IBH Final Report
Employability: success factors in
the transition from university to
Analysis of the parameters of a qualified entry into the job
market of young academics in an interdisciplinary and
international comparison, taking into consideration the digital
communication of Generation Y.
Prof. Armin Brysch, Prof. Dr. Julia E. Peters, Prof. Dr. Jochen Staudacher,
Prof. Dr. MA Willy Christian Kriz, Prof. Dip.-Ing. MA Wilfried Manhart,
Prof. Dr. Olaf Stern
Hochschulen Kempten, Vorarlberg, Winterthur
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 1
Employability: success factors in the transition from university to career
a. Background to the research project 2
b. Description of the research project 3
c. Current state of research 5
d. Methodical approach 7
2. Description of the sample
a. Socio-demographic background 10
b. Degree programs and universities 10
c. Differences between countries and degree programs 11
d. Assessment of perceived academic achievement 12
3. Research questions
a. Employability from the perspective of young academics
Understanding of the term “career” 13
Choice of degree and career prospects 14
Assessment factors for the assessment of careers 15
Key success factors for a career 16
Assessment of degree program for career purposes 17
b. Assessment of career competences acquired in a degree course
• Starting situation 18
Operationalization, scaling and dimension reduction 19
Findings and discussion 22
c. Employer selection und information behaviour
Operationalization, scaling 26
Findings and discussion 27
4. Limitations 33
5. Conclusion 34
6. Literature 37
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Background to the research project
The following report not only examines and presents the practical background of
the research, but also looks at the theoretical research and the specific project–
In 2009, for the first time more school leavers embarked on a study program than
vocational training (cf. Groll, 2014; cf. Nida Rümelin, 2015). Behind this increase
in the number of students are a number of utilitarian expectations: studying
improves career prospects and offers the opportunity for more challenging work
as well as a higher income in professional life, the risk of unemployment is seen
to be lower, general life satisfaction is higher and/or social status is seen to be
positively influenced (cf. Appel & Schmidt, 2014, p. 34). 75% of all students
believe that as graduates they will have better chances of finding an interesting
job (cf. BMBF, 2009 and cf. Kim et al., 2006). Additionally, reasons such as a
change in the labour market, the academization of the professional world,
according to which the demand of academically qualified employees is increasing,
all lead to the fact that a degree course will become a normality in the course of
time (cf. Nida Rümelin, 2015, 16). Political developments are also having an
effect: shortening the length of secondary education to eight years, the abolition
of compulsory military service as a one-time effect or also the intensification of
individual support in primary and secondary schools are important factors
influencing educational career choices (cf. Dräger, 2013, p. 44 ff., Groll, 2014).
Such developments are not only to be observed in all of the federal states of
Germany, in practically all universities and the majority of faculties, but also as an
international phenomenon (cf. Hippach Schneider, 2014), but with the added
dimension of national characteristics.
Thus in Switzerland the dual training system (entry via apprenticeship) for
example has a high significance (cf. Hippach Schneider, 2014, 28), while the
overall Swiss quota of secondary school graduation (upper secondary school,
vocational and technical matriculation) at 38% is clearly lower than the comparison
at a European level. In addition, access to Swiss universities of applied sciences
requires the completion of relevant vocational training (at least 2 years) or at least
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 3
one year of professional experience. Despite this, an increase in the number of
students has still been recorded here.
The analysis of undergraduate students in the field of economics at universities of
applied sciences in Austria shows an increase of 15% in bachelor’s degrees
compared to the academic years 2008/09 and by 117% in master’s degrees.
Special features include an increase in mature students (35+) in the range of
master’s programs and in particular the demand for part-time study programs (cf.
Statistik Austria, 2016).
Overall, it can be stated that large or continuously increasing numbers of young
people, especially at universities, are being prepared for professional life. In this
context, paying particular attention to the transition from university to work
proves whether the individual efforts of students/graduates are worthwhile or
whether the structural and organizational conditions of higher education
institutions meet the requirements of companies in the labour market. The
question therefore is whether the completion of a degree course in its
current form can have a positive effect on so-called employability.
Employability is understood as a factor-driven, threefold success in the transition
from university to career: graduates of a degree program being able to find a
professional position via job application, young professionals being satisfied with
their professional position and being able to identify future career opportunities.
Description of the research project
The Lake Constance region has seen a steady growth in population over the past
few years. There are currently approx. 4 million people in the region, including the
areas of Baden- Württemberg and Allgäu on the German side, Vorarlberg on the
Austrian side and several cantons on the Swiss side, including Zurich as well as
Liechtenstein. Urban areas include Zurich and the surrounding area, Bregenz and
Kempten in Allgäu. The network of the International University of Lake Constance
(IBH) links 31 of a total of 25 universities and universities of applied sciences in
the region and a total of around 120,700 students are registered, most of whom
resident in the canton of Zurich. Most of the working population work in the service
sector (75%) or in the manufacturing industry (25%), i.e. sectors that are
dependent on a professionalized workforce. This demonstrates the relevance of
not only an international but also an interdisciplinary comparison in the region (cf.
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 4
Statistics for the Lake Constance region, 2017). Kempten University of Applied
Sciences (DE), ZHAW Winterthur (CH) as well as Vorarlberg University of Applied
Sciences (AT) cooperated analogically in this research project.
In the consortium, the parameters of a qualified entry into the job market were
analyzed from the point of view of the students (in the last phase of their studies)
or graduates (i.e. applicants) or newcomers (i.e. young academics with a
maximum of one year of professional experience). The empirical focus on these
individuals, who were actually in the middle of this transformation process,
generated particularly authentic findings for the three formulated, interlocking
a. "Generation Y has generation-specific priorities when it comes to starting a
career and selection of employer."
b. "The successful entry of Generation Y into working life (employability) is
determined by the balanced procurement of professional, social and
c. "Generation Y strengthens its role as a competent player at the start of a
career due to digital communication and is well informed about potential
d. In tangible terms, the following research questions should be answered:
1. Which factors of higher education (apprenticeship or vocational training,
internships, overseas stays, projects, extracurricular engagement etc.)
support a successful transition into professional life from the perspective of
2. Are there any differences in the Lake Constance region or degree
program-specific differences with regard to career development factors from
the perspective of young academics?
