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Global Survey: Students Want a Bigger Focus on Career Outcomes

For the second year in a row, a majority of students all around the world stated that they believe the primary purpose of education is to improve their employment prospects. In fact, they have some specific advice for the colleges and universities they attend: Foster an entrepreneurial atmosphere and teach soft skills.

These results and others surfaced in a survey of 23,313 students who attend universities that are part of the Laureate Education worldwide network as well as 4,058 students who attend other institutions. Starting last year, the for-profit organization worked with a research firm to understand student attitudes towards higher education. The survey questioned students in 22 countries and delivered the survey in 10 languages. Three-quarters of respondents were between the ages of 16 and 24; six in 10 were female.

Overall, the researchers concluded, the world's young people are "confident that their lives are improving because of access to higher education."

A small majority of students (55 percent) from both the Laureate and non-Laureate groups indicated they feel strongly that courses will be designed by industry experts to prepare students to find a job at their companies when they graduate.

Fifty-one percent overall said they are confident that the current higher ed system in their country is of high-quality. However, that varies by region of the world. Students in North America and Asian/Pacific schools are the most confident (58 percent and 57 percent, respectively); less confident are students in Central/South America (49 percent), Europe (45 percent) and Africa (35 percent).

Respondents predict more good things coming in the future — 15 years ahead — to enhance the education of college students: entrepreneurship, mentoring, lifelong learning for licensing, certifications, managing change and personal growth. Two-thirds of students said those kinds of additions to education will be "better" compared to what's provided now.

For example, nearly every respondent (93 percent) reported that their institutions should work directly with employers to help teach students the skills they need to be successful. A similarly high number — 96 percent — said they would encourage their schools to foster "an entrepreneurial atmosphere."

More than half of the students also said they believe institutions will devote more resources to graduate employment than they do today and that students as well as institutions and governments will care more about the employment outcomes of graduates than they do today.

"Access to quality higher education is a catalyst for transforming lives and societies," said Douglas Becker, the head of Laureate. "Meeting students' expectations and delivering on a promise to provide them with the skills to meet their career aspirations should be the goals of every university."

The full report, "2015 Laureate/Zogby Global Student Confidence Index," is available on the Laureate Web site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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