That the percentage of Trinity graduates in employment is only marginally higher than that of their peers from other third-level institutions is, at least ostensibly, surprising. After all, Trinity is so keen to remind us that it is recognised internationally as Ireland’s premier university, and often for good reason. Just two years ago, Trinity was the only Irish university to feature in a prestigious global graduate employability ranking.
The recent statistics don’t tell us whether Trinity alumni garner better salaries, or even jobs in more prestigious sectors. But they do tell us that the country’s highest-ranked university, one replete with a reputation to match its 400-year history of scholarship, produces graduates with no apparent upper hand when it comes to becoming employed. That more than a quarter of the class of 2015 are not in employment – and that Trinity’s postgraduates actually fare worse in this way than those from other institutions – is an indictment of something. But while Trinity’s reputation should certainly result in better prospects for its graduates, it’s not clear where exactly we should point the finger.
There are nonetheless a few potential culprits. For one thing, Trinity’s Careers Advisory Service – something you’d imagine would be central to the university’s employability strategy – has faced several rounds of cuts. In 2015, The University Times revealed that the service had no careers advisor for a whole cohort of students studying engineering and computer science. And this time last year, the service said that “budgetary constraints” meant that it could no longer provide advice to graduates, and that it would instead prioritise the needs of current students.
While the cuts to this service do not reflect well on the attitude of Trinity’s central administration regarding the importance of careers advice, there is no suggestion that College is resting on its laurels when it comes to the the subject of employability more generally.
For instance, the sweeping Trinity Education Project, which aims to completely reimagine the university’s undergraduate curriculum, has put an intense focus on the attributes that will enable students to build successful careers. But these statistics are a warning – and it wouldn’t hurt for Trinity to provide the Careers Advisory Service with additional resources.