3. Were sufficient professional, social and personal competences procured in
the bachelor’s degree for the transition to working life and where do young
professionals see deficits after one year’s work experience?
4. How do the changed consumer, value and job perceptions of Generation Y
affect their expectations towards companies offering a potential career
start or career prospects?
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5. How well-informed are young academics about potential employers
(information behaviour)? Which digital channels are used in the
In this context, the project raises no claim on the genesis of representative data,
but is - according to the possible objectives of IBH initial projects - an
exploratory first study on the research specification, a means of developing and
testing methods and creating network structures.
Current state of research
In order to present the current state of research, it has been possible to draw on
a large number of studies, which as a whole have invariably addressed only sub-
topics of the IBH project on the subject of “employability”, leaving a clear gap in
research. Appel and Schmidt (2014), Brenke (2015), Dose and Wagner (2006),
Dräger (2013) and Kreckel (2014) as well as Schultz and Hurrelmann (2013) and
Berufsstart all deal with the cross-thematic research topic of "employability"
(2016). Various authors examine the ability of "building a career". However, there
is no uniform definition of the term "employability", which barely accommodates a
final analysis of the topic (cf. Schubarth, 2013).
For the most part, there is general agreement that the Bologna Process has
reformed the employability of students (cf. Schaeper & Wolter, 2008). But there
has also been some criticism (cf. Heyder, 2009). There is only insufficient teaching
of so-called "soft skills" (cf. New Quality of Work Initiative, 2016). In addition,
there is a lack of practical relevance regarding courses, so that adequate vocational
preparation is only offered hypothetically (cf. Federal Ministry of Education and
Research, 2010). Positive factors include the shorter length of the degree courses,
international focus and accreditation, which should make it easier for students to
make the transition into working life (cf. Federal Ministry of Education, 2010).
Other studies address graduate expectations of an attractive employer and goals
for their working life (cf. Bruch, Färber & Fischer, 2015, cf. Haufe, 2013). Alongside
numerous other factors from the different areas, the following were cited here (cf.
Becker, Ulrich, Brandt & Vogt, 2013)
nature and location of business,
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 6
cultural – leadership related aspects as well as
career aspects (leadership responsibilities and promotion opportunities are
often mentioned here).
Other important aspects are work-life balance, identification with corporate
culture, working atmosphere, varied tasks, opportunities for further training and
promotion, job security and the location of the company (cf. Becker et al., 2013,
cf. Berufsstart, 2016; Business Education International Training, 2016, cf. Lake,
2015, see Pfeil, 2017, p.287, cf. Ruthus, 2014). Monetary aspects are often subject
to discipline and are also perceived by students as being of different importance
from different degree programs (cf. Berufstart, 2016, cf. Haufe, 2013, cf. Impulse,
2015). All in all, it can be said that the current generation of young students and
graduates certainly show some similarities in its expectations towards the
economy (cf. Wirtschafts Woche, 2017).
Industry, on the other hand, expects not only good grades and professional
experience from graduates (cf. Becker et al., 2013, cf. Meyer, Schrauth &
Abraham, 2013, cf. Brysch, 2014, cf. Staufenbiel Institut, 2017) but also skills
(e.g. IT skills, foreign languages, presentation skills) as well as social and
technical-methodical competences such as teamwork, commitment and
communication skills and methodological competences such as analytical and
decision-making skills. The ability to work independently, to learn and to be
resilient, and to be successful and willing to perform are the foremost personal
competences (see DIHK, 2015). In this summarized and only brief list of relevant
studies, the relevance of this research is clear. Although the expectations of both
sides (employer and employee) have already been examined, there is still no
international and interdisciplinary comparison within the Lake Constance region.
The theoretical and research-related relevance becomes particularly clear with
regard to Generation Y and its digital communication behaviour. The collective
term "Generation Y" covers those born from the 1980s up to the mid-1990s. This
generation, due to a low birth rate and increasing life expectancy (demographic
change), represents a relatively small group of people who are about to graduate
or are about to move into professional life or who have gained some work
experience already (cf. Krause, 2015, p. 10, 15). Factors influencing this
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 7
generation and, in the view of some employers, create disloyal, spoilt and
demanding fun-seekers, include the following: Born in the early 1980s, they grew
up using digital technologies such as smartphones, computers and the Internet,
and the way they use them is part of their everyday life. Access to almost any
information at any time is normal for them. Accordingly, Generation Y also expects
to find latest technological standards and equipment in the workplace.
Furthermore, studies show that Generation Y has been educated to have a high
degree of self-confidence - even towards superiors. It also faces countless choices,
including media being available anytime, anywhere. This leads to individualism
that is reflected in a decline in loyalty (also towards employers) (cf. Krause, 2015,
To sum up, it can be said that having fun at work and a friendly collegial
environment is important for Generation Y. The subject of “career” seems to play
a rather secondary role. Based on this observation, Krause surmises that the
generation maybe simply has other, new expectations concerning the subject of
“career”. It has no direct link to the “dog-eat-dog society”, accepts a change in
status symbols (moving away from material possessions) and strives for more free
time, physical fitness and/or a large circle of friends. However, career is also
important to Generation Y. They just measure it using different parameters than
in the past (cf. Krause, 2015, p. 99).
The objects of examination were deliberately chosen and form the project-based
background of this work. For comparison purposes, undergraduate students from
five different degree programs at the universities involved in the research project,
as well as graduates with at least one year’s work experience, were interviewed
using an online questionnaire. The following table shows the potential samples of
the individual universities and the degree programs interviewed.
