The Employability Agenda and Beyond: What are Universities For?

Steve Olivier

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


In this paper, presented as a provocation for university leaders, I intend to stimulate thought and debate. As such, it is not necessarily a paper typical in the groves of Academe, evaluating and referencing contrasting preceding papers. While I draw on established concepts, I also present actual practice in higher
education, relating this to political and quasi-economic matters. Ultimately, the paper is designed to provoke university leaders to question conventional wisdom, accepted practice and politico/social direction. It starts rather factually, describing
the landscape of employability in higher education, and then introduces some political considerations. Conceptual points on graduate attributes follow, before I delve into matters more contested, such as the purpose of universities, with my thoughts presented in the context of the preceding points on employability. In short, I argue for institutional and sectoral autonomy, holding that slavishly following imposed agendas will ultimately reduce our institutions’ contribution to economic wellbeing.

I have chosen to describe primarily the Scottish higher education landscape in order to discuss the employability agenda and other related university outcomes, not least because I would contend that the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland’s
Quality Enhancement Framework has been leading the sector in areas such as embedding employability in the curriculum. Also, the issues facing Scotland are probably universal, with other countries either already addressing them, or likely to in the near future.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherLeadership Foundation for Higher Education
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)9781906627621
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameStimulus Paper Series
PublisherLeadership Foundation for Higher Education


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