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Poor Quality Courses Results in Demise of Secure Employment

On reviewing recent articles relating to the UK Higher and vocational education sectors, I was not surprised to read many university graduates (over 50%) in a lot of cases are not securing graduate (related) employment, even up to 15 months post-study. 

This is symptomatic of some underlying problems in both the higher and vocational education. Over recent years, there has been a trend to a higher proportion of people studying at post-secondary level (perhaps there’s more competition for some high level jobs), and a decrease in duration of qualification. 

Course duration is affected by two factors as far as I can see – one quantity of learning, the other quality.

1. Quantity can perhaps be understood as “pieces of knowledge or learning” such as the number of plant names learned.

2. Quality can perhaps be understood as depth or strength of learning e.g. The number of times a plant name is revisited through encounters in different contexts, over time. The more times it is encountered, the more it is strengthened in long term learning (and in memory).

The only way I can see that a course can be shortened would be to reduce the strength of learning or reduce the quantity of learning.

With diplomas that are perhaps 25% less learning than I personally experienced in the 1970’s, when I undertook a diploma of more than 4000 hours duration, it would stand to reason that we have either a 75% weakening on the strength, or of the quantity, or perhaps a combination both factors. 

Perhaps if graduates are learning at a lower level, their capabilities are lower than what their employers experienced when they studied. The qualifications have similar names, but employers are not seeing similar capabilities in the graduates they interview today.

The problem seen today in horticultural education may have more to do with broader issues in education than just issues in horticultural education specifically.

If the broader issues of quality and quantity are not dealt with, any other schools and colleges make may just be tinkering at the edges of a far more pervasive problem.

I suspect if we were to single out one issue that needs most attention, it would be to build greater depth of learning, by bringing a focus back on reinforcement in the way we develop and deliver education.

I have been increasingly committed to reviewing our courses so that we better reinforce learning in experiential learning activities, self-assessment tests and tutor reviewed assignments, to ensure students revisit and strengthen learning. This is a strong point in the courses my writers develop and is a key point of difference between ACS courses, and those in other institutions. The students of ACS Distance Education and those of affiliated schools, partnering through the Accredited Global Partners network, will benefit. 

If students have deeper learning experiences, they have stronger, more persistent capabilities, and ultimately, that means greater job success. This is what I wish for graduates of all member schools and colleges. 

John Mason 
President IARC