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Figure 1: Potential samples
The responsible inter-university project consortium consisted of seven
participants, who complemented each other on the basis of their respective
competencies, technical expertise and access to the group of young academics to
be surveyed. Due to time restrictions, five of the applying consortium partners
were actually involved in the actual work process. In addition, three undergraduate
assistants were entrusted with preparatory and follow-up work and supported the
research project throughout.
Kempten University, Germany: (lead project coordination)
Brysch, Armin (Prof., Dipl.-Kfm., Tourism faculty)
Peters, Julia (Prof. Dr., Tourism faculty)
Staudacher, Jochen (Prof. Dr., IT faculty)
ZHAW Winterthur, Switzerland:
Stern, Olaf (Prof. Dr., School of Engineering, Director of IT Degree Program)
Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences, Austria:
Manhart, Wilfried (Prof. (FH), Dipl.-Ing. MA, Department Management and
Kriz, Willy Christian (Prof. (FH) Dr. MA, Department Management and
The cross-border comparison that was originally planned underwent modification
during the course of the project. After detailed data analysis it was discussed and
decided in consortium meetings that this country comparison would be dealt with
in a second phase. This report is primarily intended to deal with the differences
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and similarities between degree programs and furthermore with the comparison
between students and graduates.
The research design can be divided into three sub-areas. The focus lies on the
transition between studies and work. University factors as well as personal and
regional, industry-specific or other influencers affecting this transition are
analyzed. In addition to professional, social and personal competences on the part
of the students, other upstream areas must also be mentioned such as pre-
education, which may have an effect on these factors. Downstream, on the part of
the career starters, there needs to be reflection about these skills and the need for
further training. Through interviewing both groups, it should be possible to identify
influencing variables of the transition.
The project was launched according to plan in January 2017 and completed in
accordance with the approved extension agreement on 31.03.2018. The following
fixed meetings took place according to plan:
• Project meeting in Dornbirn 20.01.2017
• Adobe Connect meeting 09.02.2017
• Adobe Connect meeting 20.02.2017
• Adobe Connect meeting 05.05.2017
• Adobe Connect meeting 19.07.2017
• Project meeting in Winterthur 05. - 06.10.2017
• Adobe Connect meeting 04.12.2017
• Project meeting in Kempten 21. - 22.01.2018
• Adobe Connect meeting 28.02.2018
• Adobe Connect meeting 12.03.2018
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2 Description of the sample
The empirical study was based on a sample of 437 students and graduates from
Kempten University of Applied Sciences, Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences
and ZHAW Winterthur, all born between the years of 1968 and 1996. In terms of
gender balance, there is significantly higher number of male participants (67.9 %)
versus females (32.1%). The majority of participants were students (60.6%). With
regard to school education, the participants were divided into three categories.
With 53.2%, the majority of participants had a Fachabitur or a Berufsmatura
(vocational secondary school diploma), whereas 40.5% had a classical Abitur or a
classical Matura (classical secondary school diploma) and the remaining 6.3%
entered university with other diplomas. On average, the participants had 44
months of work experience before taking up their studies. Of the surveyed
students, more than 60% were full-time students, just over 80% were enrolled in
a bachelor's degree, the rest in a master's degree. Of the surveyed graduates,
more than two-thirds had a full-time position.
Degree programs and universities
The survey participants were divided across the degree programs as follows:
Figure 2: Distribution of participants
The survey participants were distributed across the participating universities as
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 11
Figure 3: Distribution based on universities
In this context, it should be remembered that there was only one degree
program that was examined at two different universities, this being IT. For the
ZHAW Winterthur, IT was the only degree program studied, HS Kempten
contributed IT, Information Systems and Tourism, and at the FH Vorarlberg the
two degree programs included in the research were Business Administration and
Differences in degree programs
Among the participants in the IT degree program, male participants were
predominant. This dominance was clearly more pronounced in the case of ZHAW
Winterthur with less than 5% female survey participants than at HS Kempten
with just over 11% female survey participants. Almost all participants from the
ZHAW Winterthur stated that they had had relevant work experience prior to
their studies. This is not surprising, since in Switzerland a completed
apprenticeship with a vocational secondary school diploma or a completed
secondary school diploma with a practical year is required as a condition for
admission to study at a university of applied sciences. Finally, it should be noted
that at ZHAW Winterthur there were 108 participants compared to 46
participants at HS Kempten i.e. more than twice as many computer scientists
who answered the survey.
In the Information Systems degree program, with a percentage of 20% the
proportion of participants was considerably higher than in the IT degree
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 12
It is characteristic for the degree program of Industrial Engineering at the FH
Vorarlberg that all of the participants are enrolled as part-time students. The
number of female participants at just under 5% is very low.
Only in the Business Administration program at the FH Vorarlberg do see more
of a gender balance with 47.5% female students participating in the survey.
Compared to the IT degree program, in the Tourism degree program there is a
reverse in gender roles with just under 7% of the participants being male.
Assessment of perceived academic achievement
All participants were asked to self-assess their own academic success:
Figure 4: Self-assessment of perceived academic achievement
The result may seem a little less startling if, for example, dropout rates are taken
into consideration in the technical degree programs. Students whose grades lie in
the lower third of the cohort are positive about their own academic success
because they compare themselves to fellow students who may never actually get
a degree. In addition, it seems extremely plausible that precisely those students
and graduates with above-average academic achievements should take part in a
survey on the topic of employability.
Finally, it should be noted that only in the IT degree program at the ZHAW
Winterthur as well as in the Business Administration degree program at the FH
Vorarlberg do more than 5% of the students place themselves in the lower third
of the cohort.
