Different stakeholders’ perceptions of the term ‘employability’ in an HE environment

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Promotional abstract:
This presentation will share the findings of a small-scale phenomenological study which explored the views, perceptions and understandings of the term ‘employability’ presented by employers, students and staff from a post-92 English University. The term ‘employability’ is commonly used in Higher Education to prepare students for [pst-graduate employment. The recent introduction of the Graduate Outcomes survey to measure university quality calls for a greater understanding of how stakeholders view ‘employability’. The initial data analysis highlights the underlying participants’ beliefs about the purpose and role of higher education, expectations and responsibilities of different stakeholders in relation to student employability.

Session outline:
This oral presentation invites attendees to learn about the findings of a small-scale phenomenological study which explored the views and perceptions of the term ‘employability’ as understood by employers as well as students and staff from a post-92 University in the North-West of England. The term ‘employability’ is commonly used in Higher Education in relation to preparation of students for employment after their graduation. With a view to describe the different stakeholders’ interpretations of this concept, the presentation draws on the extracts from the empirical fieldwork that was conducted in the academic year 2022 and consisted of an online questionnaire completed by 21 participants followed by 12 semi-structured interviews.

The study was initially prompted by the apparent lack of clarity and different usage of the term ‘employability’ during discussions involving students, graduate employers, academic staff and support staff at a Faculty Employers Advisory Panel. The ambiguity surrounding this term was also recognised by Cheng et al. (2021) who called for empirical research into key stakeholders’ interpretations of this term in order to establish a clear understanding of it. Further to this, the introduction of baselines or thresholds for ‘highly skilled’ graduate employment as required by the Office for Students Conditions of Registration and measured by the the Graduate Outcomes survey 15 months after graduation further highlight the significance and timeliness of this study.

The results of this small-scale study point to a breadth of interpretation of the term ‘employability’ that reflects individual moral perspectives as well as the pragmatic aspects of preparing students for employment following their studies. Navigating this range of understanding presents both challenges and opportunities for those seeking to balance the demands of an external regulatory context as well as individual internal drivers of providing a rich learning and developmental experience for students.

Considering the increasing importance of preparing students for ‘highly skilled employment,’ this presentation provides information valuable to everyone who works with students in Higher Education Institutions. This research offers insights and opportunities for further discussion into the participants’ perceptions on student employability and suggestions for activities ensuring student success. Our research is specifically of interest to those who seek to enhance student experience in their career journey.

With student employability being at the heart of our research, this presentation links to the overall conference theme of shaping the future of teaching in HE through engagement with students, employers, HE colleagues and community.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2023
EventAdvance HE Teaching and Learning Conference - Keele University, Keele, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20236 Jul 2023


ConferenceAdvance HE Teaching and Learning Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Employability
  • Higher Education
  • Graduate Employment


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