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Education pays off – graduates of ÅAU have done well despite the pandemic

Higher education provided protection against the pandemic’s economic consequences, studies show. Graduates from Åbo Akademi University are slightly more satisfied with their education than the national average.

Åbo Akademi University’s Career Services regularly collects information on employment and careers among graduates. The information is used in career counseling for students and in the development of educational programmes.

The most recent career survey was conducted among 2019 and 2015 graduates from Åbo Akademi University and describes the situation in the autumn of 2020, that is, one year and five years after graduation, respectively. To the most recent survey, Career Services added some questions that specifically had to do with working life in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been felt in Finland since the spring of 2020.

The labour market welcomes graduates

In 2019, there were 610 graduates who earned a master’s or bachelor’s degree from Åbo Akademi University. The corresponding figure for 2015 was 542.

The graduates who entered the labour market in 2015 did so under slightly worse circumstances than graduates of most other years. The unemployment rate was relatively high and, especially among the highly educated, it was rising. The economy slowly began to recover, but the business community was still hesitant in its expectations.

The career survey shows that five years after graduation, 86% of the graduates of 2015 were employed, while approximately 3% were unemployed. Full-time students accounted for 2%, while approximately 8% were on family leave. Just under 60% had permanent full-time employment.

– We can also note that in addition to our graduates finding a place in the labour market, most of the time they find the right place, that is, they find jobs that they feel their education has prepared them for. There are actually no real differences between Åbo Akademi University’s educational fields in this respect, says Matias Erlund, coordinator at Åbo Akademi University’s Career Services.

A few years later, the conditions in the labour market were significantly better, and when the graduates of 2019 faced their future, diploma in hand, the unemployment rate in Ostrobothnia, for example, was only 5.8%, the lowest in mainland Finland.

One year into working life, 92% were employed, 2% were unemployed, 2% were full-time students and 3% were on family leave. While the employment rate was slightly higher for the recent graduates than for those who had already been in working life for five years, only 50% were full-time employees.

– Now, there are not so many who are unemployed, but those who are and have responded to the survey say that they are satisfied with the education they received at Åbo Akademi University, even if they are not currently employed, says Erlund.

The report can be read in its entirety, in Swedish, on Åbo Akademi University’s website. Among the figures and analyses, there is also an abundance of freely written answers and greetings to Åbo Akademi University.

The pandemic affected work

Everyone’s workplace has been affected in one way or another by the pandemic. In the worst cases it has caused redundancies or layoffs of various kinds. Career Services designed a number of questions to examine how recent graduates experienced their situations, especially in the spring and summer of 2020.

– Those who have a university degree often have jobs that can be done remotely. And they work in industries that were not so sensitive to this pandemic, says Erlund.

While, for example, the tourism and restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions, university alumni tend to find themselves in other areas. For many, remote working became, and is, the norm.

University graduates still tend to place themselves in such positions that, at least this time, have enabled continued work, even if under different circumstances.

– Higher education provided fairly good protection against the negative effects of this pandemic on employment, says Erlund.

Survey answers affect university funding

The career follow-up survey is conducted jointly with all universities in Finland. Most of the questions are common to all universities, which enables comparisons between the universities, and some of the questions are established by the Ministry of Education and Culture. The questions written by the ministry affect the universities’ funding.

When the answers are compiled, they are scored according to how the graduates graded the education at their alma mater. Each university accumulates a number of points, and in the end, each individual university’s percentage of the total amount of everyone’s points is calculated.

All answers, which are included in the university funding model, are worth points. In other words, a negative answer is better than no answer at all.

– It has been shown that people at different universities are quite equally satisfied with the education they have received, so the biggest impact universities can have on funding, in this matter, is to compete among themselves for response rates, says Erlund.

Approximately 35 million euros are distributed to the universities on the basis of the career follow-up questionnaire’s responses. Åbo Akademi University’s share is usually around four per cent, that is, approximately 1.4 million euros.

In addition to the survey answers, the universities also share an equally large amount of funding that is distributed based on the graduates’ employment situation one year after graduation. This information is acquired directly from Statistics Finland. Unfortunately, the statistics cannot take into account those whose careers have taken them abroad, as only domestic and employed taxpayers are relevant in this matter.


More information on how graduates from Åbo Akademi University place on the labor market.