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Research Shows Today’s Students Sharply Focused on Future Career

Research by the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research is finding that students setting out on university courses have acute awareness of the rigours of the job market and the investment made in their education which makes them very sharply focused on their future careers.

The University of Warwick Institute for Employment Research researchers, Professor Kate Purcell and Professor Peter Elias, were commissioned by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit to survey all students who applied to enter HE in Autumn 2006 – the biggest study of its kind ever carried out - and 129,000 responded to this new Futuretrack study.

As well as being asked about their decisions about what and where to study and their views about the value of a degree, students were asked to respond on a scale of 1-7 where 1 means ‘I have a clear idea about the occupation I hope to enter and the qualifications required for it’ and 7 means ‘I have no idea what I will do when I complete my course’. They found that over half the students surveyed put themselves in categories 1 or 2, suggesting that they were very focussed on what they were doing and why.

Unsurprisingly the researchers found that vocational subjects such as Medicine and Education had the largest cohorts of the most career focussed students but even subjects traditionally considered as much less vocational had relatively high percentages (for instance over 30% put themselves in categories 1 or 2 for History and philosophical subjects).

Professor Kate Purcell from the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research said:

“In comparison to previous research findings, the data indicates increased awareness of HE and the labour force as markets within which participants must compete, and where education is seen as an investment by students and their families who have increasingly been required to contribute to its cost.”

Unsurprisingly there was also a clear an association between the type of course applied for and the degree to which applicants had clear vocational perspectives – with just under 80 per cent of those embarking on courses lasting more than four years scoring themselves as 1 or 2, and those doing Foundation degrees or HNDs next most likely to do so with just under 60 per cent respectively.

Tables illustrating this story can be found at

Peter Dunn | alfa
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