Educating work-ready graduates needs a ‘whole person’ approach.

Educating work-ready graduates needs a ‘whole person’ approach.

As higher education becomes increasingly market driven, universities face the challenge of balancing quality and integrity, as research and learning institutions, with responding to the changing needs and expectations of employers and students.

Building on over 175 years of heritage at the heart of one of the UK’s most historic cities, York St John University takes a ‘whole person’ approach to developing the student experience as part of its strategy for integrating the requirements of an effective, modern university.

Following the biggest growth across all English universities in acceptances onto its courses, York St John is well placed to meet the demands facing higher education institutions. By adopting more agile course development, focusing on projects and research that make a real social impact and building on a long history of strong community collaboration, the university is enhancing its reputation for producing work-ready graduates who combine imagination and ideas with practical skills and experience.

Vice chancellor Professor Karen Stanton emphasises the University’s commitment to responding to the needs of industry: “We’re constantly in conversation with employers about their needs and experiences when it comes to graduates. We know that whilst the quality of the degree is important, what also matters is the attitude and aptitude of the individual.”

These things can come through in taught learning, but they must also be cultivated through the opportunities, ethos and behaviours that surround a student during their time on a course.

At York Business School, the value of real-world experience is at the heart of many academic courses, providing students with a critical understanding of the management of organisations. Developing a deeper understanding of business management in a holistic way provides a solid foundation for entry into a wide range of employment opportunities.

Stanton adds: “We believe our values and approach align with features that increasingly shape successful organisations. We promote creativity, whatever the discipline. We encourage big picture thinking and a global outlook, forging links with partners in growing economies like India. We actively promote personal wellbeing and social responsibility and of course, being based in Yorkshire we believe in hard work and getting things done”

These qualities are evident in many of York St John’s flagship education initiatives, such as its ground-breaking Converge project, a partnership between the university and the local NHS Foundation Trust, which sees mental health service users from the community invited into the university to receive free access to courses from right across the institution’s portfolio. Whilst overseen by university staff, these courses are designed and delivered by students, bringing the mutual benefits of a social learning experience for people with mental health challenges and leadership and decision making opportunities for the students. So far over 1,000 people from the local area have benefitted.

“Converge is a great example of how universities can do things differently”, says Professor Stanton. “It uses our institutional assets to deliver a public benefit and do so in a way that increases the empathy, confidence, credibility and ultimately the employability of our students”.

The effect of this “whole person” approach is evidenced by data. As well as the growing popularity of its courses, York St John ranks seventh amongst all English universities for the long-term employability of its students. With employers increasingly asking for social and emotional skills from graduates, this is one institution actively rising to the challenge.

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For information on industry relevant education, contact: Bob Gammie, Dean of York Business School: b.gammie@yorksj.ac.uk