South African specific complexities in aligning graduate attributes to employability


  • Ara Ramnund-Mansingh Mancosa
  • Nikita Reddy



South African higher education (HE) cannot be compared to any other country’s HE systems due to the unique political landscape and structural narrative that it has undergone. Subsequent to the reorganisation of HEIs in 2004, a number of complexities arose. These included accessibility to education across race and the alignment of the South African HEIs to global pedagogic benchmarks. With the changing political landscape, transformations within higher education, socio economic inequities and changes in the workplace, researchers failed to cognize the impact of these factors on graduate employability. Changing graduate attributes to align with a decolonised curriculum and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) workspaces were transiently underway when COVID-19 set a new narrative for the future of employability. This paper seeks to identify the impact of workplace changes and its direct influence on successful graduate employment and integration into the HE curriculum. The work environment has cursorily moved from 4IR to an advanced stage of the 4IR, where there is a full emphasis on digitisation, non-localised workspaces and is an ostensible playground for digital natives (Generation Z). This paper provides a systematic review of literature in the South African HE contexts that pertains to graduate attributes for employability within the workplace.  The adoption of malleable secondary data will allow for an understanding of the relationship between changing workplace environments and expectations from graduates. This correlation is directly linked to graduate attributes which students need to comply with from year one. The paper will provide context to changes which are required for the future success of graduates, and whether graduate attributes are adequate preparation for employability. A clinical model is recommended with an intervention to manage the risk factors of decolonisation of curriculum, the 4IR and multi-generational workplace and responses to COVID-19.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Ara Ramnund-Mansingh, Mancosa

Dr Aradhana Ramnund-Mansingh is PhD graduate from University of Kwazulu-Natal, an academic and gender specialist at MANCOSA Honoris United Universities. She has contributed as an academic expert in print, radio and TV media. She is a member of the International Sociology Association, Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology and the South African Board for People Practice. She has in excess of 20 years in corporate HR and managing her HR and transformation consultancy.

Nikita Reddy

Ms Nikita Reddy is an academic at Mancosa Honoris United Universities specialising in Supply Chain Management. She has successful experience in the textile industry that focused on clothing and has involvement in all processes of the business. Currently an MBA candidate. Nikita is a volunteer in her local community transit camp. She is the Vice Chairperson at her local community youth group (SHAYOMO). She is also an executive member at Mancosa’s Centre for Women Leadership.


Abraham, K.G., Haltiwanger, J., Sandusky, K. and Spletzer, J., (2019). The rise of the gig economy: fact or fiction? In AEA Papers and Proceedings, 109, 357–61.

Ahmadi, M., & Helms, M.M. (1997). Small firms, big opportunities: the potential of careers for business graduates in SMEs. Education and Training, 39(2), 52–57.

Ali, W. (2020). Online and remote learning in higher education institutes: A necessity in light of COVID-19 Pandemic. Higher Education Studies, 10(3), 16–25.

Bascha, Z. (2011, September 19). The open source generation. Retrieved from

Bennett, D., Knight, E., Divan, A., Kuchel, L., Horn, J., van Reyk, D., & Burke da Silva, K. (2017). How do research-intensive universities portray employability strategies? A review of their websites. Australian Journal of Career Development, 26(2), 52–61.

Bitzer, E. (2009). Higher Education in South Africa. SUN Media. Stellenbosch.

Born, N., & Drori, E. (2015, March). What factors will transform the contemporary work environment and characterize the future of work? Retrieved from

Bremner, P. A., & Laing, A. (2019). The disrupted workplace: Are the digital and group skills needs of employers being addressed by universities? Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (16).

Bridgstock, R. (2009). The graduate attributes we’ve overlooked: Enhancing graduate employability through career management skills. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(1), 31–44.

Brinkley, I. (2016). In search of the gig economy. The Work Foundation Lancaster University. Retrieved from

Buckenmeyer, J.A. (2010). Beyond computers in the classroom: Factors related to technology adoption to enhance teaching and learning. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, (CIER), 3(4), 27–36.

Constanza, D. P., Badger, J. M., Fraser, R. L., Severt, J. B., & Gade, P. A. (2012). Generational differences in the work-related attitudes: A meta-analysis. Journal of Business Psychology, 27, 375–394.

