Higher education and employabilty: developing a critical conversation with students.
In: SRHE Annual Research Conference 2011: Positive Futures for Higher Education; Connections, Communities and Criticality, 7- 9 December 2011, Newport, Wales, UK.
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Understanding the notion of employability as constructed through competing, and variously powerful, policy discourses allows us to understand that employability skills are not a neutral and unquestioned category, or a ‘subject’ to be learnt or taught as a functional curriculum. Undertaking focus groups and interviews with part-time learners shed light on the way that these learners understood HE learning in relation to their working and social lives, and helped us to understand how their personal motivations intersected with HE learning and changing economic circumstances. Engaging with student understandings about employability helped to develop the notion of a critical conversation about employability that centres around students’ intentions, the labour market environment and the value placed on HE learning. We will be seeking to trial this ‘critical conversation’ approach with careers advisors over the next year.
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