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3 Research questions
Employability from the perspective of young academics
Understanding of the meaning of the word career
Concerning the question whether “building a career” meant more of a specialist
career (in terms of development of competences) or a career in terms of hierarchy
(project management, team management), considerably more participants in this
study chose competence development (around 36% as opposed to 11.5%). A clear
majority voted for “both” (52.5%), and it is a possibility that these participants did
not really put a great amount of thought into this.
A significant deviation is to be seen in the results of the graduates from the ZHAW
Winterthur (in the IT degree program). Here around two thirds of the participants
see “building a career” as a development of competences, a third sees it as both
and just less that 5% sees a career as something hierarchical.
Likewise, there is a tendency to be seen that better students (according to self-
assessment top third vs the rest) select “both” less frequently (55.6% vs. 50.0%)
and understand “building a career” more in terms of developing competences
(33.1% vs. 38.4%).
Figure 5: Meaning of “building a career”
Choice of degree and career perspectives
Even before they had started their studies, it was very important or important for
a large majority of participants (72.1%) that the chosen degree program provided
good “career building” options.
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Interestingly, there are significant differences between the individual degree
programs, and in some cases between degree programs at the same university.
This meant that it was important for the clear majority (80.9%) of the students
and graduates of Kempten University of Applied Sciences in the IT degree program
that the selected degree program offered them good options for "building a
career", in the tourism degree program this was only still the case for more of less
half (60.3%) of the sample. Students and graduates in Business Administration at
Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences (81.5%) recorded the highest scores.
Figure 6: Selection of degree program in view of career perspectives
On the other hand, there is a clear trend among better students and graduates
(according to self-assessment, upper third vs. remainder): while for this 76.6% it
was considered important or very important that the chosen degree program
offered good options for "building a career", the value for the other students and
graduates was only 67.3%.
Combining the two groups just mentioned (Tourism degree program and "weaker
students/graduates"), it is not surprising that when choosing a degree program for
about half of them it was unimportant or less important that the chosen degree
program led to good "building a career" options.
Furthermore, the participants were asked how well they felt informed about
opportunities to "build a career" before their studies, during their studies or at this
point in time with their studies (almost) completed.
Here a uniform picture emerged from all degree programs from the three
universities involved in the study: the value increased continuously from "before
studying", "during studies" and "with almost completed studies" (with a low
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 15
standard deviation). This is presumably due to the fact that students deal with and
prepare themselves for entry into working life more intensively as they progress
through the course of their studies.
Figure 7: Information about the opportunities for “career building”
Here, too, it is possible to see the lower interest level of the students from the
Tourism degree program, who give "careers" lower priority and therefore feel less
informed about the subject.
Influencing factors for the evaluation of careers
It is believed that the evaluation of "building a career" derives from the influence
of various factors. The participants were asked how they were affected by various
influencing factors in their assessment of “career building”.
Not surprisingly, the question of influence on the topic of “career building” shows
that family is mentioned first, and this is clear across all degree programs.
Figure 8: Social factors
Friends and university professors also have a strong influence whereas politicians,
school teachers and the media, have a much smaller one. It is only in the Tourism
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degree program that corporate communication plays a more important role. The
university professors at the ZHAW lose influence over the graduates. This is
understandable insofar as that after leaving university their presence is inevitably
lower and contact rarely continues to exist.
Success factors for careers
Participants were asked to place eight factors in a clear order of importance for
"career building". The answers should be of particular interest to potential
employers. Across all degree programs and groups, "jobs satisfaction, e.g. the
chance of self-realization" was classified highest and held a clear margin from the
other factors. Other highly prioritized factors were "challenging tasks" and
Midfield, the desire for a "high income/salary" came before having a "permanent
job" and a "full-time job". In the lower ranks, there is the "rapid transition from
studies to profession" and far behind in last place is "status" (in the sense of
recognition by third parties). Regarding the "high salary" factor, there is a
significant deviation between the Tourism degree program (with little relevance)
and the IT degree programs (both in Kempten and in Winterthur) as well as in
particular Information Systems (with high relevance). This also reflects the current
situation on the labour market: IT specialists are desperately sought after, in the
tourism industry the demand for labour is different, possibly less pronounced.
Figure 9: Importance of various factors in view of “building a career”
Another interesting point is related to the desire for "challenging tasks" among
computer scientists. This weighting increases significantly among the good
students (upper third vs. remainder according to self-assessment). In other words:
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good IT students are looking for a technical challenge, the salary in return is not
so important to the participants (it may be presumed that in the current labour
market situation computer scientists are satisfied with their salaries anyway).
Evaluation of degree program for career
When asked to what extent the above-mentioned factors are appropriately
influenced by their studies, more than 90% of participants agreed (as defined by
the answers "suitable" or "very suitable"). Here, too, the greatest differences can
be seen between the IT courses and the Tourism degree program: in IT, almost
all participants (less than 3% say they are less well-suited, at ZHAW this is
particularly pronounced) are of the opinion that their own studies are positive, in
the Tourism degree program over 32% consider it to be less suitable or even
Figure 10: Evaluation of degree as suitable for building a career
Evaluation of competences acquired in a degree course for a
This section presents some key findings on research issues of particular interest
to the project consortium.
In this context, the main research questions were:
1. Which competences do students see as being important for their later
2. To what extent do students assess the fulfillment level of the respective
improvement of competences through their chosen degree program?
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3. What is the satisfaction of students with their chosen degree program in
general and with special organizational and didactic characteristics?
4. What factors are of particular importance to students when they define
"career" for themselves?
5. To what extent do students perceive the career factors relevant to them as
being positively influenced by their chosen degree program?
All in all, our focus is on the exploratory research of correlations between the
importance and degree of fulfillment of competences in degree programs,
satisfaction with organizational and didactic characteristics of degree programs,
the significance of careers, as well as the assessment of the suitability of degree
programs for the promotion of careers.
