Gone are the days when a law degree automatically led to a career in the legal profession. Students of law, as well as medicine and veterinary science, are, perhaps surprisingly, increasingly seeking to pursue different careers after the completion of their supposedly ‘career focused’ degrees. There may be a variety of reasons for this: from the competitive nature of the job market they are entering, to the startling realisation that they do not see a career in their chosen field, despite five years of study. Whichever it may be, there has been some undermining of the automatic assumption that extended study provides a graduate with all the tools required to set up in practice and a life-long career.
The lack of confidence is not one-sided. Universities seem to have concluded that students in these specialist fields require more than just academic training. They also need real world business skills or risk facing problems once they have embarked on their professional lives. In addition, employers are now expecting much more than just a clever graduate; they expect more rounded individuals who are able to show flexibility and the resourcefulness needed to compete in an increasingly competitive global market. They also look for students to demonstrate that they have business acumen, or at least that they have studied some sort of business module to equip them for the practical aspect of a vocational career.
The higher education sector has responded to this challenge. Recently City University London made the news, when it joined a growing number of universities which have introduced a compulsory Graduate Market and Employability module for all LLB Law first year students. The business module is designed to encourage students to engage with careers’ planning and try to bridge the gap between the protective educational environment and the different demands of professional life that students will face. Such modules usually incorporate traditional career frameworks, as well as panel sessions with alumni, lectures from practitioners and bespoke employers’ workshops.
Business modules are not uncommon, with Higher Education institutions identifying the need to adapt their educational offering for those students who elect to follow a non-vocational path. They offer extensive advice on alternative career paths and the benefits that the study of law, for example, can have in other fields of work. They emphasise the transferable skills of being able to write and think, logically and clearly, which have been acquired through the discipline of a law degree, which are almost universal in their relevance.
The benefits of a good careers and employability service have long been a priority for universities, as they seek to give their students the best chance of gaining employment and in turn enhance their reputation for graduate employability. Introducing compulsory modules is evidence that universities are looking for new ways to improve the prospects of their students. Business schools are no longer concentrating exclusively on those students within their own faculty but realise the value of collaborating with other parts of the university to deliver ‘business ready’ vets, GPs, and lawyers.
Broader university engagement from Business Schools is being seen across the UK, with institutions using it as a source of distinctiveness and enhanced external profile. Undoubtedly good news for those university students affected, who will be finishing their degrees with a wider breadth of knowledge. Increasingly it seems that we are moving towards a new age of university study, where academic programmes and softer vocational skills are becoming increasingly interwoven. The outcome of this, a truly modern multi-faculty educational experience, will doubtless benefit the young professionals of the future.