Dacre Pool, L., and Sewell, P. (2007). The Key to Employability: Developing a Practical Model of Graduate Employability. Education and Training, 49(4), 277–289.

De Stefano, V. (2015). The rise of the just-in-time workforce: On-demand work, crowd work, and labor protection in the gig-economy. Comparative Labour Law and Policy Journal, 37(3), 471–504.

Donovan, S.A., Bradley, D.H., & Shimabukuru, J.O. (2016). What does the gig economy mean for workers? (CRS Report R44365). Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.

Gaidhani, S., Arora, L., and Sharma, B. K. (2019). Understanding the attitude of generation Z towards workplace. International Journal of Management, Technology and Engineering, 9(1), 2804–2812.

Generational White Paper. (2011). Generation Z and the Career Strategist. Retrieved from

Gill, R. (2018). Building employability skills for higher education students: An Australian example. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 9(1), 84–92.

Goldie, J. G. S. (2016). Connectivism: A knowledge learning theory for the digital age? Medical Teacher, 38(10), 1064-1069.

Green, D.D. (2018). Fuelling the gig economy: A case study evaluation of Management and Economic Research Journal, 4, 104–112.

Gupta, S and Garg, S. (2020). COVID-19 and higher education: Some issues. World University News - A Weekly Journal of Higher Education Published by the Association of Indian Universities, 58 (23), 3-8. Retrieved from,%20NO-23,%20JUNE%2008-14,%202020.pdf

Habib, A., Morrow, S., & Bentley, K. (2008). Academic freedom, institutional autonomy and the corporatised university in contemporary South Africa. Social dynamics, 34(2), 140–155.

Hall, M., Pascoe, D., & Charity, M. (2017). The Impact of Work-Integrated Learning Experiences on Attaining Graduate Attributes for Exercise and Sports Science Students. Asia-Pacific Journal of Cooperative Education, 18(2), 101–113.

Healy, J., Nicholson, D., & Pekarek, A. (2017). Should we take the gig economy seriously? Labour and Industry: A Journal of the Social and Economic Relations of Work, 27(3), 232–248.

Heleta, S. (2016). Decolonisation of higher education: Dismantling epistemic violence and Eurocentrism in South Africa. Transformation in Higher Education, 1(1), 1–8.

Higher Education Act 101 of 1997 (amended 2010). Retrieved from

Hinchliffe, G. W., & A. Jolly. (2011). Graduate Identity and Employability. British Educational Research Journal, 37(4), 563– 584.

Jackson, D. (2012). Testing a model of undergraduate competence in employability skills and its implications for stakeholders. Journal of Education and Work, 27(2), 1–23.

Jansen, J.D. (1998). But our natives are different! Race, knowledge and power in the academy. Social Dynamics, 24(2), 106–116.

Jones, L. M. (2017). Strategies for retaining a multigenerational workforce (Doctoral dissertation). Walden University.

Lau, A., & Pang, M. (1995). Undergraduates’ career perceptions and first job needs in Hong Kong. International Journal of Career Management, 7(3), 14–24.

Lewis, K. (2020). Technology in the workplace: Redefining skills for the 21st Century. The Midwest Quarterly, 61(3), 348–356. Retrieved from

Lewis, L.F., & Wescott, H.D. (2017). Multi-generational workforce: Four generations united in lean. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 8(3).

Li, H., & Sun, Z. (2019). Study on the definition of college students’ employability. In ITM Web of Conferences (Vol. 25, p. 04001). EDP Sciences.

Lindeque, B. (2020, February 14). South African schools to get coding and robotics from grade r! Retrieved From,improve%20education%20in%20the%20country.

Long, E., & Fynn, A. (2018). Postgraduate student experiences of workplace learning for a professional psychology qualification in the South African context. Industry and Higher Education, 32(5), 341–350.

Macupe, B. (2021, July 11). School dropout rate at its highest. City Press. Retrieved from

Maluleke, R. (2019). Education Series Volume V: Higher Education and Skills in South Africa, 2017. Statistics South Africa: Pretoria.

McCabe, G. (2010). Graduate attributes and employability: Helping universities and students prepare for the changing landscape. Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved from

Mendy, J., & Madiope, M. (2020). Curriculum transformation: A case in South Africa. Perspectives in Education. 38(2), 1-19.

