As unemployment rate among graduates continues to rise, a new report says that higher education could help reduce unemployment and create thousands of jobs.
The British-funded study, Universities, Employability and Inclusive Development, led by the Institute of Education at the University of London, was released at the “Going Global” conference held in Miami in the United States from 29 April to 1 May.
The study took three years with a special focus on Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. The study was carried out in partnership with Kenyatta University in Kenya, the University of Education, Winneba in Ghana, the University of the Free State in South Africa and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. All the four countries are facing similar problem of how higher education can help prepare young people for a prosperous future. The project aims to provide policy-makers with compelling evidence on how they can build a stronger link between their higher education sectors and the labour market, ensuring that graduates generate the growth and strong societies Africa needs if it is to realize its potential.
In Nigeria, the unemployment rate is as high as 23.1% for those with undergraduate degrees, with a much lower rate in South Africa, standing at 5.9%. The unemployment rate is even high for those with diploma or certificate level qualifications. In Kenya, as the report notes, unemployment rates specifically for university graduates are not available. However, across the 25-29 age groups as a whole the unemployment rate is 41% in Ghana and 15.7% in Kenya. The report estimates that on average, it takes a university graduate five years to secure a job in Kenya. The report says that employers are dissatisfied with the skills and qualities of graduates claiming that there is a significant skills mismatch between employer requirements and graduates. Universities also face major severe challenges, with a lecturer having up to 60 students in Kenya. It also notes that the in most cases, lecturers lack adequate qualifications and preparation while universities suffer a severe lack of physical resources including buildings, laboratories and libraries.
How can Higher Ed therefore help to Create Jobs?
The report says that Universities must improve the quality of taught courses. Sound teaching and learning quality in degree programmes is the sine qua non of enhancing graduate employability. There should be significant structural reform like reducing student-lecturer ratio and improving infrastructure, pedagogical development of existing staff and enhancing student voice in relation to teaching and learning. Universities should also enable a broader learning experience for students. The report urges universities to include experiential learning in the community such as service learning and volunteering as employers increasingly value global perspectives and understanding of diversity. Lastly, universities should provide adequate employability input. They should provide specific information to inform students about career opportunities which enables them to reflect on their personal aptitudes and develop them further where necessary. Career advisory services which often lack in Kenya should be put in place as well as job fairs and other interactions with employers.