UK graduates and the impact of work experience

Brennan, John; Blasko, Z.; Little, B. and Woodley, A. (2002). UK graduates and the impact of work experience. UK: HEFCE.


This report examines the links between work experience during higher education and experiences within the labour market in the UK, post-graduation. It has been based on data on UK graduates, with a sample drawn from the 1994/5 cohort of students graduating in 'first degree' or equivalent programmes. The research conducted (which was part of a larger study) took the form of a mailed questionnaire, sent to graduates from 27 higher education institutions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The key findings suggest that:

Work experience during higher education, and in particular that related to study, has a positive effect on employment outcomes for graduates in the UK.

Work experience related to study appears to have a positive impact on most aspects of employment activity post-graduation, and this effect is particularly strong for humanities students. In areas such as preparing graduates for work and meeting their expectations there was a positive association. Those students that undertook work experience related to study also felt that their current employment was appropriate to their level of education.

When students took on large amounts of work experience unrelated to study, it appeared to have a negative effect on employment outcomes some 3 ½ years after graduation. In their current employment for example, graduates in this group found that they did not use the knowledge and skills developed during higher education to a great extent.

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