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Rise of the ‘Young professional’

07 February 2012

Today’s students are more career-driven than ever and take a far more measured approach to university choice than their predecessors, according to a survey by Cardiff University.

The survey, based on responses from 1,000 people who are either graduates, current students or those planning to attend university, found that almost two thirds (59 per cent) of students planning to attend university next year rank employability prospects as an important factor when choosing where to apply, compared to less than a third (29 per cent) of those who attended university in the past.

This consideration is twice as important as nightlife and lifestyle (30 per cent) for today’s students and even ranked ahead of campus and facilities (54 per cent).

More than half (52 per cent) of those applying this year will visit at least three universities before making their decision, compared to only 41 per cent of current first year undergraduates and less than a third (31 per cent) of those who have now graduated. In the past, almost a quarter (23 per cent) of students would make a decision without visiting any universities, compared to only six per cent today.

The significance of the decision is also reflected in the greater role played by parents, with 82 per cent of those applying this year saying their parents will influence their decision compared to only 59 per cent of those who applied in the past.

The importance of boosting employability is also shown by the increased focus on gaining work experience while studying. More than a third (38 per cent) of graduates say they didn’t do any work experience at university but this is virtually unheard of today, with only one in ten (11 per cent) of first year undergraduates yet to do a placement. Amongst those applying this year, 98 per cent consider work experience to be important with two thirds (67 per cent) saying they anticipate spending at least five hours per week learning on the job and almost a third (31 per cent) more than ten hours per week.

Building up an impressive CV is also a key driver for today’s students. A third (34 per cent) of those now applying to university and more than a quarter (28 per cent) of first year undergraduates say they think about this, compared to only 15 per cent of graduates looking back at priorities when they were at university.

David Roylance, Head of Undergraduate Recruitment at Cardiff University, commented: "With more and more people completing higher education, it is encouraging to see that students are taking the decision to attend university even more seriously than in the past. In such a tough economic climate, students understand that alongside an academic education they must also develop the skills required in the workplace, whether that is through their course, work experience or extracurricular activities.

"Cardiff University has built up close relationships with top employers and professional bodies to ensure that graduates are equipped with the transferable skills, knowledge and attitudes they look for. As a result, Cardiff continues to be targeted by organisations seeking high calibre graduates and every year around 90 per cent of our students enter employment, professional training or postgraduate study shortly after graduating."

Notes to Editor

The survey was carried out amongst over 1,000 people who are either graduates, current students or those planning to attend university.

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University President Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.