M. Dawson

University of Sunderland (UNITED KINGDOM)
Since the late 1980’s HE has been urged to contribute to national and international economic regeneration and growth. The reason behind this pressure to develop the relationship between HE and employment has been the national and the global business competitiveness, hence the future of the economy. Especially due to the current economic climate, no graduates should be unsure as to how HE prepares them for successful employment. Today’s graduates must be prepared “for changes in the nature of work and the greater demands it makes”.

I have come across many students who believe that HE provides them with a degree which makes them ‘work-ready’. They focus on the named degree, as a parchment, not the actual skills gained by completing it. They fail to recognise that employability is about how HE develops them as critical, reflective, empowered learners. They mistake employability with employment.

As a result of this, I have piloted an investigation to examine why this happens from the students’ point of view. A student-subject oriented approach has been employed enabling students to work on Personalised Projects which are designed in an appropriate manner to reflect the level and subject area of their study. Building upon on-going debates, this study does not try to provide answers given by academic members of staff. This study asks students to build the relationship between HE and graduate employability in a way that makes sense to them.

The approach to this pilot study embraces pathways into personalization of learning and adapts aspects of the Customer Empowerment models operating in industries but also used in the Post-16 Employment and Skills Sector. Promoting a re-engineered student-led, student-centred and student-tutored (with minimum involvement from the supervisor) approach, this study offers students the opportunity to get involved in the development of their curriculum and its assessment as this will give them ownership of their learning and their studies.

The findings of the pilot study reveal that transition from Undergraduate status to Graduate “Work-ready” status requires high-intensity support by academic and student-centred staff teams.