Better job statistics needed

Updated: 2011-12-01 13:22

(China Daily)

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Are students about to say goodbye to philosophy and bid farewell to social sciences?

The Ministry of Education released a notice on Nov 21, indicating that if the employment rate for graduates of a particular discipline is lower than 60 percent for two consecutive years, fewer students will be admitted to the course, and if the employment rate continues to fall, then the course will be abolished.

So the future looks bleak for those courses such as philosophy and social sciences that do not have a high demand in the job market and are unable to slot graduates into a readily available employment niche.

But adapting higher education to the fast-changing demands of the job market is a regular practice both at home and abroad.

The ministry revealed as early as Dec 2004 that it intended to reduce the admissions for any higher education courses that had an employment rate of less than 50 percent for two years and that it would stop enrolling students for courses that had an employment rate of less than 30 percent for three consecutive years.

However, this resolve to optimize the specialties offered by the nation's universities and colleges was not translated into immediate results amid the fast growth of the higher education market.

Statistics show the number of specialties in regular higher education institutes increased from 583 in 2005 to 646 in 2009, with 72.4 percent of college graduates finding a job in 2010.

As the employment rate looks set to become a rigid criterion for the ministry to judge the feasibility of the specialties taught at universities and colleges, what really deserves attention is the reliability of the employment rate statistics, especially since they are based on surveys by individual colleges.

Under the flawed employment rate survey method introduced by the ministry in 2004, as well as those graduates that sign employment agreements or labor contracts with employers and those that are self-employed, those admitted for further education or who go abroad are also counted as employed.

The current means of calculating the employment rate of graduates also fails to reflect graduates career prospects and future job mobility and the connection, or lack of one, between their jobs and their specialties.

According to the ministry, a record number of 6.8 million students will graduate from regular higher education institutes in 2012, 200,000 more than 2011.

So the education authority should cautiously implement a more rational and farsighted means of determining the graduate employment rate before approving schools' applications to set up new specialties in the future.