Do university graduate competences match post-socialist labour market demands:? Evidence from Azerbaijan


  • Gulsabah Amirova Institute of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan
  • Dr Anar Valiyev ADA University


The recruitment and selection process in companies is becoming more complicated as employers place more emphasis on ‘intangible personal qualities’ rather than specialised skills. Employers also require graduates to adapt to the workplace on completion of their education. In particular, following the Bologna Declaration in 1999, the expansion of higher education across Europe has resulted in the questioning of the quality of the graduate labour market. To gain further insight into the mismatch between the employability skills of graduates on the one hand and labour market demands on the other, this paper examines the case of Azerbaijan, a country that is slowly entering the global network. The study synthesised and analysed 24 ‘transferable’ soft skills and competences critical for improved graduate employability, resulting in a  shortlist of the top five competences as ranked by Azerbaijani employers and graduates. More than 2,500 students from six major universities participated in the study which found that there is a huge discrepancy between the skills needed by students and the job market when compared with what is taught at university. Furthermore, it revealed that the absence of these necessary skills is a major factor preventing students from finding jobs.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

  • Dr Anar Valiyev, ADA University

    Dean, Associate Professor, School of Public and International Affairs

    ADA University


Aliyev, G., Valiyev, A., & Rustamova, S. (2011). Social protection and social inclusion in Azerbaijan. Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, European Commission.

Andrews, J., & Higson, H. (2008). Graduate employability, ‘soft skills’ versus ‘hard’ business knowledge: A European study. Higher Education in Europe.

Archer, W., & Davison, J. (2008). Graduate employability: What do employers think and want? London: Council for Industry and Higher Education (Great Britain) (CIHE). Retrieved from

Azərbaycan Respublikasında Təhsilin Inkişafı üzrə Dövlət Strategiyası. Azərbaycan Prezidentinin Rəsmi internet səhifəsi - SƏNƏDLƏR Sərəncamlar. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2021, from

Bacevic, J. (2014). (Education for) work sets you free: ‘Employability’ and higher education in former Yugoslavia and its successor states. European Journal of Higher Education, 4(3), 281–296.

Bardak, U., Sabadie, J. A., Fetsi, A., & Zaman, C. (2011). Labour markets and employability: Trends and challenges in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. European Training Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www. etf. europa. eu/web. nsf/pages/Labour_markets_&_employability_eastern_partners_EN.Briefing

Boden, R., & Nedeva, M. (2010). Employing discourse: Universities and graduate ‘employability’. Journal of Education Policy, 25(1), 37–54.

Brown, P., & Scase, R. (1994). Higher education and corporate realities: Class, culture and the decline of graduate careers. London: Routledge.

Cai, Y. (2013). Graduate employability: A conceptual framework for understanding employers' perceptions. Higher Education, 65(4), 457–469.

Cappelli, P. H. (2015). Skill gaps, skill shortages, and skill mismatches: Evidence and arguments for the United States. ILR Review, 68(2), 251–290.

Del Carpio, X., Kupets, O., Muller, N., & Olefir, A. (2017). Skills for a modern Ukraine. Washington D.C.: World Bank.

EL-Annan, S. H. (2012). Mismanaging knowledge and education and their effects on employment in Lebanon and the Middle East. Journal of Education and Vocational Research, 3(1), 9–16.

Elder, S., Barcucci, V., Gurbuzer, Y., Perardel, Y., & Principi, M. (2015). Labour market transitions of young women and men in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. International Labour Office Geneva: Work4Youth Publication Series, 28.

Gallup Organization (2010). Employers' perception of graduate employability. Survey conducted by the Gallup Organization, Hungary, for the Directoriate-Geberal for Education and Culture.

Handel, M. J. (2003). Skills mismatch in the labour market. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 135-165.

Harvey, L., Locke, W., & Morey, A. (2002). Enhancing employability, recognising diversity: Making links between Higher Education and the World of Work, London: Universities UK.

Holmes, L. (2013). Competing perspectives on graduate employability: Possession, position or process? Studies in Higher Education, 38(4), 538–554.

Institute of Directors (2007) Institute of Directors skills briefing: Graduates’ employability skills. Available at:

International Monetary Fund Staff Country Reports. Republic of Azerbaijan: 2019 Article IV Consultation. Press release; staff report and statement by the Executive Director for the Republic of Azerbaijan, Country Report No 19/301. Washington, DC: IMF.

