How can universities do more to help student success?

Updated: Jun 22, 2018

More than 90% of students we talk to don’t know what they want to do after university. So how do you create an environment for students that encourages personal visions of success and ambition? Adam Campbell from ME+ explores this hot button issue.

Our recent pilot of 200 third-year Business Management students reaffirmed for us the idea that more needs to be done by universities to encourage students to think about life after graduation. For many, university is branded as the only route to take, yet many go into it and leave without figuring out why they really went. Was it what they wanted, or was it just expected of them? Here’s what we found out from the 200 students:

  • Fewer than 10% of students were clear on what they were going to do after their studies, and while 50% were considering a graduate placement scheme, they were yet to identify where.

  • 24% defined their attitude to their careers as ‘living for today’.

  • 41% were balancing studies with jobs or family commitments.

  • The range of words students used to describe their university experience (below) hint at how they were approaching the next step of their career.

Much of this was expected, but what wasn’t was the tentative, almost apologetic, nature of their ambitions. In one particular example, a student, who had seemed fairly disconnected, shyly approached us and mentioned she had some business ideas. When we said how thrilled we’d be to hear them, she was so surprised at our interest she didn’t feel quite ready to share.

We left her with a business card and some words of encouragement and, thankfully, a few weeks later she felt able to share with us her passion for food and her own restaurant concept she'd been developing. We were able to put her in touch with people who could help her develop her thinking further – including a former Dragon’s Den investor. The lesson here is that the importance of a little time and space to develop these internal ideas can’t be overstated

Creating a meaningful approach to career development that encompasses the varying needs, ambitions and dreams of thousands of students is an increasingly important issue for universities. The programme needs to be seen and felt as one that helps students shape and achieve their own views of success (not just one that is about getting a job) while being fully integrated into their studies.

Student lives are exciting, hectic and confusing. For many our pilot was the first time they’d had the opportunity to really think about what success meant for them personally, with many saying “I wish I'd done this sooner”. A void of support exists where the only contact they have with the university is through their topic. By creating a forum of personal growth where they are listened to, the experience of higher education becomes far more enriching. As career development experts we can say with some degree of authority that the earlier you begin this process, the better.

This blog post was written by the career experts behind ME+ (the career management app from Telos Partners). ME+ is free for individual students. See what ME+ can do for universities at

This is the third in our blog series on Developing Student Employability.

Previously: Think different- the key to inspiring student success

Next: Who cares about student success