As rain settles in over the green fields of England, I’ve been reading the Times Higher Education (THE) periodical. It’s always a lively read, as it invariably takes the part of untenured junior lecturers in any dispute. It is also very well researched and informed.
This week’s THE edition has the following data table: “% of European students taking up Master’s-level study soon after graduation”*:
|Ireland, France, Denmark, Poland, Czech Rep., Austria, Lithuania
|Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Rumania
|Scotland, Belgium, Sweden, Hungary, Estonia
|Spain, Iceland, Norway, Netherlands, Latvia, Greece, Bulgaria
|England, Wales, Northern Ireland
As a Brit I view these results from the United Kingdom (UK) perspective, and they give pause for reflection. The table certainly reflects my own direct observations of the vanishingly small number of UK students registered on Master’s-level analytics courses. A high rate of continuation is not necessarily positive - in some higher education systems the high progression is driven by a need for students to make up for perceived deficiencies in undergraduate provision or because of lack of employment opportunities.
For UK employers and SAS customers seeking graduates with advanced analytics skills, there are now several key factors to take into account when setting up and expanding their analytical capacity:
- The advent of Big Data analytics, and the resulting jobs boom (58,000 in the UK alone before 2017), means that the crunch for analytics skills is now upon us.
- The present lack of progression by UK students to Master’s level is a constraint on developing analytical teams, because undergraduate degrees alone do not confer sufficiently advanced analytics skills.
- The advent of the legislated higher undergraduate fees from September 2012 means that numbers of UK students progressing to Master’s level from September 2015 will probably decline even further, possibly precipitously.
- Analytics and advanced analytics courses at UK universities are flourishing, but this increasing enrollment is driven by non-local students from outside the European Union.
- The current UK Coalition Government’s restriction on work visas for talented, non-EU, graduates is compounding a worsening situation for builders of analytics teams.
In a previous blog on The Growing Shortage of Analytical Talent and Where to Find It, which generated some discussion, I opined that the best recruiting ground for advanced analytical skills is specialist MSc courses run within business school milieus. This remains true. However, in the light of the boom in business analytics, and the relative scarcity of such courses even in the UK, it seems that new graduate recruitment strategies are urgently needed. For SAS customers in the UK the way forward is a combination of the following recommendations points:
- For the longer term: start offering generous bursaries and provisional job offers to encourage bright undergraduates to progress to analytics Master’s studies.
- Establish partnerships with the SAS United Kingdom Academic Programme-sponsored analytics MSc programmes at leading UK and Ireland universities.
- Offer summer placements, or placement years, to students on advanced analytics courses, and treat the placements as extended interviews.
- In the short term: widen the graduate recruitment net to universities in European Union countries with robust higher education systems. The local SAS Academic Programmes can assist with making these contacts.
- Work with local Chambers of Industry to lobby the Government for a more enlightened visa regime so more foreign-born students interested in these fields have the opportunity to stay and work.
A further thought…
The elephant in the room is the value, or lack of it, placed on higher education within our society. Families of students from South and East Asia are mortgaging themselves for up to three generations in order to send loved ones to university in the UK. The conclusions to be drawn from this in terms of work ethic, immigration and talent acquisition could be the subject for many future blogs. Admittedly, this is a UK-centric view; it would be interesting to hear perspectives from other countries on the challenges of developing, finding and retaining analytical talent. How do you see things where you live?
* ”Postgraduate Education: An Independent Inquiry by the Higher Education Commission”, London, 23Oct2012.