Jonbekova, D. (2015). University graduates’ skills mismatches in Central Asia: Employers’ perspectives from Post-Soviet Tajikistan. European Education, 47(2), 169–184.

Kinash, S., Crane, L., Judd, M.-M., & Knight, C.. (2016). Discrepant stakeholder perspectives on graduate employability strategies. Higher Education Research & Development, 35(5), 951–967.

Kinash, S., McGillivray, L., & Crane, L. (2017, September). Do university students, alumni, educators and employers link assessment and graduate employability? Higher Education Research & Development, 37(2), 301–315.

Kumar, A. (2007). Personal, academic and career development in higher education - SOARing to success. Lonndon: Routledge.Retrieved from

Mincer, J. (1991). Education and unemployment. NBER Working Paper, No. 3838. MA, USA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

National Assembly of Youth Associations of Azerbaijan (2018), Report for 2016-2018, Retrieved from

OECD. (2016). Skills matter: Further results from the survey of adult skills. Paris: OECD Skills Studies, OECD Publishing.

OSCE (2018). Consolidated summary: Promoting economic progress and security in the OSCE area through innovation, human capital development, and good public and corporate governance. Vienna: OSCE.

Pierre, G., Sanchez Puerto, M.L., Valerio, A., & Rajadel, T. (2014). STEP Skills Measurement Surveys: Innovative tools for assessing skills. Social protection and labor discussion paper no. 1421. , Washington, DC.: World Bank Group.

QS. (2019). International Student Survey. Retrieved from

Republic of Azerbaijan (2013). State strategy of Azerbaijan Republic on development of education. (2013, October 24). Retrieved from

Republic of Azerbaijan (2018). Youth of Azerbaijan: Statistical Yearbook. State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Retrieved from

Republic of Azerbaijan (2021). Public and private higher education institutions of Azerbaijan Republic. The State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Retrieved from:

Rutkowski, J. J. (2015). Demand for skills: Main results of the Azerbaijan STEP Employer Survey. Washington DC.: World Bank Group.

Sadirkhanov, R. (2009). Employment pattern pressure for pragmatic change in universities: Azerbaijan case study. Higher Education in Europe, 34(3), 431–444.

Schomburg, H., & Teichler, U. (2006). Higher education and graduate employment in Europe: Results from graduate surveys from twelve countries . Netherlands: Springer.

Scott, F., Connell, P., Thomson, L. A., & Willison, D. (2017). Empowering students by enhancing their employability skills. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 43(5), 692–707.

Susman, K. M. (2015). Discovery-based learning in the life sciences. John Wiley & Sons.

Teichler, U. (1999). Research on the relationships between higher education and the world of work: Past achievements, problems and new challenges. Higher Education, 38, 169–190.

The World Bank. (2011). Azerbaijan demographic change: Implications for social policy and poverty. Retrieved from

The World Bank. (2011). Putting higher education to work: Skills and research for growth in East Asia. World Bank East Asia and Pacific Regional Report. World Bank Publications.

The World Bank Group. (2018). Azerbaijan: The role of higher education in innovation. World Bank.

The World Bank (2021). GDP per capita, PPP (current international $) - Azerbaijan. Retrieved October 26, 2021, from

World Economic Forum. (2016). The future of jobs: Employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. Global Challenge Insight Report.

UNDP (2020). Human development indicators, Azerbaijan. Retrieved from:

Valiyev, A. (2020). Attaining SDG 8 in Azerbaijan: The challenges of economic transformation and job creation (No. 995085493502676). Geneva: International Labour Organization.

Valiyev, A., & Babayev, A. (2021). Azerbaijani youth in transition: Is the state youth policy effective enough? Journal of Eurasian Studies, 12(2), 145–154. Retrieved from:

Zamfir, A.-M., Militaru, E., Mocanu, C., & Lungu, E.O. (2018). School-to-work transition of higher education graduates in four European countries. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 50(1), 36–52.







How to Cite

Do university graduate competences match post-socialist labour market demands:? Evidence from Azerbaijan. (2021). Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 12(2), 332-347.