Will your university degree get you a job?
As universities come under fire for being out of touch and training people for jobs that won’t exist, The Courier-Mail presents an exclusive three-part report on graduate employability.
Which institutions are best preparing students for the changing world of work?
Crunching the latest global data (*see our sources at the end of this article) and drilling down into individual strengths, we reveal the top 21 Queensland and eastern seaboard universities kicking goals for grads.
They’re judged on four criteria: graduate employment rates, employer partnerships, real-world ready courses, reputation with employers. Plus, we tell you what some of their alumni are doing now.
University of Queensland
Queensland’s oldest university is also its best for graduate employability.
It’s fourth in Australia, and 49th in the world, according to QS rankings.
And it’s bucking a national decline trend in jobs for law grads.
Since 2014, the Business, Economics and Law Faculty’s Student Employability Team, on the main St Lucia campus, has placed more than 4000 students with 1725 employers, including KPMG, Deloitte, Marriott Hotels and SMS Technology.
The faculty’s full-time employment rate for domestic bachelor grads is 79%, outshining a national 69.5% average.
Across all disciplines, UQ’s 2020 strategy is about turning ideas into impact.
Students work with campus-based researchers at over 100 institutes and centres, including the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Global Change Institute, and Boeing Research and Technology Australia Centre.
Remodelled courses address real-world needs and skills.
A new Bachelor of Politics, Philosophy and Economics (Honours) probes global challenges, while an online Create Change Masterclass tackles innovation, entrepreneurship and advocacy.
Employ101x: Unlocking Your Employability is a free course attracting more than 32,000 people.
Internationally, UQ is a standout in engineering (environmental) and biodiversity conservation while, nationally, its top subjects include science, dentistry and physiotherapy.
Overseas internships include the China Mobility Program, which places students in start-ups in Shanghai for one month.
Notable alumni: Peter Doherty, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; Geoffrey Rush, actor; Catherine Holmes, Queensland Chief Justice; Tim Munro, flautist; Dr Roslyn Brandon, founder, ImmuneXpress.
James Cook University
Earning five stars for graduate employment [by The Good Universities Guide], JCU is the only Queensland university, and one of three in the country, to achieve this seven years in a row.
The Good Universities Guide rating puts it in the top 20% of universities whose grads are employed full-time within four months of completing their studies (74.9%).
The Townsville institution is well-regarded by employers, particularly in pharmacy, environmental science, dentistry, veterinary science and medicine (which focuses on rural, remote and underserved communities).
The employment rate for med grads is an impressive 100%.
Innovative courses include a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronic Systems and the Internet of Things, the first of its kind in Australia.
A Bachelor of Advanced Science targets high-achieving students passionate about science, while a Bachelor of Environmental Practice examines world sustainability challenges.
One of Australia’s top 10 universities under 50 years old, JCU ranks No.1 in the world for marine biology research (CWUR).
Notable alumni: John Griffin, Australian Ambassador to Greece; Dr Jan Strugnell, evolutionary molecular biologist; Dr Paul Amato, sociology and criminology professor, Pennsylvania State University; Dr David Lindenmayer, conservationist, environmental science professor, ANU; Dr Shannon Springer, academic lead, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, Bond University.
University of Sydney
Australia’s first university is also first for graduate employability.
Significantly, it places 4th internationally – after Stanford, UCLA and Harvard – in QS rankings.
Sydney consistently ranks among the top 50 universities in the world, and of its latest cohort of bachelor graduates, 74% of those wanting full-time employment found it.
With more than 30,000 placement, internship and project experiences, it aims that by 2020, every three or four-year degree student will collaborate on at least one genuine problem in industry, community, research or entrepreneurship settings.
Students from five faculties recently worked with the NSW Government to prepare briefs on the use of drones.
Other students collaborate with Thrive Refugee Enterprise, a not-for-profit organisation that helps refugees start businesses in Australia.
There are integral partnerships too with Allianz Insurance, AGL, PwC, Swarovski, Sydney Water, Westpac and 12 others.
From 2018, a transformed undergraduate curriculum will go beyond the traditional dual degrees of Arts/Law and Science/Engineering, allowing most students to do more than one major outside their primary field.
The University of Sydney is first in the world for sports-related subjects and best in Australia for medicine, architecture, veterinary sciences, anatomy and physiology, English language and literature (QS rankings).
Notable alumni: Geraldine Brooks, author; Dr John O’Sullivan, engineer, lead inventor of Wi-Fi; Jane Campion, film director; Dr Chris Brown, vet, TV personality; Dr Victor Chang, heart surgeon.
Particularly strong in engineering, IT and pharmacy, Australia’s largest university is growing student-industry partnerships by 10% every year.
The Faculty of Information Technology’s industry-based learning program puts 200 students in six-month placements and has a graduate employment rate close to 100%.
Across two campuses in Melbourne and one each in Malaysia and South Africa, the faculty also runs a work-integrated project for postgrads to help solve a community problem, such as homelessness.
