Many studies have looked at the effectiveness of university education. It can be said that this research has involved mainstream themes, such as the sociology of education and the economics of education. In a previous research project a "practice of learning" hypothesis was constructed from an analysis of a survey of engineering graduates, that considered how current learning related to university studies, leading to better performance at work and increased income. This paper aims to compare and verify the results of the analysis of a survey of engineering graduates, to test the validity of this "practice of learning" hypothesis and whether similar results could be obtained in the field of economics.
This paper uses two types of data. The first is that of a questionnaire survey of 976 engineering graduates undertaken in 2004. The second is that of a questionnaire survey of 596 economics graduates conducted in 2009. Both of these surveys were carried out with a random sampling of graduates at the same national university.
The main points resulting from the analysis are as follows: firstly, it was confirmed that educational benefits were derived from the practice of learning among economics graduates but that overall these benefits were smaller than those for engineering graduates. In other words, the benefits of a link to studying shown in the practice of learning hypothesis was confirmed among economics graduates, but in their case, this was because the knowledge obtained during time spent at university had a directly negative effect on income that could not be ignored. More specifically, it was discovered that economics graduates felt that the knowledge and skills they had acquired at university were more of a hindrance. Secondly, however, the negative effects of the knowledge and skills learned at university disappeared over time, and as a result, the educational benefits we are accustomed to seeing among economics graduates are particularly striking from middle-age onwards. In general, the occupational positions held by economics graduates and engineering graduates, differ. Most economics graduates work in white collar occupations, such as administration or sales, whereas most engineering graduates become technicians. To put it another way, on the one hand economics graduates occupy positions that do not have a direct connection with what they studied at university, whereas engineering graduates occupy positions that can be said to be an extension of their time at university. Such differences appeared immediately when those who had studied engineering began work, but it is possible that this may be connected to the differences in the practice of learning accumulated in the fields of engineering and economics. The results for economics graduates seemed to gradually manifest themselves as their careers progress.
Finally, we also investigated the graduates' own recognition of the outcomes of their education. As stated above, it was also confirmed that a university education really did benefit economics graduates, but few of the graduates were themselves aware of these benefits, probably due to the time it took for the effects of education to become manifest. In Japan, particularly in relation to the Arts, there is often skepticism about the effectiveness of a university education, but possibly the kind of mechanism considered above, exists behind the scenes.