China Evaluates University Curricula as Job Producers

January 13, 2012

It seems that the United States is not alone in having colleges and universities that chronically graduate students who are unable to find work. Some countries find this situation unacceptable, however, and plan to make some corrections.

Jay Schalin, of the excellent John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy (Raliegh, NC), has written an op-ed in the Washington Times discussing some educational reviews that may be coming in China:

Chinas state-run universities have been churning out graduates so quickly that many cant find good jobs, even in a booming economy.

In response, China will soon start evaluating college majors by their employment rates, downsizing or cutting degree programs in which the employment rate for graduates falls below 60 percent for two consecutive years, the Wall Street Journal reported recently.

Much is imperfect with this authoritarian approach, but it seems more sensible than having no feedback in a system like ours that continues to sink students in unproductive majors and degree programs with loads of debt. (See the Wall Street Journal article by Laurie Burkitt who writes from Beijing.)

As Schalin observes after noting that employment rates are not the only evaluative measure that should be used:

But using data on the employment of graduates is still a valuable evaluation tool, and it serves as a useful guide for reforming higher education.

The Chinese exhibit hard-nosed common sense by looking at the actual results of their higher-education system; forward-looking U.S. public universities should do the same. If they wont end their excesses voluntarily, perhaps its time for state legislatures to consider Chinese-style standards.

Results matter; its time to judge universities on how well graduates perform once theyve left the security of the ivory tower.