Exploring student identity through a university-wide graduate employability initiative

Smith, S., Smith, C., Taylor-Smith, E., Fotheringham, J., Dencer-Brown, I. (2016, June). Exploring student identity through a university-wide graduate employability initiative. Paper presented at WACE International Research Symposium, Victoria, Canada.



Universities are adopting institution-wide projects designed to enhance opportunities for student work placements and work-related learning across all subject disciplines, as inclusion and graduate employability are increasingly expressed as university core values. However, there are large variations between programs and disciplines in uptake, with limited evidence explaining why this might be the case. Furthermore, disparate routes to higher education, for example through direct entry to advanced stages of programs, provide further variation of experience. This study uses identity theory (Stryker, 1980) to explore student perceptions of placement and work-related learning. Students involved in an institution-wide graduate employability project, designed to increase the availability of placements and work-related courses on degree programs, were invited to express their attitudes to work-related learning through in-class surveys. The survey was distributed to 103 students across three different programs. Students drew on resources for identity work including role models and imaginings of themselves in a working environment. However, while they were found to have used developmental networks to support decisions about university courses, many had limited access to networks that could support their career decisions. Finally, the study highlighted that many students lacked awareness of the new courses as opportunities for work-related learning.
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Colin F Smith
Senior Lecturer
+44 131 455 2774
Ella Taylor-Smith
Senior Research Fellow
+44 131 455 2392
Sally Smith
Dean of School
+44 131 455 2742

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