In addition, we are interested in the exploratory review of possible differences in
the characteristics attributable to the research questions with socio-demographic
and other relevant variables of the degree programs such as
• student vs. graduate,
• positioning as a comparatively "good" (upper third) or "poor" student (lower
two-thirds) in terms of coursework and study progress,
• degree program.
Operationalization, scaling and reduction of dimensions
The following section discusses how the relevant research questions have been
Operationalization of the research
questions in the questionnaire
Research question 1
How important are the following knowledge and
skills and for your current or, if you are not yet
working, prospective job and, if applicable, a
further chosen career?
1 = unimportant,
2 = less important,
3 = important,
4 = very important.
Research question 2
To what extend does your degree program require
this knowledge and these skills?
1 = not at all,
2 = minimally,
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 19
3 = largely,
4 = totally.
Research question 3
We would like to ask for your personal evaluation
on satisfaction with the degree program and some
1 = not true,
2 = hardly true,
3 = mostly true,
4 = totally true.
Research question 4
Put the following factors into a clear order of
importance for building a career.
Eight point, in order of
1 = important
up to 8 =
Research question 5
To what extent do you regard your (almost)
completed studies as suitable for influencing the
most important factors for you in the future?
1 = unsuitable,
2 = less suitable, 3 =
4 = very suitable.
For dimensionality reduction, factor analyses were carried out in each case with
the items in research questions 1, 3 and 4 (in each case the principal component
method with Varimax rotation and eigenvalue ≥1). Although the factor analyses
in each case clarify "only" 56%, 53% and 64% of the variance, the results can
also be meaningfully interpreted with correspondingly high charge numbers and
were taken over as newly formed variables in the further analysis.
Scaling for the importance and promotion of competences:
Items (with charge numbers a
1. Organizational and project
Understanding of complex correlations
shaping factors in specialist field (.44)
Ability to forecast long-term effects and side
effects of decisions and actions (.65)
Interdisciplinary thinking (.58)
Project management (.63)
Organizational skills and time management
2. International leadership and
intercultural team work
Foreign languages (business fluent) (.59)
Management of work groups/teams (.50)
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 20
Working together in an intercultural team
Attention towards ethical considerations in
one’s own behaviour (.69)
3. Reflexive independent
problem solving and social
Problem solving skills (.57)
Communication and cooperation skills (.44)
Conflict management (.59)
Independent working (.56)
Knowledge of own strengths and
4. Media skills and innovation
Verbal skills (.41)
Writing skills (.48)
Competent IT and digital medial skills (.75)
Capacity for innovation and creativity (.58)
5. Scientific methods
Use of scientific methods (.83)
Practical application of scientific
6. Application of special subject
Special subject knowledge in the subject
matter of degree/professions (.71)
Ability to apply professional knowledge for
new type of complex practical task in
specialist area /profession (.68)
7. Basic knowledge
Basic knowledge in specialised subject
content of degree program/profession (.76)
Scaling for satisfaction with degree program didactical aspects.
1. Satisfaction, content and
didactical quality of
I rate the structure and coordination of my
degree program as being very good. (.53)
My degree distinguishes itself through its up-to-
date content and methods. (.71)
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 21
My degree distinguishes itself through its
practical approach. (.59)
My degree distinguishes itself through a suitable
mix of didactical methods. (.69)
My degree distinguishes itself through its
competent lecturers. (.56)
Overall, I am very satisfied with my degree
I have already been able to recommend my
degree program with conviction. (.61)
2. Feasibility of degree
program and transparent
I evaluate the feasibility of my degree program
(in the given timeframe) as very good. (.78)
The learning objectives of my degree program
are transparent and reasonable. (.59)
The performance requirements of my degree
program are transparent and examinations are
3. Support Necessary resources for my degree program
(e.g. media, literature, equipment, materials,
rooms etc.) are available. (.61)
In my degree program, there is plenty of
individual support and advice (e.g. for
internships, study projects, job search) (.68)
My degree program distinguishes itself through
its motivated lecturers. (.61)
The lecturers in my degree program distinguish
themselves through being available for my
concerns and through beneficial feedback and
Scaling for the importance of career aspects:
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 22
1. Status and position vs. security + Status and recognition through third
- permanent position (-.61)
- Full-time position (-.72)
2. Money vs.
+ high income/salary (.68)
- challenging tasks (-.73)
- responsible tasks – personnel - and/or
project responsibilites (-.54)
3. (no) Self-fulfillment - Satisfaction/self-realization
Opportunities for self-fulfillment (-.94)
Findings and discussion
At this point it is worth reviewing some of the descriptive results from the total
sample, which serve to better classify some differences shown later in the sub-
samples. This is essentially about creating a rough ranking of the characteristic
values under consideration.
In terms of competencies, it can be seen that all areas of competence are
considered important in the overall sample. The least significant importance
ascribed to the items is found in the factor of scientific methods and concepts and
their application (averages 2.6 and 2.8), as well as items in the internationality
and interculturality factor, e.g. attention towards ethical considerations (2.6),
cooperation in intercultural teams (2.9) and empathy (3.0).
Problem-solving skills (mean value 3.7) are at the forefront, followed by
communication and cooperation skills (3.6), independent work (3.6), as well as
organizational skills and time management (3.5). This means that in particular the
factor (see above) "reflexive independent problem-solving and social competence"
is regarded as particularly key. All other aspects (see above) are close together in
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 23
a midfield area between 3.1 and 3.4. (standard deviations are in the range of 0.6
Concerning satisfaction aspects with the degree program, the answers for all items
and sub-dimensions in the total sample are very close together with a mean value
of around 3.0 to 3.2 (standard deviations between 0.6 and 0.7) and thus in a
positive range. Outliers here are merely the wide variety of didactic methods with
a mean value of 2.7 (standard deviation 0.7) downward and the availability of
resources with a mean value of 3.5 (standard deviation 0.7) upward.
