From the Observer.. Graduates: a problem in four parts

Tanya de Grunwald has written a great article:

Have you noticed how swiftly online discussion about the UK’s “graduate problem” descends into a slanging match, even on civilised websites like this one? Mention “Mickey Mouse degrees” and watch students, lecturers and employers scratch each other’s eyes out. Everyone gets worked up but nothing is ever worked out. Journalists seem no clearer on the true cause of the problem they’re reporting. It’s the surge in the number of graduates. No, it’s rising tuition fees. Or the recession. Or unpaid internships. Or that we have somehow raised an entire generation of arrogant, grabby young things who don’t know the value of a day’s work. Er, what was the question again?

Her argument is thus:

  • Students think of univeristy as an investment to get them a job
  • Universities see themselves as facilitators of academic study
  • Employers think university should equip people with key skills to do jobs (“They refuse to hire candidates who aren’t work-ready, hence the unpaid internships.”)

And finally…

  • Politicians see the grand picture of an educated workforce equalling a strong economy.

She concludes:

In my opinion, students should take a more active role in determining their future – and employers should return to hiring graduates on potential rather than experience. Universities should stop running degrees they know have no real value – and completely overhaul their careers advice services. Politicians should support payment for internships and keep tuition fees as low as possible until we can all promise school pupils that yes, going to university is definitely a good idea. With a fresh batch of 470,000 students set to finish their undergraduate studies this summer and a further 205,000 completing postgraduate courses, we have no time to lose.

We couldn’t agree more.

NB: She also runs a great website full of graduate career advice. Check it out here.

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6 Responses to “From the Observer.. Graduates: a problem in four parts”

  1. 2 Tanya de Grunwald 04/20/2010 at 6:28 pm

    Ooh, how nice to find this – and thanks for your kind words!

    Unfortunately the Guardian’s bizarre ‘house style’ means they refuse to say in the article who the hell I am (they tuck it away in a separate biog page, it’s nuts), so i could just be some random ranter!

    For anybody interested I’m the author of Dude, Where’s my Career? The Guide for Baffled Graduates.

    I’ve also just launched Graduate Fog ( which is full of graduate careers advice that is actually useful.

    (I think the advice you guys get a uni is a disgrace and I’ll continue to be really vocal about this as I think it’s a vital part of the whole ‘graduate problem’.)

    I also think is a pretty sucky too – when was it written, the 1800s?

    Keep banging the drum re unpaid internships – I’m right there with you! Thanks again for the post –

    Tanya x

    PS Neither of my projects earn me any money at all at the moment (I get 25p per book) so please don’t feel I’m selling! But it would be fab it you could spread the word about Graduate Fog – the more users I get, the more likely it’ll be that I can find a way to fund it, to keep it going… thanks again x

  2. 3 Matt 04/21/2010 at 1:53 pm

    An interesting article, Tanya.

    One point of contention I would have with you is the assertion that government should support payment of interns. I’m not convinced that the government should be subsidising employers’ pay bills. If interns are undertaking work of value to those employers, they should be paying for that service. Pretty much what current legislation requires of them.

    Or am I misunderstanding your point?

  3. 4 Tanya de Grunwald 04/28/2010 at 2:51 pm


    I think you’re referring to the part where I say “Politicians should support payment for internships”? In which case, let me clarify.

    I just meant that the government should be supporting organisations like Interns Anonymous in pushing for the minimum wage – not actually picking up the bill themselves. I agree with you 100% that if employers are gaining work that’s of value to them from an intern, then they should pay them.

    Unfortunately, unlike the TUC, I fear it isn’t enough just to tell interns to demand the minimum wage – you guys are in a vulnerable position so could use some back-up.

    I wrote something about this recently that might be of interest:

    Hope this sets the record straight! x

  4. 5 Matt Dykes 04/29/2010 at 10:36 am


    Thanks for the clarification. I agree totally then with your statement in terms of government support.

    I was a wee bit stung by some of your criticisms on your blog and have responded in full there. I guess I can understand the conclusions you reach if you take the website in isolation and make some misplaced assumptions about the nature of our advice to interns. I hope my post on your blog assuages some of your concerns.

    Cheers, Matt

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