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Week commencing 27/03/17


Should careers modules be compulsory?

The University of Dundee has recently published a report into the graduate destinations of students. It found that those leavers who had completed at least one module on career planning were far more likely to gain a ‘professional’ job in the six months after graduation than those who took no such module.

This Times Higher Education article explains that ‘those who took the classes, which required roughly 200 hours of student effort, including a 30-hour work placement, were 40 per cent more likely to be in graduate employment, as opposed to non-graduate employment’. Alongside this work placement, students would learn to develop their CV and perform mock interviews, as well as enhancing their collaborative skills by working on projects with their peers.

The success of this scheme begs the question: should careers modules be compulsory in some degree programmes? Sceptics might stress that academic subjects should be studied to enhance knowledge of the discipline, rather than as a means to an end of improved employment prospects. The lead author of the study, Ruth O’Riordan would challenge this claim, as she said that ‘many students told us that [a careers module] gave them a renewed interest in their studies’.

Informal research conducted by ARU Students’ Union suggests that course-specific employability advice and opportunities were in high demand amongst students across the institution. Modules which feature a work placement have been well-received an feedback, voiced at Student Staff Liaison Committees (SSLCs), suggests that many valued the chance to understand their studies within an occupational context.


Jo Johnson intervenes in debate over free speech on campus

Universities minister Jo Johnson MP has waded into the ongoing debate over whether higher education institutions, and the students’ unions affiliated to them, should be able to ‘no-platform’ speakers or organisations on the grounds that their views may be offensive or harmful. The Times reported that Johnson has come to the defence of ‘free speech’ in a strongly worded letter to universities. The minister claimed that it is their ‘legal duty’ to allow students, staff and visitors to speak openly on campus regardless of ‘beliefs, or views, policy or objectives’. 

In so doing, Johnson finds himself allied with Spiked magazine, which issues annual Free Speech university rankings, with institutions rated according to a traffic-light system. This year, Anglia Ruskin scored ‘amber’ for having allegedly ‘chilled free speech through intervention’. ARU Students’ Union has had ‘no platform’ policies in the past which sought to reconcile ‘the ideals of free speech, thought and expression’ with those of ‘diversity and equality’. The most recent of these policies, however, lapsed in February 2016 and no replacement has since been brought to Student Council.


Highlights from the week’s papers

Looking fair and wide on university access comprehensively evaluates the problems facing fair admissions and widening participation policies.

Bristol students demand change name of Wills Tower over 'slave trade' links inspired by the Rhodes Must Fall, the Telegraph reports that student activists have launched a new campaign.