Graduates return to university from job market

The recession has triggered a scramble for a place at university with applications to Masters’ in Public Relations programs increasing by 43 percent from last year.

Overall a record-breaking 465,000 people are applying to begin a degree this September, including a significant increase in the number of older applicants, official figures reported.

The number of applications from over-24s rose by 12.6% and the 20-24 age group increased by 12.9%, the figures published yesterday by the university application service UCAS revealed.

A last-minute boom in applications in the run-up to the December deadline is thought to have been triggered by people wanting to use academia to escape the recession and be better qualified by the time the jobs market picks up again, moving the competition for places to university in addition to the job market.

Vice-chancellors warned last night that with a 7.8% increase in undergraduate applications therefore 34,000 more than last year, students face the most intense competition in years.

Jerry Swerling, director of Public Relations at Annenberg, said he is seeing an overall increase in international student applicants from countries such as India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Canada, Argentina and Finland. “These students want to come here, learn about Public Relations, get internships, and then go back and build the field,” Swerling said. “We’re trying hard to position our program to have global perspective.”

Swerling also said the majority of Chinese international students are applying to the Master’s course in Public Relations because they want to learn the skills needed to help develop China’s slowly emerging PR industry.

”Students might be showing increased interest in the PR profession because it has not been as negatively affected as other industries have been by the recession”, Swerling said. He attributed this to companies looking for more efficient ways to communicate their messages to the public. He also said that, because of the increased need for skilled PR practitioners, the recession might even be increasing the profession’s level of support and credibility:

“Public Relations is a field that is thriving, even in difficult economic times,” Swerling said. “In the short term it’s going to be difficult, but in the long term this is probably the best environment that the PR profession has ever enjoyed.”


  1. I’m wondering about how the economy will deal with the surplus of graduates qualified on a Masters’ level and academic degree inflation?

    My logic is simple: the job market for PR has tightened due to businesses saving money on promotion, thus many graduates of Bachelors’ programmes cannot find employment. These students will do their Masters’ alongside others doing their Bachelors’. By the time they are done, the economy will be already picking up (jobs open), but not at a stellar pace.

    Furthermore, the graduates will most likely not have the experience to position themselves on the job market as experienced professionals, despite of having an M.A. already. So, they will take lower-paid jobs and drive the value of their degree down. Does anyone see the solution to this case?

  2. You ask some very good questions that are difficult to answer, Honza.

    For one thing, it’s always been a humbling (but necessary) experience for graduates to take entry-level jobs in PR. The degree should help you to progress quickly, but it scarcely prepares you for the first job.

    For another, I fear that universities are good at teaching a rational view of the world – yet there’s an important lesson in the power of the irrational and the unexpected. What I’m suggesting is that life – and careers – do not often follow some linear, pre-determined path to ultimate success.

    I graduated with a history degree in a deep recession several decades ago, and my first job was as a school teacher. Only as I approaced 30 did I start my first job in PR. Meanwhile, Mark Borkowski, one of the UK’s best-known practitioners, tells how he went into PR because he failed to get a place at university to study history.

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