Beware of using qualifications as a proxy for skills

I’ve just published an article on WonkHE based on ISEs Student Development Survey. In it I look at what employers are looking for, what students can do and what employers are training students on. I use this to make the argument that we should be careful at judging higher education based purely on the degree or institutions and should focus more carefully on what people are actually learning. Read the article on WonkHE.

The release of a new analysis from the Institute of Fiscal Studies has sent the higher education community into a frenzy of excitement.

The Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data allows us to understand better than ever before the impacts of different qualifications, institutions and, to some extent demographics, on individuals’ earning potential. But, it is important for us to remember some of the things that LEO doesn’t tell us.

A lot of the debate following the new analysis of LEO has focused on recognising the various other benefits that higher education offers individuals and societies. Whether this is a defence of liberal education, social mobility, or the social or economic centrality of higher education and graduates, there are many reasons to believe that a simple measure of individuals’ salaries is insufficient as a basis for making a judgement about the value of higher education. But, there is a more fundamental concern that also needs to be addressed. How much of the salary advantages associated with higher education can be accounted for by the fact that graduates have better skills than other people, and that certain graduates are even more skilled than their peers.

Read on…

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