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Critical Perspectives on Graduate Employability

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Abstract

Fundamental changes in the nature of UK Higher Education have led to an increased emphasis on the notion of Higher Education (HE) investment ‘paying off’ for individuals and society with graduate labour market outcomes increasingly being used to evaluate and demonstrate the value of this investment. For example, one of the four UK Performance Indicators (UKPIs) for HE is the employment of graduates (HESA 2016), some however, question the appropriateness of this as a goal of HE, arguing that there is a need for universities to emphasise the importance of university education beyond employability and ‘pay cheques’ (Redmond 2014). This is not a new debate and given the increased cost, both economic and social, of HE to individuals and society, graduate employability is an increasingly high-stakes issue. We argue that the significant focus on labour market outcomes as a proxy measure of the value of higher education – by individuals, policy makers and institutions – makes a critical reconsideration of graduate employability timely. We examine existing conceptualisations of graduate employability and consider the value of applying alternative theoretical perspectives to provide a more nuanced approach to conceptualising graduate employability, allowing us to move beyond the dominant perspectives of graduate employability that over-emphasise individual agency.
Chapter 4- Critical perspectives on graduate employability
Ciaran Burke, Tracy Scurry, John Blenkinsopp & Katy Graley
Introduction
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113
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Higher Education and Graduate Employability
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  
3 !"0
 
114
 "$
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!78
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+>>/?+,"0#
! 
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Dominant perspectives of graduate employability
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)*+)"0!4
$$$$&$ 
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"5#$ 
 ; !
#  
$
"':
115
 -
"0
4
:5=
5="'
 
 !"0#
  &!
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!3#+>>*
5'$)**@A9&'$)*+*$)*++"
)*+@#
 4&
!$ 1$
1!$ B9&C<'$)*++

 :"
(-  
 $#
! !#=
0 '!!
?CC)"""!CDC1C 11!C!$#1
 "00)*+E?F,F
116
  
7!
 !8"0$
3
 "2
 $!&
$
  !4
 
""; "'$$

$
 
 !"
Critique of dominant perspectives of graduate employability
0 
 ;
 !"(
3 !
$ ;
#
 !
""1$
117
 $ 
 "&$
 $
- 7$#
: 80$)*+E?FF*"
0!
$
$$
 ! !#
$)*+@A9et al"$)**@"(!
#$
$#
  
!"0$)*+@
$$

$)*+@"0
 
$3
3.et al.$
)**>A0$)*+)"(-$
- $
 ! 
118
A  
 !9et al.$)**@"2 
  
 

G$)*+/
 4#"
&! 6B!")*+E
 
!!#
!"$!
!$  
"$)*+@"$6B!"
)*+E! ;
#$
!"0:! 9!)**/?@E
 
!"%H7
!8  
""$!##1
""!$$"
0 !$
119
 -
 !0$)*+E"
0
$ 
"G+>>+?FE7 
!82 
7
;
14I
"8)**@?+>E"0
 $)*+E
 !
;"0#
 !
"0D$
$ !"
B1  
9!$)**>AJ!1''$)*+E
$ 
: 
 5K'$)**L"&

120
  
 
Alternative theoretical perspectives
& $
! #
#;"9!
$ !$
 
-
"& 1
#$
78# 
$C  4
<= $
B!)*+E"&
4 
4 $$
! 
'9
+>>E?),,"& $#%
96(3
"
121
$

"
Structural Constructivism and Bourdieu
9
!A $$
$"0 
 !  
"$!
$$4The Inheritors,
Reproduction The State Nobility43
$9$3$
C"
!$ $$
$
 $
"
0;9 -
!  4
  "(
; $9
 $$!"0
122
 $#$!#
"2+$
? $3"
  4 43
$"
!$$ ;#
 4
"0 
#4$
$$$$"0
9  

".$ M!
)**)(+>>,$ :
$
9$+>FF?FL"&$
# #$ :$
 A$   
"
9$: 4$
4 A$ is
 
1 Many of which are discussed at length in Grenfell’s (2008) Bourdieu: Key Concepts.
123
9$+>>)"0!$9-!
$$$ $
"&
# 
"2 $9+>FF
#
! $ 
$4
$<+>>>$H "
&  !$
  
   
1"0
B)**E#$
$ !"2 
B!$
 !
 !"&! $
C3#$!
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!3; 31
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124
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# 1
125
"&3#$
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$ $$3"
3$
! "&3 #
-3 $ 3
 A9! 33
+>>)?+)F$C 
  "-$
 3-
-"
&#$ 
-#9!
%"0!
126
!The
Inheritors +>F> ;!
!$
 #
#4;"
$9! #
 
 $ 
$-
"&# 
 5=$)*+@$!
.$)**@$
9&'$)*+)1
'$et al., )*+@$
1# 
!!"($9!
  !$$$
1!9!$)*+E "
J$9!3
 !$ :
$!!
!#-"
99!+>L+
127
 !1 1#"
0 $
 !-
"9+>L/
 ! 
   
