It is rarely in dispute that Higher Education (HE) is one of, if not the main driver towards a Knowledge Based Economy (KBE); in turn one of the central goals of most developed countries around the globe. (Castells, 1994). Over the past few decades however the expansion of HE in the UK has not been matched by an equal expansion of KBE jobs as a proportion of the overall jobs market (Mason, 2002). One result of this disparity is that the proportion of underutilised graduates has continued to grow. One study (Keep and Mayhew, 2004) shows that as many as 5/6ths of all jobs that become available in the UK are to backfill positions that did not previously require the worker to have a HE qualification. 

Furthermore, market demand for skilled graduate work has not increased to match the current level of supply which has led many graduate employers to focus more heavily on additional personal characteristics outside of an applicant’s academic attainment (Tomlinson, 2008). Whilst most employers view their selection processes as detached and objective (Hinchcliffe and Jolly, 2011), in practice the traits that they show preference for broadly align with social class indicators that tend to disadvantage some graduates over others (Brown, 2000). On top of this, it appears that employers looking to fast-track graduates into management positions are increasingly drawing graduates from a narrow field of select institutions (Tomlinson, 2008), further cementing socioeconomic disparities within the graduate population. 

(Keep and Mayhew, 2004) argue that one of the main outcomes of this new norm is that without a sufficient supply of KBE jobs, our surplus graduate output has had to move into less knowledge intensive sectors in order to find work. (Wolf, 2003) adds that this flooding of non-traditional graduate markets is likely to create a feedback loop pushing more and more young people into Higher Education for fear of being left behind.

Another cause for concern is that in the age of HE massification, periods of prolonged under-employment are becoming increasingly common for young graduates. This is worrying as research has shown that early career underemployment can have long-lasting effects on a graduate’s eventual career prospects. (Elias & McKnight, 1999; Green et al., 2002). 

Without fundamental structural change it seems inevitable that the current system will continue to produce an oversupply of overqualified and underutilised graduate workers. Unfortunately nothing looks set to change any time soon. Academics and politicians calling for such change remain fringe voices, easily drowned out by the sound of  money. In our current status quo there is little incentive for HE institutions to push for radical change; business as usual.

In the face of such compounding problems it would appear that graduates need to find new, innovative ways to improve their quality of life. Working cooperatively it is my belief that we can resist the dominant narratives that push individualism as the norm and can instead work together to feed our shared desire for knowledge, build a framework for continued personal development and to better leverage the communal knowledge that we hold as graduates.

This idea is what the CurioCity Collective has been created in response to. It is an experiment; an attempt to find a new way for graduates and other interested adults in Bristol to pool their resources and work together to achieve shared goals. A means of supporting each other & a way to build a sense of community and purpose for young graduates that feel let down and academically isolated in the years after they leave education. 


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