Early Careers of Tertiary Graduates in Poland: Employability, Earnings, and Differences between Public and Private Higher Education

By Zając, Tomasz; Jasiński, Mikołaj et al. | Polish Sociological Review, January 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Early Careers of Tertiary Graduates in Poland: Employability, Earnings, and Differences between Public and Private Higher Education


Zając, Tomasz, Jasiński, Mikołaj, Bożykowski, Marek, Polish Sociological Review


Introduction

One of the goals of institutions of higher education (as well as lower level schools) is to prepare students for their roles in the economy. After graduation, former students are generally expected to find a job, start a company, or enter the labor force in some other way The problem of the employability of graduates of higher education has been gaining importance in many European countries in recent years, especially after the financial crisis of 2008 (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice & European Comission 2014; Gaebel, Hauschildt, Mühleck, & Smidt 2012). Poland belongs to the group of countries that has experienced lively public debate regarding the labor market performance of graduates and the need to assess the quality of tertiary education over the last decade. Rapid expansion of higher education in the 1990s and at the beginning of the new millennium was followed by a rise in the number of unemployed graduates. This sparked a debate about the employability of graduates and the quality of higher education in Poland. One of the results was the creation of the Polish Graduate Tracking System in 2015.

This paper has three main goals. First, we would like to introduce the Polish Graduate Tracking System and describe the data it uses. The system is meant to fill the gap in research on the labor market performance of graduates in Poland. Before the creation of the system the issue was largely under-researched. Researchers analyzed official statistics (for instance, on the number of unemployed persons with university degrees), or data collected in one-off research projects (e.g., Grotkowska 2011; Pańków 2012). Apart from a few institutions like AGH [University of Science and Technology] in Kraków, Polish universities have not conducted systematic research on their graduates' labor market performance. The Polish Graduate Tracking System utilizes administrative records on entire cohorts of graduates and provides the public and policy makers with a detailed analysis of graduates' labor market trajectories on a program-by-program basis.

Second, we summarize the findings of research based on data from the Polish Graduate Tracking System and discuss the hotly debated topic of the labor market performance of recent graduates in Poland. We focus on issues that appear to be of great concern both to the public and the government: the employability of graduates; the quality of employment (understood as the type of work arrangement); and earnings during the first year after graduation. The unique structure of the available data-that is, records collected monthly- allows much more detailed analysis than in any previous study on the topic. Our study shows that graduates by and large-if not without difficulty-manage to find a job after graduation and to avoid unemployment. They are mostly employed with full benefits and their employment does not fall into the category of so-called junk jobs or junk contracts.

Third, we discuss the differences between the labor market performance of graduates of different modes of study (full-time versus part-time) and types of institutions (public versus private). We hypothesize that graduates of part-time studies or private institutions that are viewed as offering lower quality education (Herbst & Rok 2014) may be treated differently by employers. Our results show that graduates of private institutions perform better on the labor market, but when other factors are taken into account-for instance, pregraduation work experience-it appears that actually it is the public institutions' graduates who outperform their peers from private institutions.

The paper is structured as follows. First, we start with a background section on educational expansion and the significance of research on graduates' labor market outcomes. Second, we discuss theories linking education and labor market outcomes. Third, we present the methodology of the present study: we describe data sources, outline the main advantages and disadvantages of using administrative data in social research, analyze data reliability, and present the characteristics of the research population relevant for further analysis. …

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