic institutions, but they don’t have to remain that way. Current teaching methods at Australian universities are dated, lacking in practical skills and hands-on experience and students are all too aware.

According to recent surveys, at least twenty percent of current students are worried they’ll graduate without the practical skills they need, and only a third of university students believe their degree will get them the job they want.

Data released by the Australian government has highlighted this uncertainty, showing that only two-thirds of students are completing their degrees. Of those who do finish, fifteen percent of students are still unemployed four years after graduating.

It’s time for Australian universities to reform, and make meaningful changes to traditional courses. Universities should invest in new technologies and incorporate their use within degrees, and units need to include more flexible learning experiences that focus on present trends, as well as providing the historical perspective. Adopting changes like these are just small steps, but they’re necessary ones if Australian universities intend to better prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.

Students pay a lot for the privilege of attending university. Understandably, they expect the degree that they get at the end be worth the paper it’s written on.

Have an article to contribute to Union? Email us.