Aligning higher education with the job market

By Eugene Clark
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 16, 2013
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 [By Jiao Haiyang/]

 [By Jiao Haiyang/]

China Daily reported on June 22, 2013 that the Ministry of Education had taken the initiative to allow six universities to install new undergraduate majors, for example in bio-technology, that will be more responsive to today's job market. While this initiative is welcomed, there are a number of other strategies that might help promote a greater alignment between market demand and university planning.

Rigorous market analysis at the planning stage

One essential part of new course development should involve the rigorous analysis of the current market's needs. Unfortunately, any decisions made on new course development too often have more to do with politics than with rigorous economic analysis.

Conversion courses

One frequently used strategy available in other countries is the development of conversion courses that enable a student to participate in an intensive program that will provide basic level instruction and training for them to move out of one area of expertise and into another. For example, many MBA programs developed a major within the course to align with the market demand for expertise in business logistics.

Similarly, physics and mathematics majors, as well as arts courses, have undergone transformations in response to market forces. Another example from the U.S. was the employment of so-called corporate anthropologists by large corporations. These experts possessed the anthropological research skills that made them ideal candidates to help lead corporate change.

The ability to develop such conversion courses ideally should be part of the design of any given course to ensure they remain receptive to industry needs.

Industry information

From the student consumer perspective then, up-to-date and thorough market information needs to be collected and made readily available to students and universities alike.

Career centers

Also, as discussed in an earlier article, there are many things universities can do to provide guidance and preparation in terms of career planning for students.


Incentives should be built into the system to encourage universities in responding to the market. One example would be increased industry-university partnerships which, in addition to providing students with externships and apprenticeships, would extend feedback to universities about the relevance of their courses. Universities should be encouraged to actively partner up with the industry as opposed to remaining isolated by adhering to an "ivory tower" model which has outlived its usefulness. University research centers should also be closely linked with their related industries to ensure the relevance and responsiveness of their research. Such a strategy will then in turn contribute to the development of more relevant courses.

Pilot programs

Pilot programs should be encouraged to promote course responsiveness to industry needs. These programs should be regularly evaluated and when a successful model is found, it should be emulated as best practice throughout the university sector. I was involved in several such programs in Australia. For example the Centre for Customs and Excise Studies with the University of Canberra now offers courses around the world and has won several educational awards. Another example is that of Australia's Deakin University which partnered up with Coles New World to establish the Coles Institute. The Institute now offers a range of courses and training to the supermarket chain's new employees.

In today's connected and inter-related world all major institutions must "re-boot" to meet the demands of a society in the Information Age. Strategies, processes, incentives and other measures should be adopted to ensure that China achieves a successful future for government, industry, universities, students and the communities in which they reside.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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