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Title: Influences on conceptions, perceptions and experiences of employability
Author: Edwards, Emma
Awarding Body: University of Wolverhampton
Current Institution: University of Wolverhampton
Date of Award: 2019
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This research explores the responses to the employability agenda of staff working within a post-1992 Higher Education Institution (HEI). Recent policy and discourse has served to drive this issue to the top of many HEI agendas. HEIs are required to provide data about the employment rates of their students at course level (Office for Students, 2018). University marketing material emphasises these statistics as publicity and promotion to prospective students (Burke et al, 2017, p.88). Employability is, therefore, a priority for many institutions operating within a competitive, marketised higher education (HE) sector. This research contributes to existing work on employability by examining, in one institution, the lived experiences of the following key participants in the agenda: senior leaders, middle managers and academics. By adopting an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach, rich data was generated revealing the often hidden institutional conversations taking place. The findings of the research reveal a complex and varied response to employability, influenced by several factors, principally: personal experience, values and beliefs, position within the institution and the nature of the institution itself. Common experiences emerged in terms of surveillance and auditing, characteristic of an HE environment governed by increasingly standardised policies, where measuring employability has become mandatory. Participants were united in advocating a bespoke approach to employability policy development and evaluation, which takes account of and recognises various macro and micro issues, for example: the region in which the research setting was based, the nature of the institution, and the diversity of the student body. The research further indicates that institutional approaches to employability can be understood as a change process, impacting on individuals in the sector in various powerful ways: identity, loss of control, agency and increased pressure are significant issues for participants. The research demonstrates that the implementation of the employability agenda within HEIs is clearly challenging and requires an understanding of the influencing factors on perceptions and conceptions of employability, and negotiation with key staff. For academics in particular, local adaptation of policies and strategies was seen as crucial to meaningful developments in the agenda and the avoidance of being merely policy-led.
Supervisor: Thompson, David W. ; Cramp, Andy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: employability ; higher education policy ; change in higher education ; marketization of higher education ; academic identity ; accountability in higher education ; interpretative phenomenological analysis