In the last week here, both the major media corporations in Australia (News Limited andFairfax) have announced major restructures of their operations. Lots of redundancies are being forecast (as in, thousands over the next few years) and there’s a lot of people asking questions about the future of the media in this country as a result.
As it is, there’s been a massive oversupply of journalism graduates for some years. There simply aren’t a huge number of actual journalism jobs in this country available each year, but thousands of people graduate with journalism degrees when the number of jobs available is in the low hundreds, from what I know.
So today’s brouhaha got me thinking: It seems to me that universities are doing a disservice to their students by having professional degree courses with large numbers of students in them, when it’s fairly obvious there aren’t enough jobs at the other end for them to go to when they graduate.
Let me stress: I’m not at all opposed to learning for the sake of pure knowledge. I think it’s something which should be encouraged. But professional degrees are a different thing - everyone knows the reason (most) people study them is to get a job in that field. Sure, I think most people are aware there’s a limited market for archaeologists and if you’re studying that it’s because you really like the past, but the average person studying a Civil Engineering degree (for example) isn’t doing it because they’re going to become a lumberjack after they graduate.
Further, I’m not saying that universities should be saying “We’re not going to let you study this subject”, either- but I think it should be made abundantly clear to prospective students something like “There are substantially fewer jobs in this profession than there are graduates each year. The likelihood you will get a job in this profession after completing your degree is low/practically non-existent. You should consider your reasons for wanting to undertake this degree and if it is the right choice for you, taking into account your goals and circumstances.”
I’m not such an idealist that I know the reason this doesn’t happen is simple: Money. But ethically, at least, I’d like to think a university planning on charging a student thousands of dollars for a degree course has at least some duty to tell them “You realise there’s 1,000 people studying this degree and maybe 50 jobs nationally in this field, right?”
Although the focus of this OP has been journalism, I think the overall discussion applies to pretty much any professional field where there’s a lot of graduates and not many jobs - I’m told accounting has becoming increasingly competitive, for example.