The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
The University of Kent is committed to providing opportunities for its students to develop abilities and skills which will enhance their employability. These opportunities are available to students at every level of study, regardless of their own personal circumstances.
Underpinning this strategy are five primary objectives:
- To maintain the University’s position as the region’s leading institution for student employability;
- To improve the overall quality of graduates’ first employment destinations – as evidenced by improved league-table positioning;
- To incorporate employability-related skills and training activities across all academic disciplines and other relevant areas;
- To increase the range and availability of student placement opportunities in the UK and abroad;
- To establish and maintain high quality, fully co-ordinated links with leading national, international and local graduate recruiters.
The University aims to achieve these objectives by:
- Continuing to embed higher level, subject specific, intellectual and transferable skills within the academic curriculum;
- Increasing and enhancing opportunities for work-related learning;
- Preparing students for employment in a global economy;
- Continuing to offer access to specific career search skills through its Careers Advisory Service;
- Recording personal development.
Developing employability attributes
A set of core attributes are routinely outlined by employers as indicators of their needs and as ciphers of ‘graduateness’. These relate to ‘world of work’ behavioural practices such as reliability, good timekeeping, confidence and complex problem solving, and, no less importantly, to ‘soft skills’ such as communication, team working ability, the capacity to operate independently and to demonstrate contextual sensitivity, including intercultural awareness. A recognition of the value of these attributes and of their pertinence to HE learning within and outside the curriculum underpins the ambitions of the University of Kent Employability Strategy.
Awareness of the need for graduates to make an effective contribution to the labour market has been around for a long time. The Robbins Report (Committee on Higher Education, 1963) highlighted the notion, as did the report of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, the Dearing Report (1997). These made explicit the importance of education for employability, and emphasised the value of core skills development and work experience in enhancing students’ potential for employment.
The National Student Forum was set up by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) in early 2008, to give voice to students on HE courses and to ensure that policies “were the better for being informed by the student voice.” Its view was that:
“employability emerged as a recurring, cross-cutting theme for the Forum…..Although we fully endorse the view that the rigorous study of a discipline is an end in itself, it is nontheless clear that the link between higher education and better job prospects is high on the agenda for many students.”
A plethora of relatively recent national and regional initiatives and policy documents highlighting crucial issues within HE have brought these matters to the forefront, and have re-enforced the importance of the employability agenda for the University. These include:
- The publication of the White Paper on “The Future of Higher Education”, which highlights the need for students to develop skills to meet the needs of employers.
- The recommendations of the Roberts Review and the Joint Research Council/AHRB generic skill requirements for all new Council funded research students.
- The changing criteria of employability performance indicators, especially the defining and subsequent weightings of graduate and non-graduate destinations.
- Increased numbers of students in HE are leading both to greater competition and a change in the nature of the graduate labour market where the distinctions between ‘graduate’ and ‘non-graduate’ jobs are becoming less and less clear cut.
- The National Framework for Careers Education and Guidance 2, which means that at Key Stages 3 and 4, students/pupils will be entitled to develop skills in employability and entrepreneurship. This gives them an expectation of continuing provision in Higher Education.
- University league tables, which highlight the perceived success or failure of institutions and individual disciplines to lead to appropriate graduate employment destinations.
- QAA guidelines on PDPs which advise that all institutions should develop a provision for students to engage in Personal Development Planning.
- Widening participation institutions will need to demonstrate that a concern for employability is an integral component of Widening Participation strategies. The experience of students who find themselves disadvantaged in the graduate labour market will, indisputably, have the effect of discouraging others - particularly those from prospective applicants without a tradition of participation in Higher Education.
- HE Achievement Record to be issued to graduates from 2011 – 2012.