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Employability and the curriculum for taught postgraduates. Judith Smith Senior Adviser, HEA Enhancing the taught postgraduate experience: skills, careers and employability HEA, York, November 16 th 2010. Overview of session.

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employability and the curriculum for taught postgraduates

Employability and the curriculum for taught postgraduates

Judith Smith

Senior Adviser, HEA

Enhancing the taught postgraduate experience: skills, careers and employability HEA, York, November 16th 2010

overview of session
Overview of session
  • Presentation- what could enhance employability for taught post-graduate students
    • Policy context
    • Implications for post-grad provision, curriculum
    • Employability development – postgraduate attributes
  • Discussion groups
policy context implications for employability and the curriculum
Policy Context- implications for employability and the curriculum
  • What we don’t know
    • 2006 Leitch Review- need for higher level skills, business and university engagement- set target for 2020. The new political arena for skills?
    • 2009 Higher Ambitions (Framework for HE); UKCES/BIS National Skills Strategy- Employability development- a new White paper?
  • What we do know
    • New government –continuing work with business/employers- expansion of HEIF; enterprise, New Technology and Innovation Centres (Cameron to CBI)
    • Public information set- need for identification of links with employers and support for employability (Willets)
    • 2009 New Industry, New Jobs – STEM, low carbon, new innovations, responding to social, health issues relating to demographics- remains relevant
policy 2
  • Graduate unemployment/under-employment- and for postgraduates?
  • Moving from skills development – supply side- to demand side
  • Moving to skill utilisation and high performance working
  • Encouraging enterprise and innovation
  • Public sector reduction- private sector provision of services
  • Big Society – growth of independent, third sector, social enterprise
policy 3
  • Browne Review on postgraduate study
    • No evidence that changes to funding or student finance are needed to support student demand or access
    • Availability of financial support from employers or from elsewhere
  • HEC (HEFCE) will fund postgraduate courses on the same basis as undergraduate courses – by targeting investment on courses that are a priority for the public interest
    • STEM, NINJ agenda- low carbon, new innovations, responding to social, health issues relating to demographics
    • Trans-disciplinary developments?
post grad provision
Post-grad provision
  • Taught post-graduate students are distinctively different from undergraduates and from research postgraduate students. Their numbers are now large enough to make them a distinct and important higher education market
  • The number of taught postgraduate students in the UK has increased by 77 per cent over the past 11 years.
  • Can level of recruitment be sustained? (UUK 2008)
smith report ref bis 2010 one step beyond making the most of postgraduate education
Smith Report ref: BIS (2010) One step Beyond: Making the most of postgraduate education
    • Employers expect postgraduates to have a range of skills that go beyond the discipline which they have studied. These include business awareness, languages, numeracy and quantitative methods skills.
    • Employers stress the importance of postgraduates being able to adapt quickly and apply their skills in a work environment.
  • There are social and cultural benefits attached to a strong postgraduate sector. By encouraging people to question established knowledge, postgraduate education promotes a culture of open and intelligent debate which stimulates innovation and new approaches to tackling difficult challenges
new horizon
New Horizon
  • What will be the demand from students?
    • Full or part-time study?
    • UK, EU, non-EU students?
    • Conventionally taught, distance/ e-learning
    • Motivation, expectations
    • Student needs, inclusion
  • Impact of demographic changes- less younger people at undergraduate level, looking to employee learning?
why it matters to employability development
Why it matters to employability development
  • Who are your students?
  • What is their motivation for studying?
  • What programmes/curriculum content do you offer?
  • What programmes offer vocational related or professional qualifications; CPD; responding to working futures? Non-vocational?
  • How do you develop employability that is inclusive of all students?
  • What is the student journey on your programme?
  • What are employers to expect from your PG students and their skills development?
  • Where does the world of work feature?
employability for postgraduates
Employability for postgraduates?


  • ‘a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefit themselves, the community and the economy’ (Knight and Yorke, 2003:7).
  • Considering the aspects that make up employability, Yorke and Knight (2004) identify three areas:
    • Personal Qualities, such as self confidence, independence and stress tolerance;
    • Core Skills, for example, numeracy, language skills and global awareness; and
    • Process Skills such as problem-solving, team-working and applying subject understanding.

A curriculum that develops graduate attributes- and also post-graduates?(Ref: Jenkins, A (2009) Research-Teaching Linkages: enhancing graduate attributes)

  • Critical understanding
  • Subject/discipline knowledge
  • An awareness of the provisional nature of knowledge, how knowledge is created, advanced and renewed, and the excitement of changing knowledge;
  • The ability to identify and analyse problems and issues and to formulate, evaluate and apply evidence based solutions and arguments;
  • An ability to apply a systematic and critical assessment of complex problems and issues;
graduate attributes ref jenkins a 2009 research teaching linkages enhancing graduate attributes
Graduate attributes(Ref: Jenkins, A (2009) Research-Teaching Linkages: enhancing graduate attributes
  • An ability to deploy techniques of analysis and enquiry;
  • Familiarity with advanced techniques and skills;
  • Originality and creativity in formulating, evaluating and applying evidence-based solutions and arguments;
  • An understanding of the need for a high level of ethical, social, cultural, environmental and wider professional conduct.
postgraduate attributes
Postgraduate attributes
  • Conceptual understanding that enables critical evaluation of current research and advanced scholarship
  • Originality in the application of knowledge
  • The ability to deal with complex issues and make sound judgments in the absence of complete data.
employability development
Employability Development

Growing demand for better information for students about employability opportunities within HE courses

Institutional Statements

Institutional Strategy and implementation

Value added approaches

discussion points
Discussion points
  • How do you meet the needs of a range of students in your classes?
  • How do you ensure that curriculum content reflects the skill requirements in contemporary workplaces?
  • Enterprise development- for all your post-grad students or selected?
  • To assess or not to assess employability skills?
discussion points1
Discussion points
  • How can personal and career development be an inherent part of every PG programme?
  • How can you best manage work related/work integrated learning in your curriculum?
  • Understanding the business/ having commercial awareness- how to find a place for this in the curriculum?
  • Working with employers for high performance working – how can you support students to utilise their skills more effectively
he academy forthcoming publications
HE Academy- forthcoming publications
  • University management of work-based learning Written by members of the PVC Employer Engagement SIG for PVCs and middle managers
  • Quality and responding to employer needs Summary of the learning from the nine HEFCE funded demonstrator projects that the Academy coordinated,
  • Learning from Experience in Employer Engagement Publication with chapters written by HEFCE funded EE projects
hea contacts
HEA contacts
  • Judith Smith, Senior Adviser


  • Jane Kettle, Senior Adviser


  • Laila Burton, Programme Coordinator


Tel: 01904 717500