In terms of the subjective significance of careers in the overall sample "satisfaction
- opportunities for self-fulfillment" with an average rating of 2.7 (minimum 1 and
maximum 8), "challenging tasks" with an average rating of 3.6 and "responsible
tasks - personnel and/or project responsibilities" with averaged rankings of 4.0
were in the top range. "Status and recognition by third parties" came in last with
an average rating of 6.4. The other career factors are positioned in the midfield
range with values from 4.3 to 4.9.
Across the board, the degree of fulfillment of the competencies indicated as
important for the students was also taken into consideration. For this purpose,
various clusters were formed; "insignificant", if the competence was not important
from the perspective of the students per se, and in the competences considered
to be important, the clusters "underperformance", "fulfillment" and "exceedance".
In general, it could be stated that, in particular, the characteristics "insignificant"
and "underperformed" are negatively related to the other dimensions and the
expressions "fulfilled" and "exceeded" are positively related. This means that the
degree of fulfillment of the competences assessed as important interacts with the
assessment of the satisfaction with aspects of the degree program and with the
perception that the degree program has a positive influence on careers.
In the following section, selected results on differences in sub-samples in relation
to the central research questions will be discussed. Only significant results (p≤.05)
are presented in this report. Either t-tests for independent samples or simple
analyzes of variance were calculated, depending on requirements. In other words:
all results reported below with a 5% error probability are of significance.
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 24
Regarding the age of the participants there were no significant connections or
differences between "younger" and "older" respondents. It may be that there is
too little age difference in the sample because on the one hand students and
graduates and on the other full-time students and part-time students were
included together in the research.
Graduate vs. undergraduate
Again, there were hardly any differences here. However, an exception arose in the
area of career definition. In comparison to students, graduates are more interested
in self-fulfillment and job satisfaction as a career factor and are also more oriented
towards status and recognition as well as having a steady job.
In comparison, women find competencies more important than men in the areas
of organization and project management, international leadership and intercultural
teamwork, as well as media skills and innovation. Men, on the other hand, consider
basic knowledge to be more important than women. Women consider support
throughout their studies less pronounced or satisfactory compared to men. In
terms of career definitions, women strive less for high pay but more for
responsibility and performance than men.
The success of the degree program could not be captured with objective data (e.g.
grades), but only as a subjective assessment of the students (if they were in terms
of performance in the upper third, in the middle third, or lower third in comparison
to others. Due to the number of cases in the lower third of the sample being too
small, the lower and middle thirds were then combined together). Here there were
no differences with only one exception: comparatively high-performing students
(upper third) believe that feasibility of studies and the transparency of the
requirements are better compared to the under-performing students (middle and
lower third combined), who rate this significantly lower.
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 25
In the degree program section, a larger number of significant differences were
established. At the same time, however, it must be remembered that the degree
programs compared here sometimes have significantly different basic
requirements in terms of student characteristics (see also limitations). For
example, one could object that a full-time degree course with a high proportion of
women (such as Tourism in Kempten) is not directly comparable to a part-time
degree program with a high proportion of men (such as Industrial Engineering in
Dornbirn). However, the results may still be of interest as in the overall sample,
as shown above, comparatively few differences with regard to age, gender etc.
With regard to competences, the students of the IT degree programs consider
organization and project management to be less important than in the other
degree programs (comparatively speaking this is valued most highly by the
industrial engineers). Competencies for international leadership and intercultural
teamwork (including empathy and ethics) are considered to be correspondingly
less important by IT and Industrial Engineering (comparatively speaking this is
valued most highly by the students of Tourism Management). With regard to media
skills and innovation, unexpectedly this competence aspect is considered to be less
important by Business Administration students. In the application of specialized
expertise, this competence is considered to be correspondingly less important to
industrial engineers (comparatively speaking this is valued most highly by the
students of Business Administration). A broad basic knowledge is specified as being
less important for Tourism and IT compared to Business Administration and
In terms of satisfaction with their studies and the quality aspects of the degree
programs (including didactics and lecturers), this factor is rated more positively by
the industrial engineers than in the other degree programs. The transparency of
the requirements and feasibility of studies are assessed more positively by
Business Administration students and Industrial Engineers than in the other degree
programs. Students of the Tourism program value the support in their studies as
less pronounced or satisfactory in comparison with the other degree programs.
The assessment that the degree program has a positive influence on a career, is
shared less strongly by the Tourism Management students. In comparison, the
Industrial Engineers and the IT students rate their degree programs more
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 26
positively here (relating to the issue that their degree program has positively
influenced their career).
Employer selection and information behaviour
The following section presents key findings on employer selection and information
behaviour issues. The main research questions in this context were:
• Ff1: Which aspects are relevant for selecting an employer after your studies
and which characteristics are associated with employers of choice?
• Ff2: Which information channels are import for students when researching
On the one hand, this section is about exploratory research into aspects that are
relevant to post-graduate employer selection and, on the other, about
characteristics that connect the surveyed students with their employer of choice.
In addition, the explorative analysis of information channels, which are used in
researching information about potential employers or are considered to be
significant in obtaining information, is of interest.
Operationalization and scaling
The operationalization of the relevant research questions is presented below:
Operationalization of the research questions
RQ1 (cf. question 13 in questionnaire)
Which aspects are of particular importance
to you when you look for an employer after
1 = not true,
2 = hardly true,
3 = mostly true,
4 = totally true.
RQ1 (cf. question 14 in questionnaire) 10
1 = unimportant,
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 27
Which characteristics do you connect with
your employer of choice?
2 = less important,
3 = important,
4 = very important.
RQ2 (cf. question 20 in questionnaire)
Please evaluate the importance of the
following information channels when
researching for information about potential
20 and an
1 = unimportant,
2 = less important,
3 = important,
4 = very important.
