Are universities and colleges letting students down?

Oman Saturday 28/May/2022 23:04 PM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Are universities and colleges letting students down?
Students fail in job interviews because there is that big gap between what they were taught at colleges and universities and what is practiced in the industry.

Muscat:  It made me think deeper when a group of students told me that colleges and universities are letting them down.

“Why,” I asked them. They told me they get taught outdated theories that have gone past their shelf-life.

“It is like buying an expired can of beans or packet of biscuits that are past their due date,” one of them explained. They also explained that most of their teachers are career academics.

“They graduated from universities and go straight to teaching. They have never worked in the industries where changes of technology and new methods are taking place. They teach whatever they were taught years ago because they are not in touch of what is happening in the real world. They constantly miss changes in the industries,” they explained.

These students’ thoughts are based from real experience when they go through job interviews and fail just because there is that big black hole from what they were taught at colleges and universities and what is practiced in the industry.

Oman is producing over 40,000 graduates a year straight from schools, colleges and universities. Most of us do not bother to ask why some of them cannot get a job. We take for granted because the economy has been hit by the pandemic. But unemployment started to creep in before the onset of Covid-19, not just in Oman but globally.

The truth is that no country in the world can guarantee employment to all of its graduates. But with graduates chasing fewer jobs, teaching institutions must fuse a good mix of industry experts and career teachers. It is not enough to ask teachers to go for refresher courses. They just add more theory on their knowledge.

Employing experts from the industries cannot be underestimated to plug in the holes created by theories.  When I was at the University, a third of my teachers were industry experts from different disciplines. They were a mix of part timers or just guest lecturers.  

Top universities in the world bend backward to have former CEOs of top companies to be part of their faculty members. That’s how they get practicality infused deep into their curriculum. The students know about this trend.

One of them shared an article with me that says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and retired US President Bill Clinton are both teaching as part timers at the Oxford University.

“Why can’t my university have former Omani ministers or CEOs teaching us to share their leadership experience with us?” one of the senior students asked me.

You cannot argue with that question. The good thing is that Omani students these days know what they are missing. Also, they know what they need to get a job. Are the colleges and universities really letting their students down or is their claim illegitimate?

They know better because they find the hard way that the piece of paper they hold as certificates can be challenged by employers when the go for the interview.