Making the most of Higher Education

Linden Harris of Cengage Learning shares his thoughts on how information providers are working with universities to prepare students for the working world.

Value for money

A rise in tuition fees and a 10% drop in university applications reported by UCAS are forcing universities to look closely at their 'value for money' offering to students. Universities are now competing with each other to offer free resources, the latest teaching techniques and employment advice to attract students looking to cut costs and gain the qualifications and experiences that employers want.

Recognising that institutions create value in different ways, at Cengage Learning we work consultatively to develop bespoke institutional solutions. For example, Plymouth University is offering all of its first-year Psychology students digital textbooks created by Cengage Learning free of charge - a student saving of £500. The 12 set texts are essential to the course and are presented in a digital bundle that can be downloaded by users. Students involved rated their degree great value for money and typically came to lectures better-prepared, because they all had access to the appropriate materials. At Plymouth just over half of the current first year students were aware of the eBook bundle before they applied, and nearly half of those thought it influenced their decision to attend the university.

Ready for the workforce - a virtual reality solution

High Fliers' survey of the top 100 UK recruiters of graduates showed a drop in the number of jobs on offer last year and an increase in the value that businesses are placing on work experience.

In the Further Education market, virtual reality (VR) simulation software has been used effectively to help students studying subjects such as plumbing, heating, gas and welding gain vital vocational experience prior to applying for jobs.

The School of Construction at the College of North West London North uses Cengage Learning's Skills2Learn VR software to simulate potentially dangerous real-life experiences in a safe environment. It has helped students become truly competent, well trained tradespeople who are 100% ready for the world of work and highly attractive to employers.

Recruitment strategies that promote graduate employability

Choosing a university is a life-changing decision due to the financial investment by the student and the potential career that could come as a result. Advertisements are now focusing on outcomes and graduate employability and some institutes have had to cut courses as students become more selective.

Universities must recognise that competition for students is now global and that undergraduates will be focusing on the value for money each course represents and which ones offer a clear path to the workplace.

Universities also need to market themselves better and highlight any advantage they might have in terms of resource provision, digital libraries and primary source material for research.

Linden Harris is an e-learning specialist and Publishing Director of Cengage Learning EMEA.