Be alert to Higher Education advertising!

14th August 2018

The week of Clearing means that we see lots of adverts from universities fighting to get their institution into the heads those who will be looking for alternative options come results day.

London Metropolitan University has a poster in today’s Metro that reads “96.7% of our graduates progress to work or further study within six months”. A fantastic statistic but it begs some important questions. For example, what do they mean by work? Does this include unpaid internships? How many of these students are in work that is related to their degree? How many are in graduate entry jobs? ‘Work’ is a broad term that doesn’t tell us very much.

The second part of the ad says ‘or further study’. This usually means a Postgraduate qualification or employment related training such as a PGCE. Therefore this ad adds together all those who are staying on at university, going on to employment related training or are in work of any kind even if it’s totally unrelated to their degree or does not require Higher Education at all. This statistic doesn’t really tell us very much about the career prospects of their graduates. I should add that this is not to say that London Met is deceiving us - the statistic is indeed true but just not very informative.

Another advert to look out for at this time of year include posters which give an anecdote about the success of one of their graduates. For example ‘meet Dan who went to this university to study History and now works as a producer at the BBC’. I’ve made this up but have seen similar adverts many times in the past. The problem here is backwards induction. It is designed to make us draw false parallels - we think if I also study History at this university then I will also have a good job like Dan. Sadly that’s not how the world works!

Be wary, therefore, of being taken in by big numbers and clever stats on Higher Education adverts. Nothing beats your own thorough research into the aspects of a university that matter the most to you. That means taking time to read the prospectus, browse the website and if possible visit. When time is short you can contact the admissions team and even ask to speak with current students - something that increasing numbers of universities are offering.

If you would like any advice about Clearing or are looking to retake any subjects then do contact Cherwell College for a free personal consultation.

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