It is, according to a report by centrist Think Tank the Social Market Foundation, a problem that doesn’t shift: nearly 6% of university students drop out after their first year and, in 20 establishments, the figure is 10%. At the London Metropolitan University, the number rises to one in five (20%). Retention rates haven’t gone down since 2010, but they remain “stubborn”, and very few institutions have made significant improvements, says the report. Of course, it is not the rate so much as the new situation since 2010 that makes the numbers so troubling: nowadays, a student who drops out after one year will emerge with unimproved prospects, certainly £9,000 and possibly £20,000 in debt.
QS World University Rankings were published at the beginning of the month. The biggest trend this year is the regressive performance of Western European institutions. France, Portugal, Germany, and Italy all suffer to varying extents, but perhaps the most significant tremors are those felt by the UK. Of more significance, however, are the trends visible when one looks at the dataset for citations per faculty, a measure of global research impact. Cambridge’s drop in citations performance is more severe here, while, for the second consecutive year, the UK has fewer top-100 research institutions than does China. Across Western Europe, too, research performance as a whole remains broadly static, while universities in other parts of the world are making advances apace. China’s rise is the best example of this, but the universities in Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and France also seem to be following a very different trajectory to those in the United Kingdom, both reputational and for research performance.
Public colleges and universities in the South are among the fastest-shrinking institutions in the country, thanks to dramatic cuts in state appropriations, a lack of industrial development in several states, and high rates of poverty among communities throughout the south. Several of the states with the greatest cuts to higher education are in the South — with Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky leading the pack. The steep cuts are, in many cases, compounded by an enrollment crisis, as the high rates of poverty facing many students in these states means a high reliance on financial aid and scholarships, which may not be available in the midst of cuts.
A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research on more than 75 countries reveals a 4% per capita increase in regions which have expanded higher education. The research mirrors rising economic fortunes in states like California, which this year increased budgets for its state university systems as revenues have grown in the state.
The response to the headline depends on the employer being asked. Consulting, finance and accounting, and healthcare/pharma companies want, above all, candidates who fit the company culture; technology, manufacturing and nonprofit/government employers want new business school graduates who’ll make an impact right away. Industries might not have a formal checklist for candidates, but make no mistake they’ve tagged qualities they’re seeking. Of course, students weighing the decision to attend graduate school would do well to know the qualities employers desire before they spend the time and money to continue their education. A business school degree appears to have a pretty good return on investment. According to a recent survey, 88% of recruiters worldwide—and 91% of U.S. recruiters–plan to hire graduates with an MBA. Starting salaries for an MBA exceed $100,000 a year. Graduate degrees in accounting, finance, and management are also high on the recruiting list. Please see the link for the matrix of traits within the industries.