Australian postgraduate student experiences and anticipated employability: A national study from the students’ perspective

Keywords: postgraduate, student experience, employability, graduate outcomes, careers

Abstract

Postgraduate students are navigating a rapidly evolving landscape for their future careers. In this context, higher education providers are responsible for supporting and monitoring postgraduate (masters and doctoral) students’ development for both education and employability contexts. This empirical research provides a rich analysis of feedback breakfasts, focus groups and interviews with 319 postgraduate student participants from 26 universities. Emergent themes highlight widespread lack of confidence in university-mediated student experiences, particularly in the context of employability, and pessimism regarding career outcomes. Students expressed a view that higher education providers need to direct further attention and relevant supports toward postgraduate education. Future career despondency was particularly prevalent among students with academic aspirations. The findings are discussed using the theoretical framework of eudemonia and flourishing as an approach to revitalising and improving both the process and outcomes of postgraduate education. The paper concludes with practical recommendations for universities to improve the postgraduate student experience in the context of employability.

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Author Biographies

Elizabeth J. Cook, Edith Cowan University, Australia

Elizabeth is Senior Analyst, Strategy and Planning in the Strategic Services and Governance Centre at Edith Cowan University. She is studying a PhD in Higher Education Research, Evaluation and Enhancement with Lancaster University. Elizabeth's qualifications include a Master of Teaching (Secondary by Research) and a Bachelor of Science, both from the University of Melbourne. Elizabeth previously worked as a Career Development Learning Designer at James Cook University. Twitter @ejcook4 and website: https://works.bepress.com/elizabeth-cook/.

Linda Crane, Bond University, Australia

Professor Linda Crane is an experienced academic in higher education, particularly within health professions education. She is Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine and Deputy Chair, Academic Senate at Bond University. She was a founding Co-Editor of the Australian Journal of Clinical Education and continues as Co-Editor. Professor Crane has an active research profile having been a Co-Leader of National Strategic Priority Projects in the areas of graduate employability and postgraduate student experience.

Shelley Kinash, University of Southern Queensland, Australia

Professor Shelley Kinash is a Higher Education Learning & Teaching Leader with over 25 years’ experience across universities in Canada and Australia. Her PhD is in Education Technology and her disciplinary roots are in disability and social justice. She has co/led three National Research Projects on: postgraduate student experience, graduate employability and closing-the-loop on student evaluation of courses and teaching.

Amy Bannatyne, Bond University, Australia

Dr Amy Bannatyne is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and Phase 1 Student Support Lead in the Medical Program at Bond University. Amy is an early career researcher whose main research interests focus on understanding stigma in healthcare and tertiary environments, in addition to the role of emotional intelligence testing in medical education. Amy was the Research Project Manager for the Postgraduate Student Experience Project. Amy is also a Registered Clinical Psychologist.

Joseph Crawford, University of Tasmania, Australia

Dr Joseph Crawford is a leadership and higher education academic based at the University of Tasmania, Australia. Dr Crawford leads a series of high priority projects relating to student retention and success and has considerable expertise in digital pedagogy. He is the Editor in Chief of the Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, and Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Learning and Teaching.

Gary Hamlin, Bond University, Queensland, Australia

Associate Professor Gary Hamlin is the Domain Lead for Professionalism and Leadership for the Bond University Medical Program. Gary has extensive expertise in the student experience being a past Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Service Quality, and Deputy Head School of Medicine at Bond University. Gary has successfully led programs at two universities to support Medical and Veterinary Science student transitions and development of personal, career and social skills.

Madelaine-Marie Judd, The University of Queensland, Australia

Madelaine-Marie Judd is the Student Partners Adviser and co-leads the Student-Staff Partnerships Program at UQ. Prior to this role, Madelaine-Marie led a multidisciplinary team at Griffith University in developing pedagogical resources for academics to embed the graduate attributes within their curriculum. Madelaine-Marie has also served as Research Project Manager on four nationally commissioned Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching grants exploring graduate employability, the postgraduate student experience and student evaluation of courses and teaching.

Jo-Anne Kelder, University of Tasmania, Australia

Jo-Anne Kelder is Senior Lecturer, Curriculum Innovation and Development with the University of Tasmania’s Academic Division. She has been responsible for operational and strategic projects for quality assurance of curriculum and enhancing student experience, as well as research to develop staff capability and practice in curriculum evaluation and scholarship. She has been recognised for contributions to teaching and learning with University of Tasmania individual, team and program teaching awards.

Helen Partridge, Deakin University, Australia

Professor Helen Partridge is Pro Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning at Deakin University. Previously she was Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at University of Southern Queensland where she had oversight of the University Library Services, Office for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching, and the Open Access College. She has been a visiting Research Fellow at Oxford and Harvard Universities and is a Fellow of the Australian Learning & Teaching Council. Twitter: @partridh.

Sarah Richardson, Australian Council for Educational Research, United Kingdom

Dr Sarah Richardson is a globally recognised education expert with 27 years’ experience in education around the world. She is Deputy CEO and Research Director of ACER UK, coordinating a team of researchers in London. She moved to this role from India, where she was Research Director for ACER, leading a team of researchers to undertake activities in South Asia and beyond. Her most recent book is “Cosmopolitan Learning for a Global Era: University Education in an Interconnected World”.

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Published
2021-06-09
How to Cite
Cook, E. J., Crane, L., Kinash, S., Bannatyne, A., Crawford, J., Hamlin, G., Judd, M.-M., Kelder, J.-A., Partridge, H., & Richardson, S. (2021). Australian postgraduate student experiences and anticipated employability: A national study from the students’ perspective. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(2), 148-168. https://doi.org/10.21153/jtlge2021vol12no2art1030
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JOURNAL PAPERS