Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Making university graduates employable

By Lee Lung-sheng 李隆聖

There have been media reports that Minister of Education Huang Jung-tsun (黃榮村) will make the proportion of graduates gaining employment a factor in univer-sity evaluations and an important factor in awarding subsidies. The reason for this is that there are too many universities and that students are having increasing difficulty finding work after they graduate.

The question of how employment rates should be calculated requires urgent, albeit time-consuming planning. As far as present policies are concerned, this means that the Ministry of Education will become more pragmatic in their evaluation of university achievements and that it will pay more attention to the ability of universities to directly serve and train students. Universities have reached the point where they have to pay attention to educational fundamentals. They will have to make a high rate of employability for graduates a primary goal and they will have to work hard to achieve that goal.

To achieve high employment rates among graduates, it is necessary to strengthen the workplace experience of both students and teachers. As far as students are concerned, the UK elevated all polytechnic schools to university status in 1992 to give more students the opportunity to attend university. Ten years on, this has resulted in both positive and negative experiences and the name "polytechnic" has disappeared. The "sandwich curriculum," however, which saw the light of day in the 1960s together with the polytechnic schools, is still in place. Traditional universities as well as non-technical and non-vocational departments also rely on such curriculums.

Thus type of curriculum could be likened to the slices of bread in a sandwich and the workplace training to the stuffing between the slices. Students can elect to only attend the three-year on-campus curriculum or they can attend the four-year on-campus curriculum paired with vocational training.

Insightful people are more approving than condemning of the UK sandwich curriculum. They believe that a four-term year, where students transfer between the campus and the workplace every three months, would work best when implementing a system to make the transfer more convenient for students.

As for teachers, the number of universities of applied sciences in Germany have reached almost 50 percent of the number of institutions of higher learning, and the practical and specialized talent they train are widely welcomed in industrial circles.

In addition to a curriculum that stresses the resolution of practical issues by stipulating that students must have one or two terms of practical workplace training during their study period, teachers are generally required to have a minimum of five years practical experience. Some states encourage teachers to work outside the school while maintaining both position and salary in order to update their practical experience.

The idea that students who want to enter the workplace should also practice in the workplace is as natural as the idea that anyone who wants to learn how to swim has to get into the water.

If universities in Taiwan are to achieve high employment rates among their graduates, they have to adopt at least some of the following methods:

First, make students' workplace and on-campus training complement each other. Second, acknowledge that only teachers with experience in the workplace are able to better understand the needs of the industry and pay attention to students' workplace training. Third, rely on workplace training to improve the success of students' job exper-ience. Fourth, technical and vocational colleges should be pioneers in achieving high employment rates among their graduates.

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