November 18, 2023
Survey insights

Employer-led graduate programs are on the rise

What does this reveal about the relationship between universities and employers ?

This article was initially published on November 7th, 2022 by

For a long time, the largest international corporations have had graduate integration programs to foster graduate employability, and in 2022 the percentage (81 percent) is, on itself, not particularly relevant. Worldwide however, 71.4% of all employers report having a graduate program. When we zoom in and compare numbers at a country-level, we observe a strong upward trend.

Most employers in India, Egypt, and China have corporate graduate programs in 2022: 82.4%, 84.5% and 93.5% respectively. The GEURS 2020-2022 data shows that the upward trend in employer-led graduate programs is significant in most countries, the most important increase —as much as +40% — being reported by employers in China, Egypt, and Germany. In the case of China, the percentage of internal graduate programs is even higher than what employers were predicting based on the findings of our 2020 survey.

The GEURS 2020-2022 data shows that the upward trend in employer-led graduate programs is significant in most countries.

As the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted student mobility, many higher education institutions that would traditionally welcome a great number of international students were taken by surprise when many of these international students stayed away. This might well have been a decisive factor for companies in countries where, faced with more students staying at home instead of leaving for a study abroad, employers have taken action to increase the employability of graduates. Moreover, with an increase in inequality in terms of international access of students to learning and research, employers in specific countries might have also taken up a role that previously was still the exclusive domain of higher education institutions.

This is not the entire story, however. With an average of 31 percent of respondents indicating they were planning to create graduate programs, our GEURS 2020 survey was already showing early signs of this development. Among German employers 66.3% report in 2022 that they have graduate programs, an increase of 40% compared to 2020 which, our survey confirms, is at the same time a consolidation of the plans which were already in place in 2020.

Looking at the various sectors of industry, 78.8%of companies with an IT-profile and 71.7% that have an Engineering profile have graduate programs in 2022. Together they represent an increase of over 40% in employer-led graduate programs.

Employers in South Korea and Switzerland have the lowest percentage of graduate programs (about 55 percent), showing the best satisfaction factor with university teachings and graduate employability.

Leaving aside the direct effects of the pandemic, it is certain that other decisive factors play a role in the surge of corporate graduate programs. In our 2020 GEURS survey we had observed that companies have greatly recognized the need to participate in graduate education.Some have done so by strengthening their relationship with universities,helping to create joint programs geared toward increasing the employability of young graduates. This is however not an easy and straightforward task. The 2022GEURS survey shows that companies across many industries are taking in their own hands young graduates’ employability by creating employer-led graduate programs. Employers are taking on an education role in areas which some institutions of higher education have maybe until now insufficiently addressed.In other terms, they are filling the skills gap.

The GEURS 2022 survey findings are a sign of the times, as companies may increasingly feel the need to engage and align young recruits with their corporate processes, but they may also be a strong indicator of the complex relationship between the corporate world and universities. While trying to find the delicate balance in this relationship,universities should not forget that graduate skills are an essential factor for employability. The key to retaining the value of a degree from your own institution is ensuring that your graduates have the right skills to change with any market.

This is where the GEURS Key Employability Drivers show their full potential: they are an essential indicator as well as a powerful evaluation tool for institutions of higher education who are seeking to identify their graduate education goals.

May the GEURS 2022 provide all with valuable insights for future learning.