Could arts graduates start to learn some numbers please?

Math is hard, as Barbie said,  but could we try and get the arts people up to speed with simple arithmetic, just as a start?

So, we\’ve this awailin\’ and a cryin\’:

Such debate as has been had about young people and their opportunities has focused exclusively on increased student fees and university numbers. This looks like a serious distraction. However much universities improve on employability issues, it won\’t magic up jobs where none exist.

Quite true.

Youth unemployment needs to be back in the centre of political debate before the boomerang generation becomes the throwaway generation.

So let us start with some simple arithmetic about this youth unemployment then shall we? Let\’s specifically address the problems of graduate unemployment, why not? This piece is, after all, written by an academic:

Ros Coward is a professor of journalism at Roehampton University. She has worked for many years as a freelance journalist, contributing to several national newspapers and magazines

So, how many journalism jobs are there? Ignore the point that you don\’t actually need a degree in anything to write for the papers and just think about those who do a journalism degree as a way of getting into the journalism business.

So, apparently, there\’s 40,000 mainstream journalism jobs in the country.

The report says: \”Based on a revised 2001 baseline estimate of 55,000 to 60,000 jobs in the mainstream media, which would suggest that, as a result of structural and economic changes in the sector, the UK\’s mainstream journalism corps has shrunk by between a quarter and a third (27%-33%) to around 40,000.\”

I don\’t vouch for either of these figures by the way, they\’re just what a quick Google showed up. But the next interesting number is how many people are graduating each year from journalism courses?

Conversely, the number of journalism university graduates has never been higher – 7,590 in 2008/09; that’s 0.60 percent of all UK graduates.

Nel: “The reality is that only a fraction of the many thousands of graduates from UK journalism courses will find a place in the mainstream industry.”

So, back of the envelope here. If we\’ve 40,000 positions and a 40 year career then we need, if we are to restrict entrance only to graduates, 1,000 such each year to replace the retiring part of that static workforce.

We actually have seven and a half times that. So even at best we\’ve 6,500 a year (do note that this leaves out all of those who get into journalism through family contacts, editing Isis and all that) who have graduated and simply will not be able to find a job in what they\’ve graduated in.

This isn\’t math and it isn\’t hard, this is arithmetic and it\’s easy.

What we have is too many journalism graduates: and thus too many journalism professors looking for work teaching them. Part of the solution is therefore for Ms. Coward to lose her job.

Along with, if we are to be honest, a very large part of the newly expanded higher education system. For this oversupply of graduates is not confined to journalism.

As the staffing of every Starbucks in the country shows.

14 thoughts on “Could arts graduates start to learn some numbers please?”

  1. It depends on what the journalism graduates end up doing instead, doesn’t it? If they end up at Macca’s, then sure, that was a waste. If they end up working in PR (if hiring in PR, I’d infinitely rather hire a journalism grad who’d failed to get a journalism job because of lack-of-vacancies, rather than someone with a PR degree, who’s definitionally both thick and evil), then no. Last time I looked up the figures, there were about 1ox as many PR vacancies as journalism vacancies in the UK.

    (also, perhaps economics graduates should learn English. The word is “maths”.)

    Tim adds: It’s a quote. American: Math.

  2. One might learn how to write reports quickly and concisely on a journo degree – a useful skill in many fields.

    It is important to get a 2:1 or first, employers do not want Desmonds or Richards, and that goes for all subjects.

    I am often struck by how little is made of this when discussing graduate employment – a third in anything will get you no job, whereas a first in even the “lesser” subjects will probably open doors for you.

    I got a third (physics ucl), all the people that got firsts were swots. They got offered jobs by top employers on the much vaunted “milk round”, I didn’t – how unfair is that?

  3. JustAnotherTaxpayer

    Simpler to look at the bloody stats:

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=1162

    graduates 2+ years from graduating are doing much better than everybody else, sub-4% unemployment for those 4+ years.

    You would not get unemployment figures that low (especially relative to general unemployment) if there was an aggregate oversupply of graduates, unless maybe recent graduates are so highly trained they are forcing out older graduates, which seems… unlikely.

    So I call bullshit on that. I’d say there was a shortfall in supply and that the government would do well to encourage an increase in student numbers, given that they effectively control this market.

