Employability: Are you doing enough for your students?

Employability: Are you doing enough for your students?

Employability is ‘the new black’, the current trend that higher education institutions are sporting in a bid to respond to the latest demands from society and governments. ‘Transferable skills’, ‘soft skills’, ‘self efficacy’ – the buzz words of today all materialise through a variety of employability initiatives being implemented across institutions worldwide. So what’s behind this latest craze, and what should your institution be doing to keep up?

Higher education institutions are increasingly being expected to deliver graduates that can immediately step into the workplace and contribute fresh ideas and knowledge that will help to drive countries towards economic prosperity. Graduates are expected to transform themselves from the relative comfort and routine of student life to the diverse challenges of the workplace; preferably, in the first week of the job (assuming they actually find one).

A new approach needed

Rethinking education, reshaping economies was selected as the theme of this year’s EAIE Annual Conference to encourage greater discussion between higher education and industry, and to highlight the need that both higher education institutions and businesses need to adapt their approaches to respond to the changing demands of a globalising world. Recent publications reinforce this need: the 2012 SAGE Handbook of International Higher Education featured a chapter by Martin Tillman highlighting the need for tighter collaboration between academia and industry to ensure students develop the relevant skills for the changing workplace. In October, The Guardian featured a live debate on the subject of employability. Simply Google ‘student employability’ and you could lose yourself in the jumbled medley of papers, discussions and reports on the ‘theme of the moment’.

So how can you ensure that your institution doesn’t just succumb for conformity’s sake, but actually creates an effective strategy which will enable students to jump head-first into the world of work, get the job they really want, and achieve results? In this week-long series of blog posts, we highlight a cross section of case studies from institutions which have embarked on employability initiatives; providing you with tried and tested programmes to consider implementing at your own institution.


The University of Kent, UK has set up an employability points scheme to encourage students to undertake volunteer projects that develop their skills, and they’ve employed dedicated staff to support and communicate the new initiatives.


Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands has taken a more collaborative approach, linking employers with students during their studies to educate both parties on expectations and requirements.


The University of Nottingham, UK, together with Nottingham Trent University focuses on flexible internships – providing students with opportunities to gain valuable work experience in small chunks throughout their studies.

Intercultural approach

The final post looks at the University of Dundee’s (Scotland) focus on valuable, intercultural internships. In particular it highlights their Global Internship Graduate Certificate, which provides students with valuable work experience in India.

Stay tuned this week as we highlight each one of these initiatives. EAIE members and EAIE Dublin 2012 Conference participants can look forward to an even greater in-depth view of employability in Forum. The winter edition of the EAIE’s member magazine is dedicated entirely to the subject, compiling a variety of view points and fresh ideas for increasing the employability of your graduates. Look out for Forum arriving on your doorstep by the end of the year!