Do Students Really Engage with Their Skills Development in the Context of Widening Participation? An Institutional Case Study

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Abstract

This study investigates how the prior experience of a diverse undergraduate cohort at an English higher education institution relates to barriers to employability and changes in students’ perceptions of their employability skills and career plans throughout the duration of their studies. It considers the impact of a range of demographic factors used to identify students from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education (HE). Data collection was conducted within a micro institutional context where the majority of students and staff are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Such diversity contributes to the originality of the study. We have adopted a mixed methods approach by bringing together both quantitative and qualitative evidence. The study took two years to complete and 150 students across different programmes participated. We found that perceived levels of employability skills were closely associated with the background and age of the students. We observed that an increase in self-awareness resulted in a significant decrease in self-confidence, which caused a change in participants’ career plans from looking for a relevant job to looking for any available job.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-63
Number of pages34
JournalWidening Participation and Lifelong Learning
Volume22
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Widening Participation
  • Student engagement
  • Employability skills development

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