Does it do what it says on the tin? – Evaluation of an established UK University Employability Enhancement Award.

Toni Wright, Sarah Jeffries-Watts


University employability awards, in the UK particularly, aim to assist students to develop career related skills and attributes and thus increase their potential to achieve graduate level employment. Self-report quantitative and qualitative data were collected at intervals via questionnaires, interviews and focus groups from two cohorts (N = 212) of a well-established career development and employability award at a large civic UK university. Findings indicated increases in confidence and aspiration, and in the ability to articulate and apply skills and abilities; also that the award may convey similar benefits to work experience. Survey data from award completers indicated that they had changed their career related behaviour, and students who have completed the award show a consistent small increase in their level of graduate employment when compared to the graduate employment figure for the university as a whole in the UK university destinations data.

Employability related values, attitudes and behaviour may all change as a result of award experience. Reported changes implied a sense of improved resourcefulness. It is hypothesised that the award may enhance student employability somewhat via development of psychosocial resources, producing a shift in the student’s perception of self and identity.


Graduate; Employability; Student Award; Evaluation

Full Text:



Adams, A.J., & Hancock, T. (2000). Work experience as a predictor of MBA performance. College Student Experience, 34(2), 211–217.

Auburn, T. (2007) Identity and placement learning: Student accounts of the transition back to university following a placement year. Studies in Higher Education, 32(1), 117–133. doi: 10.1080/03075070601099515

Boden, R., & Nedeva, M. (2010). Employing discourse: Universities and graduate ‘employability’. Journal of Education Policy, 25(1), 37–54. doi: 10.1080/02680930903349489

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Bridgstock, R. (2009). The graduate attributes we’ve overlooked: Enhancing graduate employability through career management skills. Higher Education Research and Development, 28(1), 31–44. doi: 10.1080/07294360802444347

British Psychological Society. (2006). Code of Ethics and Conduct. Leicester: British Psychological Society.

Brooks, R., & Everett, G. (2009). Post-graduation reflections on the value of a degree. British Education Research Journal, 35(3), 333–349. doi: 10.1080/01411920802044370

CBI and Universities UK (2009) Future fit: Preparing graduates for the world of work. Retrieved from:

Center of Development and Resources for Students, The University of Hong Kong.

Cleary, M., Flynn, R., Thomasson, S., Alexander, R., & McDonald, B. (2007). Graduate employability skills: Prepared for the Business, Industry and Higher Education Collaboration Council. Canberra: Dept of Education, Science and Training.

Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS). (2009). Higher ambitions: The future of universities in a knowledge economy. Retrieved from:

Diamond, A., Walkley, L., & Scott-Davies, S. (2011). Global graduates into global leaders. Report: Association of Graduate Recruiters, CFE Research & Council for Industry & Higher Education. Retrieved from:

Hall, C. (2001). A measure of executive processing ability in college students. College Student Journal, 35(3), 442–451.

Hillage, J., & Pollard, E. (1998). Employability: Developing a framework for policy analysis. London: Department for Education and Employment.

Hinchcliffe, G., & Jolly, A. (2010). Graduate identity and employability. British Education Research Journal, 37(4), 563–584. doi: 10.1080/01411926.2010.482200

Holmes, L. (2001). Reconsidering graduate employability: The Graduate identity approach. Quality in Higher Education, 7 (2), 111–119. doi:10.1080/13538320120060006

Holmes, L. (2013). Realist and relational perspectives on graduate identity and employability: A response to Hinchliffe and Jolly. British Educational Research Journal, 39(6), 1044–1059. doi: 10.1002/berj.3022

Jackson, D. (2014). Testing a model of undergraduate competence in employability skills and its implications for stakeholders. Journal of Education & Work, 27(2), 220–242.

Jackson, D. (2016). Re-conceptualising graduate employability: The importance of pre-professional identity. Higher Education Research and Development, 35(5) 925–939. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2016.1139551

Jackson, N. (2011). The lifelong and lifewide dimensions of living, learning and developing. In N.J. Jackson (Ed.), Learning for a complex world. A lifewide concept of learning, education and personal development. Authorhouse: Bloomington, USA.

Jary, D., & Shah, T. (2009). What is learned at university? SOMUL Working Paper 6. Retrieved from:

Kirkpatrick, D. L. (1998). Evaluating training programs (2nd Edition). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Knight, P., & Yorke, M. (2002). Employability through the curriculum. Tertiary Education and Management, 8, 261–276. Retrieved from:

Moreau, M-P., & Leathwood, C. (2006). Graduates employment and the discourse of employability: A critical analysis. Journal of Education & Work, 19(4), 305–324.

doi: 10.1080/13639080600867083

Nelson, D., Jeffries, S., & Mann, V. (2013). Extra-curricular awards stimulus papers: Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) perspective. Retrieved from Quality Assurance Agency:

Nottingham Advantage Award.

Pegg, A., Waldock, J., Hendy-Isaac, S., & Lawton, R. (2012). Pedagogy for employability. York: Higher Education Academy. Retrieved from:

Precision Consultancy (2007). Graduate employability skills. Commonwealth of Australia: ACT.

Raybould, J., & Sheedy, V. (2005). Are graduates equipped with the right skills in the employability stakes? Industrial & Commercial Training, 37(4/5), 259–263.

doi: 10.1108/00197850510609694

Savickas, M. L. (1997). Adaptability: An integrative construct for life-span, life-space theory. Career Development Quarterly, 45(3), 247–259. doi: 10.1002/j.2161-0045.1997.tb00469.x

Savickas, M.L., & Porfeli, E.J. (2012). Career Adapt-Abilities Scale: Construction, reliability, and measurement equivalence across 13 countries. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80(3), 661–673. doi: 10.1016/j.jvb.2012.01.011

Schwarzer, R., & Jerusalem, M. (1995). Generalized self-efficacy scale. In J. Weinman, S. Wright & M. Johnston, Measures in health psychology: A user’s portfolio. Causal and control beliefs (pp. 35–37). Windsor, England: NFER-NELSON.

Speight, S., Lackovic, N., & Cooker, L. (2012). Stakeholder attitudes towards employability in a Sino-British university. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 3(1), 26–40. doi:

Swansea Employability Award.

Tomlinson, M. (2008). 'The degree is not enough': Students perceptions of the role of higher education credentials for graduate work and employability. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29(1), 49–61. doi: 10.1080/01425690701737457

Tomlinson, M. (2012). Graduate employability: A review of conceptual and empirical themes. Higher Education Policy, 25(4), 407–431. doi:10.1057/hep.2011.26

Thompson, L. J., Clark, G., Walker, M., & Whyatt, D. J. (2013). ‘It’s just like an extra string to your bow’: Exploring higher education students’ perceptions and experiences of extracurricular activity and employability. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(135), 135–147. doi: 10.1177/1469787413481129

Tymon, A. (2013). The student perspective on employability. Studies in Higher Education, 38(6), 841–856. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2011.604408

University of Queensland Advantage Award.

Wilton, N. (2012). The impact of work placements on skills development and career outcomes for business and management graduates. Studies in Higher Education, 37(5), 603–620.

Wright, T. (2012). Personal Skills Award Evaluation Project – Stage 2 & 3 Report. Report for Careers Network, University of Birmingham.

Wright, T., & Williamson, S. (2010). Personal Skills Award Evaluation Project – Stage 1 Report. Report for Careers Network, University of Birmingham.

Yorke, M. (2006). Employability in higher education: What it is and what it is not. Learning and Employability Guides, UK: HEA.



  • There are currently no refbacks.