Employer and higher education perspectives on graduates in the knowledge society

Arthur, Lore; Brennan, John and de Weert, Egbert (2007). Employer and higher education perspectives on graduates in the knowledge society. CHERI, The Open University; CHEPS, University of Twente, The Netherlands, London.


The research on which this report is based was part of a larger international project on ‘The Flexible Professional in the Knowledge Society’ (the ‘REFLEX’ project) funded by the European Commission Framework VI Programme. There were three elements to this project: a survey of higher education graduates five years after they had completed their first degree courses; a series of country reports providing contextual information on national higher education systems and labour markets; a qualitative study of the perspectives of employers of graduates and university leaders. This report sets out the findings of this third element of the REFLEX project.

The aim of the qualitative element of the project was to investigate the expectations and experiences of employers and university leaders regarding the kinds of knowledge, skills and competences that are required of graduates in the ‘knowledge society’, the extent to which these requirements are being met and the kinds of changes that are needed in order to achieve a better match between the requirements of employment and the outputs of higher education. The focus was on the kind of changes that are felt necessary in higher education institutions and in employment organisations in order to achieve a better match between higher education’s output and the demands of working life.

Key questions were:

• What competences do employers expect of their graduate workers?
• What role is ascribed to higher education providers in producing them?
• How do higher education institutions see their responsibility for the employability of their graduates?
• What initiatives do they take to discharge these responsibilities?

The study involved five countries: Norway, the UK, Germany, The Netherlands and France. Most field work was undertaken in the period April –July, 2005.

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