Wednesday

18th Oct 2017

Focus

Parliament looks at ways to increase employability of EU's graduates

  • Students find it increasingly difficult to get a job after they graduate (Photo: Helena Spongenberg)

MEPs and experts on Tuesday (23 February) deplored the 'mismatch' between labour market needs and the offer of university students, with business associations asking the EU to draft different rankings based on the employability and careers of graduates.

"There is a mismatch between demand of companies and the output from the higher educational institutions, regarding the skills and the professions of graduates," Robert Gabriel, a university rector from Hungary said at a public hearing in the European Parliament focusing on the higher education policies in the EU.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

His demands for greater flexibility and response to labour market demands were echoed by several other experts and MEPs discussing the role of the EU in fostering links between universities and the business sector.

The EU executive in 2008 launched a "University-Business Dialogue", a platform of discussion described in an audit carried out by Deloitte, a consultancy firm, as needing more "ownership" by other actors – national, regional and local authorities – in order to become viable.

As education policies remain the competence of national and regional governments, the EU's role can only be that of a facilitator and co-ordinator. A list of the 30 best projects linking the academic world to the business sector is currently being drafted by the European Commission and will be published in March 2010.

Hungarian centre-right MEP Pal Schmitt, who is the rapporteur on this matter, said that 50 to 80 percent of graduates do not get a job in the first years, and suggested developing a system through which universities could monitor the careers of their graduates.

His proposals were backed by Eurochambers, the umbrella association of the bloc's chambers of commerce, saying the only way to tackle this mismatch was to reconfigure university rankings around the employability of their students.

"Academics and universities are evaluated on wrong criteria, with the number of publications the Holy Grail. But what should count is if their graduates find the jobs they want or any jobs at all," Ben Butters from Eurochambers said during the hearing.

A new multi ranking system is indeed being developed by the EU commission, where employability is one of the criteria, but it would take some other years to have it finalised, one of the advisors to this project said.

Mr Butters also criticised some member states where "you need a PhD to even speak to universities" and where there are no ways of involving businesses in the management boards of higher education institutions or in the drafting of study plans.

But this was not the case in eastern European countries, where businesses could partly finance the increasingly cash-strapped universities. Mr Gabriel from Hungary even described his university as "the biggest company" in the region of Pecs, with its 30,000 students, and himself as their CEO.

"There is a force field between being at the cutting edge of research and technology and at the same time reducing government spending – especially now during the crisis. We've seen the quality of education going down, we've also seen a lot of private investments, especially in eastern Europe, where the demand for higher education cannot be matched by the state. Governments can simply not afford it," Howard Newby, the vice-chancellor of Britain's University of Liverpool said.

The best way for universities to cope with all the different demands – e-learning, research and technology, but also social sciences and arts – was to have more autonomy, so as to decide on their own what their strengths are and invest in those areas, Mr Newby argued.

The business-oriented focus was however challenged by a representative of a German students union, Florian Kaiser, who argued that employability may not be the silver bullet for youth unemployment. "Higher education institutions can create jobs themselves," he argued.

Mr Kaiser criticised the increasingly "elitist" attitude of universities as they become ever more profit-oriented and "forget about the primary role of providing education."

British Labour MEP Mary Honeyball said that there will always be a "tension between giving students employable skills and knowledge for its own sake,which can then be developed for research." The only way out of this dilemma was for each university to decide what it is best at, she argued.

UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'

British academics want to guarantee residency and work rights for their EU staff, as well as "enhanced mobility opportunities" for UK and EU students, mostly by keeping British participation in EU funding programs.

EU 'rebrands' youth corps

The European Commission proposes a €341-million budget to get unemployed people into volunteering activities or traineeships that “promote solidarity” in their own countries or abroad.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. EU summit moved to previous building after fumes scare
  2. Catalonia will 'not back down'
  3. New toxic incident in EU building ahead of summit
  4. Murdered Malta journalist's family invited to Parliament
  5. EU food safety chief denies keeping studies 'secret'
  6. EU states pledge 24,000 resettlement places so far
  7. US ready for arms sale to update Greece's F-16 fleet
  8. Austria's Green leaders step down following election failure

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year

Latest News

  1. EU okays Privacy Shield's first year
  2. EU seeks to decrypt messages in new anti-terror plan
  3. EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote
  4. Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis
  5. How EU can ensure Daphne Caruana Galizia's legacy survives
  6. Juncker dinner to warm up relations with eastern EU
  7. Court hearing in MEPs 'private' expenses battle
  8. The unbearable lightness of leadership