How are finalists feeling about their prospects?

19 March 2020

Tuesday morning, day 3 in the isolation house! (Showing my age having watched too much Big Brother in the 90s!)

I needed some human interaction outside of my immediate family (both hubbie and daughter now working from home and we are fighting over desk space, lack of avocados for lunch and rationed loo roll); so, I thought I would spend an afternoon chatting with a few finalists.

I wanted to get a bit of a temperature check on what they are being told by their Unis, Faculties and Employers and how they are feeling?

Confused (and somewhat frustrated)

Sense of confusion from all six of the finalists I spoke with, as they don’t have final confirmation from their Universities or Faculties around their coursework deadlines, projects or final exams. Students are confused and frustrated that there is conflicting advice being given (should I stay or should I go home?).

Also it seems that Universities are not being consistent in their communications between Faculties and Departments.  For example, Geographers at one University haven’t had a single piece of comms from their Faculty whilst hearing that their Medic and Psychology peers have been told details around placements and online final exams.  This lack of consistency is causing frustration and is adding to their stress.

“Am I even going to graduate without completing my final-year project?”

Scared but pragmatic

This confusion is to some degree understood by some students who get the fact that we are dealing with shifting tides. Students were aware of the economic impact of the current situation and the possibility of graduate job cuts and offers being rescinded. In fact, most of them expect this to happen and that they will in the next 2-3 weeks need to start thinking about contingency plans. Three of the six I spoke to have offers from the Big Four and are expecting one of two things to happen: either start dates being pushed back (one even said maybe until 2021) or offers being pulled.  And of course they are scared that they will be having to compete with twice as many graduates in 2021 if the cycle is pushed back by a year.

I am old enough to remember the last two recessions and the great work that the AGR members did in 2008-9 around business-casing the continued investment in graduate talent. Inevitably, the hiring numbers took a hit but many recruiters remembered the impact on middle management after the early 90s recession when graduate numbers were slasged. Our current finalists don’t know this. They are jumping straight to worst-case scenario.

Want transparency

I asked students about what they wanted to hear from employers and from Unis and they were resounding in their response that they just want the truth even if it’s we don’t know yet.

“I understand they need time to weigh up options and things changing constantly BUT keep us updated with their thought process and their decisions…”

“I want to hear from unis and employers the reality of what is going on, even if it’s that they don’t know yet. Hearing nothing is unsettling.”

“Employers and unis must be having conversations and I’d like to know what options for dealing with the crisis they are looking at just so I can start preparing myself.”

“I have had no comms from them (employer). I am still uncertain about the job offer – I am assuming it’s ok – but I am nervous. There definitely could be more reassurance from them. Because I haven’t heard from them it suggests they are uncertain. “

Boris’s announcement last night around school shut downs and exam cancellations will surely be exacerbating the sense of confusion for finalists when very few plans for finals have been announced. Let’s hope that the next few days will see some formal plans coming out?!

Here’s to our market continuing to pull together (well done ISE on your approach so far) and bringing greater transparency to our student populations.

Written by Jayne Cullen


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