    Tim adds: Sorry, you’re looking at employment in any job. Obviously, anyone who has been to university (even in these times) is going to be at the brighter end of the spectrum and thus more likely to get a job. What we’d actually like to know though is how many people needed a degree to get a job: which is what I’m saying is in over-supply.

  4. Tim: first usage is a quote; second usage is an allusion. Second usage should’ve been “maths”, unless you’re expressly writing in AmE.

  5. “do note that this leaves out all of those who get into journalism through family contacts, editing Isis and all that”

    If the music and film industries are anything to go by – not to mention the bbc – those are the only people who get the jobs; the rest of them are wasting their time and money completely.

  6. I thought Barbie was German, not American (moved to South America later, but still not a Yank).

  7. Journalism industry less so than the other two, thanks largely to the existence of trade (still very significant), local (big when I were a lad, diminished dramatically) and niche online commercial media.

    When I was recruiting for graduate writers for trade mags such as Cranes Today a couple of years ago (yes, I really was), “dad is Telegraph media editor” was not listed in anyone’s CV. “Has a journalism degree or an NCTJ” was a base to filter out the 60 applications for 3 posts.

  8. If the music and film industries are anything to go by – not to mention the bbc – those are the only people who get the jobs”: well, these and those as shags ’em.

  9. So Much For Subtlety

    john b – “It depends on what the journalism graduates end up doing instead, doesn’t it? If they end up at Macca’s, then sure, that was a waste.”

    Can anyone name any prominent journalists with a journalism degree? This is an utterly useless course set up by people with no actual knowledge of the media at all – Cultural Studies mostly in my experience. As for Macca’s, that depends on what they want. If they want to shag around and marry a doctor, then it might be worth it no matter where they work after.

    “If they end up working in PR (if hiring in PR, I’d infinitely rather hire a journalism grad who’d failed to get a journalism job because of lack-of-vacancies, rather than someone with a PR degree, who’s definitionally both thick and evil), then no.”

    Again why the f**k is PR even a degree course? I expect that what you need is contacts and experience. Again a waste of time.

    3 johnny bonk – “One might learn how to write reports quickly and concisely on a journo degree – a useful skill in many fields.”

    One might, but does one? This may be a reason why Oxbridge does so well in journalism – having to produce a researched paper every week or so and then defend it is probably ideal training for journalism. But some no-name former Polly? I doubt journalism students do much writing at all.

    “It is important to get a 2:1 or first, employers do not want Desmonds or Richards, and that goes for all subjects.”

    A 2:1 is basically a pass. Anyone who gets less than that has problems reading and writing.

    “I am often struck by how little is made of this when discussing graduate employment – a third in anything will get you no job, whereas a first in even the “lesser” subjects will probably open doors for you.”

    I am not sure that is true. La Toynbee didn’t even manage a Third and she has a good job. A First in a useless subject is still a useless degree. Personally I like most of the Thirds I meet. I’d employ them in a shot. Just missed out on one myself so maybe I am biased.

    On the other hand I know that Firsts do get discriminated against. They are swots. No one much wants to hire them in my experience unless they are quasi-academic.

  10. La Toynbee didn’t even manage a Third and she has a good job.

    I thought we were talking about people nowish. Having a third nowish is roughly equivalent to not having a degree at all – it doesn’t mean you won’t get a good job, but if you do get one, it’ll have nothing to do with your qualification.

    A First in a useless subject is still a useless degree.

    Yes, but it demonstrates that the person holding it is intelligent and diligent enough to get a first. A first in physics is useless for most practical jobs that physics graduates might take outside academica – but having one clearly demonstrates that you’re good.

  11. Perhaps it would be better for science graduates to learn something of the humanities,some history ,something of human nature from literature and the perspective that knowing a foreign language gives.
    A lot of the present economic crisis was foreshadowed by the revolt of the Sorbonne( and Cambridge ) graduates that became known as the Post Autistic Economics Movement.They objected to their subject being reduced to mathematics,with the free play of numbers taking no notice of concepts like justice and fairness which are, in fact,major factors in what the propellor heads like to think of as equations.The height of folly came with the award of the Nobel prize for a formula for pricing options which instantly blew up when put into operation causing the Long Term Capital Management financial blow-out.
    The formulae for slicing and dicing sub prime mortgages into the CDO pot were pretty ludicrous as well.

  12. DBC

    Fairness and justice, nebulous concepts that vary according to who is making the judgement and quite why you’d need a humanities degree to do that I don’t know.

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