Students demonstrate their finished products at an expo where many receive on-the-spot job offers.
From December to February, the Monash Industry Team Initiative sees multidisciplinary student teams hosted by industry partners to tackle a real-world problem.
Monash is Australia’s most innovative university, according to the 2017 Reuters Top 75: Asia’s Most Innovative Universities.
It places 6th in the country for graduate employability and 79th globally.
In other QS rankings, it is Australia’s leading university in pharmacy – and second in the world after Harvard – and in chemical engineering.
Employment rates are high, at 89.8% for undergrads and 92.3% for postgrads.
Notable alumni: Bill Shorten, Federal Opposition Leader; Julian Burnside, QC; Waleed Aly, TV presenter; Peter Carey, author; Yumi Stynes, radio presenter; Nick Cave, musician.
A Gold Coast success story, Bond is the only Australian institution in the top 20 of the World’s Best Small University rankings.
With just 3600 full-time students, it has smaller class sizes for improved interactive learning.
Bond also receives a five-star employability rating in the QS world university list, and places at the top of Australian universities for quality of student experience, at 90.2% compared with the national average of 79.9%.
Every undergraduate is required to complete a core curriculum which teaches employability skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, team work and communication.
The Career Development Centre links students with industry and offers a free recruitment service.
It collaborates with more than 2500 employers and in 2016 placed 650 students in roles, with a 35% conversion rate into paid employment.
Bond “reverse markets” students to employers, pitching according to student needs, and to date its Masters Professional programs result in jobs for all graduates.
A new Business Accelerator program helps graduates forge their own businesses, and there are digital internships with QLC.io with start-ups and social enterprises in Asia.
While its dominant programs – law, commerce, actuarial science, and international relations – resonate with employers, Bond is also strong in medicine and biomedical science.
Notable alumni: Tim Horan, head, Westpac Sports & Entertainment, former Australian Wallaby; Peta Fielding, CEO, Burleigh Brewing; David Baxby, MD industrials, Westfarmers; Sam Webb, Australian Survivor contestant, founder, LIVIN’; Alisha Geary, founder, active wear label Faebella.
Renowned for business education, Sydney’s Macquarie University is meeting broader global challenges with new courses and degrees.
A Bachelor of Science – Global Challenges addresses issues such as growing energy demands, emerging diseases and environmental degradation.
A Master of Cyber Security is tackling the worldwide shortage in cyber security experts.
Many grads will go on to work at the Optus Macquarie University Cyber Hub, a $10 million joint venture.
Also new is a combined Bachelor of Actuarial Studies with Bachelor of Professional Practice.
Students alternate between classroom work and on-the-job experience via three placements over four years.
It is an extension of the Professional and Community Engagement program which offers all students industry experience.
Macquarie ranks No. 1 in Australia for its MBA program, according to a 2017 Financial Times assessment.
Awarded five stars in all QS categories (including employability), it marries objectives with outcomes.
Through its Career Accelerator initiative, students work with advisers to decide a good career fit.
They are then placed in a workplace setting, after which improvements in job-seeking skills are identified.
Just over 73% of domestic undergrads find full-time employment within four months.
Notable alumni: Catherine Livingstone, chairman, Commonwealth Bank; Sam Dastyari, Australian senator; Adam Hills, comedian; Jim Soorley, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Anthony Field, founding member, The Wiggles.
Swinburne University of Technology
Australia-first programs for pilots and problem solvers in manufacturing are standouts at Swinburne University of Technology, which has campuses across Melbourne and one in Malaysia.
Its reputation in advanced manufacturing is recognised with a $135 million grant from German engineering giant Siemens to digitalise Swinburne’s Factory of the Future.
This fully immersed Industry 4.0 facility lets students develop ideas into next generation products.
Aspiring pilots benefit from an exclusive partnership with CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, which combines a ground school course with flying instruction.
Beyond requirements for a licence, cadets receive airline-standard training for 21st century flying.
And, in association with Jetstar, students can go on to fly as first or second officers.
Swinburne has other collaborations with Australian Rail Track Corporation, Baker’s Delight, Geotech Group, Adobe and Royal Melbourne Hospital (where half of current cardiac technologists are Swinburne grads).
Its $140 million Advanced Technologies Centre houses the Smart Structures Laboratory, which conducts research into infrastructure related areas, such as large-scale testing of new engineering materials and components.
Swinburne is among the best 60 young universities in the world, and is also internationally well regarded for Art and Design.
Notable alumni: Garth Davis, film director (Lion); Graeme Base, children’s author; Richard Lowenstein, film director (He Died With a Felafel in his Hand); Alisa Camplin, Olympic gold medallist aerial skier.
Sources: * The Good Universities Guide; QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2018; Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018; QS World University Rankings 2018; QS Top 50 Under 50 2018; Academic Ranking of World Universities 2017; Centre for World University Rankings 2017; Uni Reviews Subject Rankings 2017.
This article originally appeared in The Courier Mail – Best universities for jobs: Top 21 for graduate employability