Graduate oversupply promises a bleak future

Scarcity and demand are two major factors in determining the price of a product or service. Gold would not be enjoying a record high price if there was not a scarcity of supply and an excess of demand. This simple concept can be applied to the value of the degrees we are studying for right now.


Job opportunities for graduates could be poor. Photo: Horst Gutmann

A quick history lesson is called for. A long time ago a man called Tony Blair had a vision. In 1999, at the annual Labour Party Conference, Prime Minister Blair said: “So today I set a target of 50 per cent of young adults going into higher education in the next century.” A laudable aim but one with an inbuilt flaw. Simply increasing the number of people with a degree, or other higher education qualification, will not guarantee a benefit to those people.

Why? Two reasons.

The first is that by raising the number of people acquiring degrees we automatically reduce the value of the degree. No matter how hard you might have worked for that degree. No matter how much you have paid for the privilege of studying for that degree. If everyone else has got a degree as well then you’re not going to stand out from the crowd. You’re actually just another name on a long list of people looking for work and having little in the way of a unique selling point.

Employers will have to differentiate between candidates by using other criteria. Perhaps only considering those graduates with firsts or with firsts from a select number of supposedly prestigious universities. Perhaps employers will only consider candidates with masters degrees instead of first degrees? The over supply of graduates ensures that employers can be as choosey as they wish.

The second reason is that many of the degree courses on offer today do not meet the needs of the British economy. Take a look at the two courses shown below.

International Spa Management – University of Derby
BA (Hons) Sports Business Management – University of Lincoln

Now there’s nothing wrong with management courses, we’re in desperate need of managers to run our economy. But a course dedicated just to learning how to run an “International Spa”? Or a course dedicated to “Sports Business Management”? What’s wrong with a general management degree course that can be put to good use in any industry? Why the narrowness of the subject area? Why shut out so many other employment opportunities at such an early stage of your career? We should be seeking to expand our perceived value to an employer not constricting our options.

Too many graduates and too little demand for graduates equals a bleak outlook.

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