7-8"' 
$ 3
34  
78!"0 
 - ! 
)*9'$
+>>/A9$et al., )**@A9$et al., )*+@A9!$)*+E"(
## !
  !"6
C!3
 !
3;"
(! C
"&
$ !$ 
-"9+>FF
!!
128
34#!4
hysteresis of habitus"2 
9)9$)**L$
  
 !9!$)*+E "J
$  7
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C

-"0:  $
 3
C"&#
$!!
-$ ;"6 
 ;
 
#!1  ;$$
9$+>L/"(9!
)*+E 
!# 
718$
2 A province in south west France.
129
 #  ;
"
(!!$H 
$ 
 "99!+>FL
a priori 
 
3"$a
priori $
; 
78"
0a priori  
! ')**,
 &
4 #
"&
$'

"G+&
!!!
+
&"0
A'
130
! -
&"(#
-a priori   6)*+/"
2!#
!C7!8A$
  $
"
=C9
3!
 A 
 ;$# 
A$!3 
9$+>L/"($
#C"
0   and 
;C"&#
$1# a priori 
 H
C4
! 9!$)*+E "
Critical Realism and Archer
131
0!!
6(Morphogenic ;"2
9$ $
 3$(
B."(B)*+@$
$! $ 
 
 "6  !.9!
+>FEA+>L>$
;4#
$ :"0
$
3!$ 
#
H ;4$
"B  
 $$
  "0
#$ 
 ;#
  "&$
4
42 
132
K+>/>"&$
 
'$)***"'-
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-B$)*+@"
& C
$(;$$
 morphogenesis +>>,"&
 $
"($4 
4
 C1
"&$
H  1
:C"0
 #BBN
B&NB ($+>>,?+*,"0
1: 
A$ 
"0
 $$".
C9$+>L,$ 
(9 
133

"
(-
 :# 
($)**F"($
  :#A$
:#"
(:#H4
$1:#)**@A)**FA)*+)"
B:##
 "0
:#C1
"(:#$
$ - C
"61:#
A1
$:#C
"<(:#
4:#
"&$()*+)
$ $
1:#
:#$
134
"2(;$
:"
0-O(
"0-$
 $
:".C
 !$ (!
9et al"$)**@"&#!$
!$!
"& 
A#!
#"
   "&
- !$$-$
! #
"&'H$+>F+$
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#"&$
1H9$+>F@$(;
-C"9
!$(?
135
:#"0:#$($
+>L*4
$ $
"0
! 
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-)*+@?
+>F !"2
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"
Developing a critical agenda – implications and challenges
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 "2
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136
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137
9 7
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:#(!$)*+*$'$)**E$
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$
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4!
a priori 
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9$
!
3"(!9
$# 
!
138
;"0$
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$$ 
-3 ".$

