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China climbs graduate employability rankings

By WANG MINGJIE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-11-20 09:26

People wait in line at a job fair in Beijing earlier this month for students who are about to graduate next year. [Photo by Hao Yi/for China Daily]

Universities in Chinese mainland have shown a rapid improvement in graduate employability rankings over the last decade, with the nation now listed as the 5th most competitive country or region worldwide in a new report.

The Times Higher Education and the French consultancy Emerging on Thursday released the Employability Rankings 2020, a ten-year survey into the most employable study locations for higher education students around the world.

Chinese mainland's score increased by 132 percent, from 208 in 2010 to 481 this year, meaning the nation jumped from 11th to 5th in the ranking of best performing countries and regions for employability.

Universities in all countries and regions are rated, and the higher the university is in the rankings, the more points it achieves for its nation.

The study found that all Chinese mainland institutions either improved or maintained their previous ranking position. One of the nation's top performers was the University of Science and Technology of China, which climbed seven places to 99th.

The country's overall performance in the latest rankings echoes that of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, which saw the research quality of its middle ranking universities begin to converge with those of the United States for the first time.

The podium for this year's ranking is, unsurprisingly, dominated by the most prestigious US institutions - California Institute of Technology (1st), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2nd), and Harvard University (3rd).

But these outstanding performers hide the general decline of US higher education overall. The nation's score fell 51 percent, from 4,227 in 2010 to 2,067 this year.

This is mirrored for the United Kingdom, where a small group of elite institutions cover the general decline of its higher education system. Despite the likes of University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and Imperial College London improving or maintaining positions in the top tier, the UK has fallen from 2nd to 4th in the ranking.

The findings, analysts said, suggest several factors may have affected the UK's score, including strong competition from other English-speaking academic systems, the rise in tuition fees, Brexit, as well as the reluctance to engage in employability as a measure of university success.

South Korea has seen a huge improvement over the 10-year period. It now ranks in 9th spot, having previously ranked 21st. Germany has become one of the most highly regarded countries for employability, 3rd only to the US and France.

Jamie Ramacciotti, head of student content at the Times Higher Education, said "Employability represents the return of investment on education for many students and their families, and it can be a critical part of the decision-making process as students decide where and what to study.

"The latest Employability Rankings show that students have a wide range of choice when it comes to study destinations that will help power the early years of their career," he said. "While the elite institutions of the US and UK remain right at the top of the tree, Australia, Canada, and many others offer a first-class education if employability is your primary goal."

Sandrine Belloc, managing partner at Emerging, said: "The combined effects of high employability needs of employers, as well as the ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis, have led to 80 percent of our survey participants suggesting a radical review of the university education approach is necessary.

"Students and parents are considering employability more seriously when it comes to deciding where to study. Whether universities choose to measure success in this way could be decisive for the future of higher education," she added.

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