MARKETABLE GRADUATES: 'Global grads' get jobs fast
THERE has been much hype about the world ranking of institutions of higher learning both in Malaysia and around the world. For the more established universities, there will always be a constant stream of applications from top students worldwide.
However, for most of these universities, the administrative discussion centres on making decisions to create policies to enable their world rankings to rise and to create programmes to produce marketable graduates.
Among the common complaints from potential employers are that fresh social science graduates do not possess qualifications suitable for the commercial world. There appears to be a mismatch between the employment market's demands and the qualifications that a graduate possesses.
In their quest to create the most appropriate undergraduate programmes, universities have come up with a compilation of courses and disciplines.
Universities in some foreign countries have introduced a radical change in restructuring the undergraduate curriculum. These universities have designed courses specifically for internationalising academic programmes. These follow the undergraduate studies in the United States, whereby students obtain their qualifications in a related discipline before pursuing a specified course which then leads to a specialised qualification, such as a medical, accounting or engineering degree.
The model was designed after studying the best of European and Asian practices and North American traditions specifically for internationalising academic programmes and aligning degree structures with its predecessor, the Bologna Model (named after the place where it was proposed, the University of Bologna).
Drawing from the developments in some foreign countries and in Europe, such models have tried to standardise and complement each other in providing employable graduates, as well as raising the standard of education so that the graduates would be globally accepted. It has been established that graduates who had undertaken their studies based on these models had been employed as soon as they graduated.
In Malaysia, to gain the status of a research university (RU), a public or private university is primarily gauged based on its MyRA (Malaysia Research Assessment Instrument) scores. The five research universities and the sole apex university, Universiti Sains Malaysia, have begun the race to organise conferences affiliated to index and Scopus publications.
Universities have also attempted to set benchmark standards to be fulfilled by their academicians and at the same time, shoulder the responsibility to produce marketable graduates.
A more plausible solution would be to blend efforts to achieve high MyRA scores and also to fine-tune teaching modules to produce marketable graduates.
A noble effort has been initiated in one of the academic centres at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).
Lecturers at the Academy of Language Studies (ALS) are writing research papers to help UiTM scale the MyRA scores, but at the same time, have revamped a few of their English language programmes to include modules which would ultimately produce graduates who have knowledge of other disciplines.
The modules offered in their course plan include selected management and business courses. This change was done after a survey was carried out by its curriculum committee.
The survey was conducted by interviewing key personnel in industries and commercial sectors.
The undergraduate programmes in ALS have been tailored to include additional subjects from other disciplines.
To make graduates more marketable, the curriculum planners at ALS have incorporated subject modules from different faculties which would expose the undergraduates to aspects of management, finance and business practices. By including these modules, undergraduates would be better prepared and more employable when they enter the working world.
Unlike the "models" introduced in western countries, where an undergraduate studies a specific discipline first and then takes a specialised course, the "ALS Model", so to speak, gives the prospective graduates a combination of courses which would equip them to be gainfully employed in a broader spectrum in the job market.
A graduate with an English language degree predominantly works in the education field as English language teachers or editors in publications and news networks.
However, with this value-added qualification, these fresh graduates will be able to find employment in the commercial and industrial sectors, as well.