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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Inside the world’s largest higher education boom | The Conversation UK

Photo: Katherine Stapleton
"A record-breaking 8m students will graduate from Chinese universities in 2017." says Katherine Stapleton, PhD student, University of Oxford. 

This figure is nearly ten times higher than it was in 1997 and is more than double the number of students who will graduate this year in the US.

Graduation day.
Photo: Author provided

Just two decades ago, higher education in China was a rare privilege enjoyed by a small, urban elite. But everything changed in 1999, when the government launched a program to massively expand university attendance. In that year alone university admissions increased by nearly 50% and this average annual growth rate persisted for the next 15 years, creating the largest influx of university educated workers into the labour market in history.

Growth in the number of engineering students has been particularly explosive as part of the government’s push to develop a technical workforce which can drive innovation. But overall student numbers have increased in all subjects – even in the humanities and social sciences. New universities have sprung up and student enrolment numbers have rocketed. The second most popular subject major is in fact literature – and the fastest growing is law.

Underemployment 
In 2013, Chinese citizens started blogging about the “hardest job hunting season in history” – and each year it seems to get harder for Chinese graduates. In 2017 there will be 1m more new graduates than there were in 2013. And yet, the graduate unemployment rate has remained relatively stable – according to MyCOS Research Institute, only 8% of students who graduated in 2015 were unemployed six months after graduating.

But if you delve a little deeper it’s clear that unemployment rates mask the more subtle issue of “underemployment”. While most graduates eventually find work, too many end up in part-time, low-paid jobs.

Six months after graduating, one in four Chinese university students have a salary that is below the average salary of a migrant worker, according to MyCOS data. History, law and literature have some of the lowest starting salaries, and also the lowest employment rates.

Graduation day.
Photo:  Xinxi Xu/flickr, CC BY

And for students who choose arts and humanities subjects in high school, the average starting salary after university is lower than that of their classmates who didn’t go to university, according to survey data. Of the 50 most common graduate occupations, 30% are low-skilled and don’t require a degree.
For these students, low starting salaries and limited career progression call into question the value of their degree.

The high cost of living, particularly in big cities, has also forced millions of graduates into “ant tribes” of urban workers living in squalid conditions – often in basements – working long hours in low-paid jobs.
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Source: The Conversation UK 


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