Stakeholder viewpoints on embedding employability in Higher Education

Conroy, Dom (2023) Stakeholder viewpoints on embedding employability in Higher Education. Masters thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Background. Employability is increasingly prioritised in the broader policy and regulatory climate as a key metric for evaluating performance in the Higher Education (HE) sector and in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Regulator thresholds now require that 60% full-time students taking their first degree progress into professional work (or take additional studies) within the 15-month period following graduation. A large and growing body of literature has explored varied definitions of employability, interventions to audit and embed employability in HEIs alongside more critical discussion around employability. Employability is important for a number of different stakeholders both internal stakeholders within HE (e.g., learners, teachers) and external stakeholders beyond HE (e.g., employers, Further Education practitioners). Project Focus. This project was designed to explore viewpoints of embedding employability, and of employability more broadly, held by a subset of internal stakeholders. Three stakeholder groups were the focus of dissertation project work: learners, teachers (i.e., academic teaching staff) and careers staff (i.e., careers and employability or work-based learning staff). There were two project research questions. A first, broad, research question (RQ1): ‘How do stakeholders of employability define employability?’ and a second, more focused, research question (RQ2):'How is the embedding of employability within H.E. programme designs, curricula, learning environments and other pedagogic initiatives viewed by stakeholders of employability?’ Methods. Ethical approval was secured from the London Metropolitan University Ethics Committee. Two Research Assistants (RAs) led recruitment and data collection for the project. Prospective participants were recruited to the project via email circulars, via targeted institutional recruitment messages and via social media messaging. The project sample comprised 12 participants in total: four from each stakeholder group. Individuals participated in online semi-structured interviews lasting, on average, 43 minutes. Interview data was transcribed verbatim and subjected to an interpretivist type of Thematic Analysis (TA). Findings. Analyses are presented in two main sections; one concerning RQ1 (broader understandings/ definitions of employability) and one concerning RQ2 (focused on viewpoints of embedding employability in UK HEI curricula). The first section of analysis contained interview material focused on contextual issues relevant to embedding employability in HEIs. An overarching theoretical framework - Ecological Systems Theory (EST) - assisted understanding of contextual material focusing on three systems: the microsystem, the mesosystem, and the macrosystem. Four themes were presented in the first section of analysis. These were titled: Theme 1: The importance of complex, plural definitions of employability (microsystem level); Theme 2: Seeking to embed employability into an overloaded curriculum (mesosystem level); Theme 3: Navigating the neoliberal landscape and ethical concerns about embedding employability (macrosystem level); and Theme 4: The elephant in the room: social justice and employability (macrosystem level). The second section of analysis contained interview material that concerned key factors relevant to optimising the embedding of employability in HEI learning and teaching environments. Five themes were identified linked to the second section of analysis. These were titled: Theme 1: The systemic challenge to motivate and engage; Theme 2: Arenas beyond the classroom; Theme 3: Tailored approaches are better; Theme 4: Embedding professional collaboration; and Theme 5: Learning to know and manage the self. Project recommendations and practical implications. Recommendations and implications for practice derived from project evidence are considered at various levels of action including my own teaching practice, local learning and teaching approaches, broader institutional strategies, UK related sector wide policy and debate and the broader global pedagogic community associated with Higher Education.

ED7P43 Dissertation Dom Conroy.pdf - Published Version

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