A dimension reduction of questions 13 and 20 was not conducted as the variety of
characteristics was purposely selected to cover a wide spectrum.
Findings and Discussion
At this point, there will be a presentation of some descriptive results from the total
sample, which serve to better classify the later differences in sub-samples. In the
foreground, there is a rough ranking of the characteristics that were taken
In the selection criteria for potential employers, participants (n = 204) were
able to rate their significance on the four-point scale from 20 different aspects,
which were extracted on the basis of a literature review. The three most important
aspects for students choosing an employer after graduation established
themselves as employee-friendly working conditions (3.68, standard deviation:
0.52), nice colleagues (3.57, standard deviation: 0.60), and regulated work-life
balance (3.50, standard deviation: 0.66), whereas salary (3.28, standard
deviation: 0.63) is only mentioned as point number nine.
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 28
Figure 11: Aspects of employer selection after graduation (comparing all students
with Tourism students), n = 204
The standard deviations of the most important five characteristics range from 0.5
to 0.7, with the most important one (worker-friendly working conditions) having
the lowest standard deviation of 0.52, thus emphasizing the uniqueness of the
range of students across the five different study programs.
Analysis of the sub-samples by degree course partially shows a differentiated
assessment of meaning for the presented aspects. The aspect of employee-friendly
working conditions is also the most important feature for the degree programs IT,
employee friendly working conditions
Open minded corporate culture
well equiped job environment
attractive further education program
Safe employment relationship
free up space for self-initiative
good chances of advancement
Optional operations abroad
high working time flexibility
detailed job description
well known company
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 29
Industrial Engineering, Economics and Business Administration, only with Tourism
does it rank second (3.68, see Fig. 11). In second place for all students, however,
the nice colleagues aspect becomes the most important aspect of employer
selection for Tourism (3.83) and Economics (3.71). By contrast, this aspect only
ranks third for IT (3.53) and Industrial Engineering (3.63) and for Business
Administration it only makes seventh place (3.34). Other particularities of the sub-
samples can be seen in the aspects well-equipped workspace, which is the second
most important factor for Economics (together with an attractive salary). In
addition, open corporate culture alongside employee-friendly working conditions is
seen as the most important aspect for Business Administration. The largest
standard deviation and thus disagreement between the participants is the aspect
of optional foreign assignments (standard deviation 1.01), which is listed in third-
last position for all participants. For Tourism (2.95) these play a larger role, while
for IT (2.24) these are mostly unimportant. The analysis of the subgroup of the
higher performing students (i.e. self-assessment in the upper third) shows no
abnormalities or significant deviations from all of the other students.
The next question focusses on ideal employers. Students were asked what they
would associate with their ideal employer from a selection of ten characteristics.
All degree programs show the following ranking of the mean values (n = 320):
1. Attractiveness of region 3.06
2. Proximity to home from your last place 2.82
3. International company/organization 2.63
4. Company size prefers SMEs (up to 500 employees) 2.56
5. National company/organization 2.30
6. Company size prefers large enterprises (over 500 employees) 2.21
7. Rural location of offices 2.15
8. Metropolitan location of offices (e.g. Munich, Zurich, Vienna) 2.14
9. Start-up or business start-up 2.01
10. Public services 1.82
What is striking is the strong geographical reference when describing an ideal
employer. Both the charisma of the region (3.06) and proximity to home (2.82)
are a surprise, as Generation Y is seen as having a high sense of globalism and
thinking in international categories that are no longer rooted in national
perspectives (cf. Schulenburg 2016, p. 17).
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 30
Clearly, there is a critical attitude towards start-ups (2.01) and the lack of
attractiveness of the public service as an ideal employer (1.82). The relatively high
standard deviations between 0.82 and 1.02 already indicate characteristics specific
to particular degree programs. The most important features attractiveness of the
region (lowest standard deviation with 0.82) is also in the sub-samples of IT,
Economics, Tourism and Business Administration is raised to first place, only
Industrial Engineering raises it to second place (2.93) before the characteristic of
proximity to home from your last place (3.18). By contrast, the latter is only
ranked fourth in Tourism, which seems plausible due to the characteristics inherent
to tourism in terms of changing locations and the desire to travel.
Further peculiarities show up when considering the characteristic of start-up or
entrepreneurship. Although this corporate characteristic is relegated to last place
by all degree programs, Economics (1.65) and Industrial Engineering (1.79) are
particularly negative, IT (2.17) and Business Administration (2.02) a little more
open. Analysis of the sub-sample of the higher-performing students shows a clear
difference: the value of the lowest ranking, the public service, samples out
particularly badly for good students (1.71). With the lowest standard deviation
(0.83), there is a large consensus among the good students.
Furthermore, in the digitally adept target group of students, who were born almost
exclusively after 1990 and thus belong to Generation Y, the importance of
various information channels was evaluated. The participants (n = 307) were
able to indicate the importance of 20 different channels. This could then be
differentiated on a four-level scale (1 = unimportant, 4 = very important).
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 31
Figure 12: Importance of the information channels, n = 307
Although the cohort is largely classed as being one of digital natives, the
classification of information channels gives a mixed result in terms of both analog
and digital sources. Among the top six channels with averages over 3.0, there are
three digital channels (company websites (3.61), search engines (3.27) and online
job boards (3.17)), and three analogue or personal channels (company employees
(3.37), friends and acquaintances (3.29) and direct company or organizational
Online Job platforms
Employees of companies
Direct approach of company
Facebook site of company
Broschures of company
Newsletter of company
App of company
News channel TV
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 32
The standard deviations of these major six characteristics range from 0.62 to 0.91,
indicating a high level of agreement among participants (highest standard
deviation of the 20 items is 1.10). Students are also relatively unanimous in their
classification of the less important, last four information channels (see Figure 12,
standard deviations between 0.72 and 0.88). The analysis of the sub-samples by
degree program or performance demonstrates no significant deviations.
