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Class Of 2012: Diploma Dilemma For Europe Grads

Some experts complain that students need to acquire a whole new way of thinking once they leave university.

"In social sciences, arts, I.T., there is an enormous transition in which you almost have to tell people to forget what they've been studying so that they can see again," said Robin Chater, secretary general of the Federation of European Employers.

Chater's organization represents multinational firms working in the EU, advising them on employment law and other matters, and also functions as a think tank focused on issues of concern to international businesses. Students' lack of practical experience in real-world situations is an emerging cause of concern for the organization's membership, Chater said.

That's an experience Lucy Nicholls, a member of AP's Class of 2012, knows well.

"I'm not saying universities should find you a job, but they should mentally prepare you for the big wide world and make you very much aware of what the climate is like..." said Nicholls, a 22-year-old fashion graduate in London. "It didn't happen for me."

Nicholls describes herself as "sorely disappointed" by her university education in Britain. "I expected to have some sort of lecture on maybe how to go freelance, how to go into the world of fashion because freelance is such a big part of that industry," Nicholls said.

The need to reform Europe's universities has been identified by both the EU Commission and independent experts.

Although graduate unemployment at 5.4 percent is significantly lower than overall youth unemployment, university curricula "are often slow to respond to changing needs in the wider economy," said Dennis Abbott, spokesman for the EU Education Commissioner. In an email response to questions, Abbott said courses should be better tailored to the needs of the labor market, better guidance should be given in selecting courses, and students should be given more opportunities to develop entrepreneurial and work-relevant skills as part of their studies.

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