Empirical Research Programme of Hungarian Graduate Career Tracking
The relationship between education and the labour market became the focus of debates on higher education in Western-Europe and the United States in the 1990s (1). Closely related to that, graduate career tracking and the examination of the competitiveness of individual degrees also received increasingly important roles in the research conducted to analyse the efficiency of education. Hungarian professional discourses and research conducted by determining professional institutions followed this tendency closely; and the economic changes and the changed higher education environment caused by the dramatically rapid expansion of higher education had a significantly inspiring effect upon it. In recent years the expectation has been raised to the level of official educational policy that Hungarian universities and colleges should have a strong connection with participants on the labour market on the one hand, tracking the labour market career of graduates from their institution and analysing their experience of employment, and then on the other hand utilising this information in the development of their study programmes and their offers in general. Moreover, Act CXXXIX of 2005 on Higher Education makes institutional career tracking mandatory for all Hungarian universities and colleges.
What do foreign examples, and the career tracking activities of countries with developed higher education show? Examining the practices of individual countries and institutions in this field in detail, we see a very diverse picture, suggesting in advance that the nature of the systematic career tracking of graduates in itself or even the state of development is not necessarily directly related to the standard and labour market oriented nature of the given higher education system. Diversification is true of the target, function, theme and methodology of such data collections, too (2). While in the United States institutional level career tracking (apart from some national fields of study or regional initiatives) dominates, closely linked to the alumni activities of universities, a number of examples can be found in Europe of comprehensive research programmes aiming to examine the entire higher education of individual nations. Furthermore, some remarkable international initiatives have begun recently, in which the participating countries try to unify the examination of employment of fresh graduates on the labour market, based on measurement standards accepted by everyone. Amongst these, the Reflex project (The Flexible Professional in the Knowledge Society) stands out (3). The analysis of personal competencies are greatly emphasised in the examination of relationships between higher education and success in this European Committee sponsored project in which more than a dozen European countries participate. Despite all this, it can be stated that the European practice-apart from a few efforts in Scandinavia perhaps-also essentially lacks the application of a centrally coordinated, unified career tracking system.
Considering the above, the leaders of a project intended to meet the expectations of the latest official education policies were facing a very difficult task when they started developing the career tracking system intended for implementation with central coordination, standardising national and institutional career tracking surveys at multiple levels. This is especially true if we consider that in addition to the general undeveloped state and methodological, thematic and functional eclecticism (apart from a few positive exceptions) of the career tracking practices of Hungarian institutions, nationwide research projects with sociological-economic approach and scientific standards and targets also have very little tradition.
The development of the central programme that is expected to establish new bases for Hungarian career tracking practices in the case of research aiming to analyse national-general higher education tendencies, as well as institutional level surveys initiated by individual universities and colleges, was eventually started in 2008. The novelty of the Hungarian initiative lies in the parallel application of these two aspects, since the intention in the grand design is that the national surveys will be organically connected with the data collections carried out by the institutions in a unified programme, which will then be supplemented by data integration also connecting data on the labour market characteristics of fresh graduates found in other official statistics (primarily in the Tax Office and National Employment Service databases). Thus this multi-functional professional programme implementing national and institutional data collections on the basis of a similar logic surpasses most known foreign efforts in a number of aspects (4).
- 1. Empirical Research Programme
- 2. Footnotes