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 33
Limitations of the study are due to the degree programs dealt with and the
proximity of the universities. The degree programs are heterogeneous in terms of
some socio-demographic variables such as age and gender (for example female-
dominated Tourism degree program versus male-dominated engineers or
computer scientists). In the case of both selection criteria and characteristics of
ideal employers there are differentiated assessments by the students, so that the
inclusion of additional degree programs can also expect to have course specific
characteristics or a profiled representation.
The striking geographic reference in the description of an ideal employer can be
due to the high attractiveness of the region in question. All universities are located
in the extended Lake Constance region or near the Alps and thus have a cross-
Should additional degree programs or higher education institutions from less
attractive natural areas or regions be included in a possible follow-up study, there
could be a systematic review of the noted geographic aspect.
Some results suggest that the participants in the study may not always have
understood the items in the way they were intended. In the case of follow-up
studies, care should be taken to ensure that prioritization given by students in
questions regarding the importance and fulfillment of competences is driven by
deficit (without reflection).
In the case of gender differences regarding the importance of career factors, these
could be interpreted as an indication of effective gender stereotypes already
present in the selection of a degree program. This aspect would justify a
differentiated investigation and, if appropriate, provide interesting insights for
discussions related to gender, courses of education including choice of degree
program, curriculum design and career opportunities.
Further useful research should also be based on a longitudinal study examining
cohorts of graduates over several time periods moving into their current careers.
Here it should be ensured here that not only the self-assessment of the students
is captured, but also the perspectives of superiors and employers.
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 34
As part of the research project "Employability", initial findings could be obtained
on the question of whether completing a degree course could have a positive
influence on so-called employability. In tangible terms, with regard to the identified
five research questions (cf. page 19) the following commonalities of the degree
programs in question could be highlighted.
In relation to the question about the factors of higher education supporting a
successful transition into professional life from the perspective of Generation Y
(Question 1), results were achieved, above all at a meta-level: it could be shown
that the young graduates in the process of transformation generally have the clear
expectation about possessing the competence to "build a career". Simply put: you
study to be able to build a career afterwards. The overview of which options are
available becomes more concrete during the course of studies. The perception of
the suitability of the degree programs un deterred by the objective is extremely
positive: 90% of all respondents rated their respective degree program as
"suitable" or "very suitable" in preparing them for a career path. It remains open
which specific factors of a degree program (e.g. internships, semester abroad,
teaching projects) are considered to be particularly beneficial. If these findings
could be obtained in a follow-up project for example, then they could be
incorporated into the design of degree programs in the future.
However, it is already known in this sense that the competences in the area of
"reflexive independent problem-solving and social competence" are considered to
be particularly pivotal. Respondents say that they consider problem-solving
abilities, ability to communicate and cooperate, working independently as well as
organizational skills and time management to be particularly relevant for building
a career. Methods and modules of the degree programs already seem to largely
convey these competencies in a bachelor's program (question 3) in an adequate
way because the respondents show themselves to be consistently satisfied with
the acquisition of competences within the scope of their degree programs. In
follow-up studies, it should be additionally determined which deficits exist in order
to specifically work them into optimized degree programs.
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 35
Based on the exploratory results, it can be deduced that the young academics are
likely to be open to such competence-oriented study design, as the study results
regarding their beliefs about consumption, values and employment (question 4)
indicate that they above all, they associate making a career for themselves with
the process of competence development. In their opinion, most influenced by
family and friends, above all they wish for satisfaction with their job which
manifests itself in e.g. opportunities for self-realization or even challenging or
responsible tasks. According to the findings of the study, Generation Y participants
consider these worker-friendly working conditions as well as nice colleagues and
the geographical location of the workplace, which should be generally attractive
and as close to home as possible, as important. International orientation of the
employer or size of the company play a rather subordinate role.
With regard to the information behaviour of young academics (question 5), it was
found that they above all inform themselves about companies or organizations
about employers via websites and employees. Friends and acquaintances follow
directly behind them in their importance as a source of information. The study thus
determined a mixed result regarding the relevance of analog/digital sources -
which channels are used in applications could not be conclusively identified.
Certain differences in the Lake Constance region or between the degree programs
(question 2) have already made themselves visible. Among other things, in this
context it could be determined that the uniqueness of a position on "building a
career" depends on the location and/or degree program - in Switzerland and in the
IT degree program, participants took a clearer stance than others. Differences
could also be ascertained with regard to the demands made on careers: the factor
"high income/salary" showed little relevance in the Tourism degree program,
whereas in the Information Systems program it was very distinctive. It makes
sense to investigate these deviations as part of an extension of the sample in
subsequent studies in order to not only guess patterns, but to be able to confirm
With regard to the methodological approach, various findings can be derived,
which should be taken into account in a follow-up investigation. The first is the
design of future samples. In order to validate the results, a higher number of
students, especially graduates, should be included in the investigation. The
spectrum of degree programs analyzed can be expanded, however - especially
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 36
against the background of the suggestive differences between the subjects - there
should also be more in-depth surveys in the fields of study that have already been
included. Also, the regional focus of the approach to be critically questioned in the
following studies, as the conclusions of the exploratory study conclude that the
Lake Constance region, despite its internationality is very similar relating to
culture. Secondly, a further development of the survey instruments, especially of
the developed questionnaire in its variants would seem necessary. The selected
indicators would continue to be used as they are appropriate for the project's
objectives, but should be further developed, especially to address the research
issues in more detail. Thirdly, supplementing the methodology with qualitative
elements, especially outcome-evaluating interviews with graduates, would be
considered to be advantageous in order to be able to check derivations on a
BRYSCH/PETERS/STAUDACHER/KRIZ/MANHART/STERN: IBH-results report “Employability” (03/2018) page 37
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