Mohd Abas, M.K., Yahaya, R.A., & Din, M.S.F. (2019). Digital literacy and its relationship with employee performance in the 4IR. Journal of International Business, Economics and Entrepreneurship (JIBE), 4(2), 29–37.

Mohee, R., & Putty-Rogbeer, K. (2020). Toolkit for Key Employability Indicators for National Qualification Agencies. Commonwealth of learning. Retrieved from

Morrison, A. (2014). A class act? Lecturers’ views on undergraduates’ employability. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 35(4), 487–505.

Oke, A., & Fernandes, F.A.P. (2020). Innovations in teaching and learning: Exploring the Perceptions of the education sector on the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR). Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, 6(2).

Onyeike, V.C., & Onyeagbako, S.O. (2014). Enhancing employability through university education: The role of national university commission (NUC). Global Journal of Educational Research, 13(2), 109–115.

Oraison, H.M., Konjarski, L., & Howe, S.T. (2019). Does university prepare students for employment? Alignment between graduate attributes, accreditation requirements and industry employability criteria. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 10(1), 173-194.

Ozaydin, S. (2019). Organisational culture as a tool for managing a multi-generational workforce in project management. Research Journal of Business and Management, 6(3), 185–203.

Penprase, B.E. (2018). The Fourth Industrial Revolution and higher education. In N. Gleason (Ed) Higher Education in the Era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (pp. 207–229). Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

Ramlachan, P., Ramnund-Mansingh, A., & Naidoo, K. (In Press). The impact of globalisation on governance of local authorities: A 10-year comparative analysis of eThekwini Municipality. Journal of Public Administration, 56(2), 250–264.

Ramnund, A. (2019). Exploring the link between institutional culture and the career advancement of female academics in higher education: a case study of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. (Doctoral Research). University of KwaZulu Natal Durban.

Römgens, I., Scoupe, R., & Beausaert, S. (2020). Unraveling the concept of employability, bringing together research on employability in higher education and the workplace. Studies in Higher Education, 45(12), 2588–2603.

Ruge, G., Tokede, O., & Tivendale, L. (2019). Implementing constructive alignment in higher education–cross-institutional perspectives from Australia. Higher Education Research and Development, 38(4), 833–848.

Sahu, P. (2020). Closure of universities due to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): impact on education and mental health of students and academic staff. Cureus, 12(4).

Schawbel, D. (2014). Gen Z employees: The 5 attributes you need to know. Retrieved from

Scott, C.A., McLean, A. & Golding, C. (2019). How peer mentoring fosters graduate attributes. Journal of Peer Learning, 12, 29–44.

Seedat -Khan, M., & Ramnund-Mansingh, A. (2021). The sociology of a Covid-19 virtual university. ISA Pedagogy Series, 1(1), 60–81. ISA.e-Forum©

Smith, M., Bell, K., Bennett, D., & McAlpine, A. (2018). Employability in a global context: Evolving policy and practice in employability, work integrated learning, and career development learning. Graduate Careers Australia. doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.6372506.

Statistics South Africa. (2020, December). General Household Survey 2019. Retrieved from

Stewart, D.W., & Kamins, M.A. (1994). Secondary Research – information sources and methods. California: Sage Publications.

Wickramasinghe, V., & Perera, L. (2010). Graduates’, university lecturers' and employers' perceptions towards employability skills. Education and Training, 52(3), 226–244.

Wimalasiri, H. S. (2015). Employer’s perception on employability skills and attitudes of new graduates: Qualitative insights from the employers in Sri Lanka. Asian Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies, 3(11), 112–120.

Wong, B., Chiu, Y. L. T., Copsey-Blake, M., & Nikolopoulou, M. (2021). A mapping of graduate attributes: what can we expect from UK university students? Higher Education Research and Development, 1–16.

Yorke, M., & Knight, P. (2006). Embedding employability into the curriculum. Vol. 3. York: Higher Education Academy

Zakaria, N.S., Yussof, K.Y.S.K.M., Ibrahim, D. and Tibok, R.P. (2020). Career after graduation: future graduates’ perceptions of job attributes in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and multi-national corporations (MNCs). e-Bangi, 17(6), 252–264.




How to Cite

Ramnund-Mansingh, A. ., & Reddy, N. (2021). South African specific complexities in aligning graduate attributes to employability. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(2), 206–221.