NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Aberdeen University changes to give students the edge

Thousands of young Scots have graduated this week, with celebrations followed by a few sore heads. But many of them are still struggling to find a job.

One university is hoping to change all that. Aberdeen is about to make sweeping changes to its curriculum to give future candidates the competitive edge.

The reforms follow three years of consultation with students, staff, politicians and industry.

Breadth of choice and flexibility in study are central to the overhaul. More courses will be available in a wider context.

Professor Bryan McGregor is leading the project.

He said: "We wanted to be distinctive. We wanted to respond to what we thought were the views of people outside. We wanted to maintain what we were doing well, but to change the curriculum in a way that was looking at best practice internationally."

More emphasis will also be placed on voluntary or work experience to bring students closer to the employers they hope to impress.

And it is vital they do make their mark - applications for jobs have soared, with an average of 69 people chasing each graduate post.

For some the battle for employment has forced them to look overseas.

Jane Malone, 23, from Jedburgh, is soon heading off for a one-year internship in the US, after failing to find work in the UK.

"There certainly wasn't much on offer in Britain for a designated History of Art degree. Sotheby's weren't going to be snapping me up any time soon. When that's the case you have to start looking at an actual career that is outside of your comfort zone and that's not just difficult it's very, very scary."

It is certainly true employers are becoming more selective and demanding.

CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan, who was involved in the consultation, said innovative teaching was vital to make graduates more employable.

He said: "Employers are looking for more than just a degree. Experience of the real world in placements is vital. They want degrees themselves to be wider, to offer more knowledge outwith the narrow confines of the subject matter".

Global player

Universities Scotland represents the country's 21 seats of learning. It said they all currently offer their students curricula which are fit for purpose.

Aberdeen, however, believes it is leading a sea-change in the way education is delivered.

Professor McGregor said: "There are other universities going down similar routes, but we believe we're the first.

"We have been comparing notes and advising the universities of Manchester and Southampton as well as some colleges. We certainly believe we're doing the right thing as we have done so much research."

There is also a more prosaic reason for the new courses coming to campus in September, as the university is vying for a spot in the top 100 in the world.

It may be some time before those aspirations are realised, but the institution believes it is on the right path to becoming a global player.

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