Organisational responses to the employability agenda in English universities

  • Robert Gilworth

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Employability is highly topical in UK Higher Education. There is related literature debating the purpose of higher education, learning and skills, contextual social and economic issues and policy matters for the sector as a whole, but no published work on the ways in which universities organise themselves to deal with this particular issue. This study examines the organisational responses of universities to the issue of graduate employability at this pivotal time for English higher education, when the environment is linking employability to institutional success to an unprecedented degree. The study considers key contextual factors including the debate around the relationship between “the knowledge economy” and the demand for graduates, the ways in which success in employability is understood and measured, the impact of recession and the tension between student consumerism and partnership in an environment in which “consumer information” is linked directly by government to notions of return on personal investment and value for money as tuition fees increase. The key questions addressed are: how is the employability offer conceptualised, constructed, managed and measured and what choices about organisational configuration and capability are being made and acted upon?The study required detailed analysis of the relationships between institutional mission and top-level goals, declared strategy for delivery and delivery structures and the roles of key individuals and teams and so, this enquiry is based upon in-depth case studies of five universities, using data on graduate destinations, published statements and strategies and interviews with relevant post holders (with a particular focus on the role of the head of the professional career service).The case studies and analysis relate the organisational responses to the underlying driver of positional competition. The study uses the role and position of careers services as the starting point for attempting to understand the organisational responses in each case.
Date of Award28 Feb 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIan Jamieson (Supervisor)


  • careers
  • employability
  • positional competition
  • institutional identity

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