Universities, are you listening?
Throughout my degree I have been offered countless surveys on how to improve the student experience and what we want our institutions to provide other than lectures. This is what my best experiences, and I believe some of my most valuable knowledge came from, and also lament on what I wish I had.
- Host Conferences
Why? Hosting conference events at your institution can have many great knock on effects, including raising the profile and prestige of your school in the academic and professional communities, facilitating relationships with other leading individuals and institutions and generating revenue for your city and your campus.
For students, all this means opportunity:
– opportunities to find internships,
– to build their profile in their field,
– to learn the most up to date research agenda
– and understand the ins and outs of their future careers, including funding, intersecting industries, office politics and contexts.How? Conferences can be easily achieved if they can be financially viable. Drawing up a simple business case for hosting a conference and you may be able to make the event self-sustaining. Additionally, you may find funding from research and industry bodies, local or national government and your institution. Publicising through academic mailing lists and your institutions PR office is also a must.
- Send your students to Conferences and Professional Events
Why? Networking and skill building. These events are attended by people whom students need to learn to interact with, via skills they will not survive the workplace without. Events like these feature a lot of information in a short period of time, which needs to be processed for the outlining of actionable products afterwards. The often integrate great social media campaigns throughout, which are necessary competences in the current job market, and they are full of short term, low pressure deadlines like signups for plenaries and fringe workshops and content creation. And did I mention networking? Not only a vital skill but also something that will set your graduate in good stead for employment vacancies.How? Establish a fund for undergraduate students, and even draw up a list of conferences for each discipline which you are assured are of good quality and provide the skills you want for your graduates.
- Get them Experienced
Why? Students face some of the most competitive job markets during and after their degrees. Experience is the cutting edge which gets some over the line.How? Build in compulsory experience to your programmes, and team up with organisations to provide it on a regular basis. Sell your graduates as having high quality knowledge, and they will seem like an easy solution to many businesses and institutions.Bonus: Lots of organisations have diversity targets for ethnic minorities, disabled and differently abled, LGBT+, genders and other marginalised characteristics. These are also some of your must vulnerable students. Help meet those targets by linking your students up with those who want them.
- Get them involved in Research and Staff ProjectsWhy? See point 3. Staff projects are also great opportunities to build community in your institution, use students as a resource and challenge students’ level of capacity.How? Publish staff’s current work, and particularly encourage staff to engage students to do secondary reading and observe primary research like interviews and stat analysis. Remind staff that students want to learn.
- Get to Know them
Why? Tricky? Maybe. Effective? Yes. Educators know that good relationships increase learning.How? Building relationships can’t be done via a program; the falseness of the duress and structure will destroy anything you build. Encourage staff to go to student society events, and ensure that school events organised are open and publicised to staff and students. It’s like academic blind dating.
Student employability in institutions is not just a selling point, as education becomes increasingly more marketised. It is also essential to maintaining a healthy economy and the happiness and health of your students. Equipping them for the post-education world is setting them up to fish as soon as possible. You may just be providing skills, but increasing employability can do much, much more than that.