Employability in the Liberal Arts
: A Comparative Case Study of Two Universities in the UAE

  • Alizeh Batra

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


In its traditional role, the university was perceived as a hub for knowledge-creation, teaching, and research. Higher education was afforded primarily by the elite and seen as a means of transmitting culture. The liberal arts, in particular, were seen to add cultural, social, and intellectual capital to graduates. Over time, and specifically with the advent of the Human Capital Theory, workers’ employability came to be seen as the focus of higher education. Disciplinary and vocational knowledge took precedence as employability became a primary reason for enrolling in higher education. Now, graduate employability is seen to be of utmost importance as careers become non-linear and technology makes several entry-level jobs redundant.

This is a comparative case study of employability at two liberal arts institutions in the United Arab Emirates. This study aims to explore how employability is conceived, embedded, and enacted by the respective administrative offices and the leadership, faculty, students, and alumni of the civil and computer engineering programmes at each institution. It intends to portray a cohesive picture of employability, while offering insights into comparisons and contrasts where possible. In particular, the liberal arts focus at both institutions adds a unique layer of analysis to this study, since science- and technology-based disciplines are typically regarded as vocational subjects, unlike the liberal arts.

Findings suggest that both institutions conceptualised employability differently, one with a traditional notion and the other with a more contemporary view. The liberal arts were seen to offer immense potential in aligning graduate identities with careers of the future. However, the meaning and relation of a liberal arts philosophy to science- and technology-based disciplines was unclear to some key stakeholders. Finally, structural forces in the local labour market, non-linear careers, economic and cultural factors, and hiring models specific to this region were found to significantly impact graduate employability at the two institutions in question.
Date of Award12 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHugh Lauder (Supervisor) & Andrea Abbas (Supervisor)


  • Employability
  • Liberal Arts
  • STEM
  • UAE
  • Human Capital
  • Higher Education
  • Future of Work

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