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 Ginteraction order +>L@A
$$
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G+>L@?E!$4
4
-"2$9
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 
 "&#$
9$
$
"&
"0
$9$
 -
#; 
;".#
139
  0!
%$et al.$)*+@1%%9$et
al.$)*+@"%%$
992#
;"0 
-$
$   
 "
140
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B %"
($6"'")*+)The Re'exive Imperative in Late Modernity. <Q!?
B %"
(!$2")*+*B$&=6?&'
the Re'exive Worker. ?%66"
9$'"M"+>>E7&0O0.0
'8$British Journal of Educational Studies, vol. 43@$"
)EE1)F+"
9$5"+>F@The Coming of Post-industrial Society: A Venture in Social
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9!$."+>FEA Realist Theory of Science. =?=9!"
9!$."+>L>Reclaiming Reality: A critical introduction to
contemporary philosophy. =?K"
9$%"+>FF) Outline of a Theory of Practice"B ?B 
%
9$%"+>L/Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste"
=?.%"
141
9$%"=$%"+>L,7.'?(
&%98$Cultural Anthropology, 1 +$++*1+)*"
9$%"+>>)70%.:#'0B
2!8$&?
9$%"2-$=""An Invitation to Re'exive Sociology"
B ?%%$,+1)+F"
9$%")**/70B8&?9$'"M""The
RouteledgeFalmer Reader in Sociology of Education. =?.
$+E1)>"
9$%")**LThe Bachelor’s Ball. Cambridge. Polity Press.
9$%"9!$="+>FL7B''
B58$&?G$'"($6"'""
Contemporary Europe: Social Structures and Cultural Patterns. =?
.%$+>F1))F"
9$%"9!$="+>L+70
?0M 8$&?="French Sociology: Rupture and
Renewal Since 1968. <Q!?B %$+/+1+E+"
9$%"%$M1B"+>F>The Inheritors: French Students and
their Relation to Culture. B?0B%"
9$"$9!$(16"$2$."et al. )*+@70%%
%;Q@.8$( ?
" ""!CCC1C
9!$.")**>70G( 2J!?
G 0B6'!"8Higher
Education Research & Development$)L+$@+4//"
142
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Class, culture, and the decline of graduate careers , =?B=%"
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126.
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%"
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9!$B")*+E Culture, Capitals an Graduate Futures: Degrees of class.
London: ..
B$M"6")*+@Researching Student Learning in Higher Education: a social
realist approach. =?."
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$B9&?="( ?
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*++""(M)*+/"
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Concepts. 5?($LF1>>"
59$&'!9&')*+*7'
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143
?""!CC C1 111
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( ?
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?CC""!CC C 11
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5+>>*)***8$British Journal of
Sociology of Education, 34 5-6): 766-791.
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06.'18$Journal of Vocational Behavior,73
(3): 449–56.
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Modern Age. B ?%%"
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144
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G$6"M"")**LPierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts. 5?(
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( ??CC"""!CC
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554.
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187.
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... In the engineering field, Bennett and Male (2017) suggest that engineering students need to explore the roles of engineers and their own selves in order to be able to make the best decision for their future career. Higher education institutions recognize their responsibility in guiding students in the important decision that the first job represents (Burke et al. 2017; National Academy of Engineering 2018). Nonetheless, this is not an easy task, as demonstrated by Bennett and Male (2017), because even after the completion of their bachelor's degree, engineering students remain unaware of what they can expect for their future careers. ...
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The European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management (ESTIEM) is a non-profit organization of Industrial Engineering and Management (IEM) students, founded in 1990 to promote the connection between students, companies, and professors by its activities and initiatives. Through its partnership with the European-funded "Professional Roles and Employability of Future EngineeRs" (PREFER) project, whose objective is to allow students to better understand what engineers do and what kind of engineers they want to be, ESTIEM started a research to better understand the preferred engineering roles of students in several universities in Europe. In the PREFER project, three professional roles for early career engineers-Product Leadership (focusing on radical innovation), Operational Excellence (focusing on process optimisation) and Customer Intimacy (focusing on tailored solutions)-have been identified. Furthermore, competencies essential to be successful in those roles have been associated with them. Based on this model, two tests for engineering students were developed including the PREFER Explore test, which identifies the preference of the engineering roles. Understanding the importance of knowing the competencies needed for future engineers, the goal of the research is to map the possible differences in regard to the preferred roles among IEM students in Europe. This paper reports the findings of the Explore test run among six universities in Europe that are members of the ESTIEM network (Lisbon, Porto, Liège, İstanbul-Boğaziçi, Eindhoven and Saint-Petersburg). From those, Bachelor and Master students in IEM were invited, regardless of their association with ESTIEM (n=179). Findings indicate that the roles preference vary inside each university, even though the population shares the same educational background, and throughout the different European universities analysed. Furthermore, it explores the potential factors influencing those preferences based on students' insights and previous research conducted by ESTIEM.
... The growing emphasis on the role of higher education institutions (HEIs) in employment and career advancement in the global market revealed the need for graduate education (Burke et al., 2017;Rowe & Zegwaard, 2017). An increase in the demand for high-skilled professionals due to global technologies and innovation revealed the importance of higher education and the growth of the role of universities. ...
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... This approach to the conceptualisation of employability is most closely aligned to Human Capital Theory (that is the investment in key qualifications and skills to purposefully enhance labour market outcomes, Becker 1964). Critics of this approach to employability suggest it lacks an understanding of structural inequalities, arguing that it is not a deficit on the behalf of the individual as much as an oversupply of graduates caused by the massification of HE which has led to the real problems in all individuals having equal access to graduate roles (Burke et al. 2017;Morrison 2019). Furthermore, individualistic views of employability fail to acknowledge the structural barriers faced by some and at their most extreme blame those who fail to make progress as being at fault for lacking talent or desire (Forrier, De Cuyper, and Akkermans 2018). ...
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... From society's perspective it is important that education programmes at different levels of education provide skills for working life. In recent years, this requirement for working life relevance has increasingly been directed also towards universities [1], [2], [3]. ...
Conference Paper
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Outline of a Theory of Practice is recognized as a major theoretical text on the foundations of anthropology and sociology. Pierre Bourdieu, a distinguished French anthropologist, develops a theory of practice which is simultaneously a critique of the methods and postures of social science and a general account of how human action should be understood. With his central concept of the habitus, the principle which negotiates between objective structures and practices, Bourdieu is able to transcend the dichotomies which have shaped theoretical thinking about the social world. The author draws on his fieldwork in Kabylia (Algeria) to illustrate his theoretical propositions. With detailed study of matrimonial strategies and the role of rite and myth, he analyses the dialectical process of the 'incorporation of structures' and the objectification of habitus, whereby social formations tend to reproduce themselves. A rigorous consistent materialist approach lays the foundations for a theory of symbolic capital and, through analysis of the different modes of domination, a theory of symbolic power.