An investigation of the factors impacting graduate


Unemployment is still a major problem impacting a wide range of individuals all across the world. It significantly persists regardless of the increased education and literacy levels. According to the Global Partnership for Education (2019) the Global Youth Literacy rate is 91% and there are up to 77 literate women for every 100 literate men globally. Despite the literacy rates plummeting highlighting increased education levels, which significantly highlights more graduates, the number of individuals with college and university degree employed remains low and decreasing over the years. This research study sets out to investigate and highlight the various factors both positive and negative that influence graduate employability in a bid to developing strategies that would ensure high employability rates of graduates in the future.

There has been an increased concern with regards to whether the UK Higher Education sector is significantly involved with ensuring that graduates are workforce ready. This is based on the decrease in the number of 21-30 year old graduates in skilled work by 2.2% in 2016 (CABS, 2018). The University of Manchester (2019) highlights that up to one in five graduates were in low or medium skilled jobs on average across the globe. Prospects (2018) points out that the unemployment rate for graduates six months after leaving the university fell to 5.1% in 2019 becoming the second lowest figure in the last 40 years when it was 4.9% in a survey in 1979.

Employment has not only increased from 74.2% to 76.6% in 2019 highlighting 4,540 more graduates finding jobs compared to 2018, but the proportion of employed graduates in professional level jobs also increased from 71.4% to 73.9% highlighting significant changes and factors within the economy that have been beneficial in improving graduate employability (CABS, 2018). According to the UK department of Education (2019), trends since 2011 point out a rise in employment rates across all qualification groups with non-graduates recording the highest increase despite being the least contributor in the labor market.


This highlights a wide range of positive factors that are at play in enabling increased graduate employability within the UK and presumably all across the globe. In being able to identify the positive factors that impact this increase, different universities can significantly enact policies to ensure the preparedness of graduates for the job market thereby eventually impacting not only the graduates livelihoods by ensuring increased employability rate but also impacting the economy due to the interconnection between graduate skills and skills required in the Labor market. The research as such aims to point out the answer to the question:

What are some of the factors that impact graduate employability and readiness to undertake a professional role in the labor market? Among the objectives to guide the study towards the achievement of its aim include:


  • To evaluate positive factors that impact graduate employability in the UK
  • To determine some negative factors that limit graduate employability in the UK
  • To comparatively analyze the negative and positive factors for a more effective strategy in impacting graduate employability


This section describes a critical content analysis of various concepts and ideas brought about by different scholars and Universities within the UK in line with the factors critical in ensuring graduate employability. The review will highlight statistics related to graduate employability, analyze various conditions enacted by the higher education institutions towards the facilitating the alignment of graduates skills to skills necessary for the labor market all the while alienating the positive and negative factors involved in eventual graduate employability in their subsequent professional fields. A comparative analysis of these factors is then outlined leading to possible gaps to carry out a primary research on.

Graduate Employability

Employability highlights the ability of an individual to be able to discern, acquire, adapt and continually enhance skills; understanding and personal attributes that make them more likely to identify opportunities and create meaningful benefits for themselves, the workforce, the community as well as the economy (Crisp and Oliver, 2019). This is usually through a chosen career path for which the individual acquires education for and graduates from a chosen higher education institution, Tymon (2013) however argues that higher education is not a guarantee of high-paying jobs, but it enhances employability. Employability is a multifaceted concept that has both internal and external facets (Hooley, 2017). However, it is essential to focus on individual perceptions, which are influenced by both internal and external facets (Rothwell & Arnold 2007). According to Linney (2019) graduates employability highlights the ability for university or college graduates to find or create work after successful completion of their higher education. The ability to bridge the gap between school and making a meaningful contribution in the Labor market highlights the biggest factor impacting graduate employability and has for a long time been assumed by the higher institutions.

Linney (2019) highlights that graduate employability informs a critical component of higher education institutions and significantly Impacts University’s reputation and rankings and a key deciding factor in a prospective students decision making process. As such universities have significantly taken steps in enabling the bridging of the gap between graduates and the Labor market. Different universities have a wide range of programs that not only enable the student effective networks in the labor market to maneuver but also equipping them with the necessary skills of discerning, acquiring, adapting and continually enhancing their skills understanding and personal attributes in order to increase their chances of employability. As a result the level of graduate employability has been on a significant rise in the past decade (UK Department of Education, 2019).

Correlation between Graduate talent and Economic Productivity

Over a wide range of economies high levels of education have been achieved by individuals however converting these high education levels of employability and economic productivity has not been as seamless as expected. Oliver (2015) reveals that the contribution of skills to productivity growth is an essential part for graduate employability and one that has been inherently emphasized on by the UK government given the purpose of the skills in shaping strategies for economic productivity. According to the committee of the House of Commons business, Innovation and skills, a strong link exists between graduate skills and economic performance and productivity. A subsequent econometric analysis involving 15 countries further highlights that a 1% increase in the graduate share of the workforce corresponds to a 0.2-0.5% growth in the long run productivity (Crisp and Oliver, 2019). This significantly highlights the role of graduates in economic development and productivity. Graduates embody abilities that are significant in discerning, acquiring, adapting and continually enhancing skills; understanding and personal attributes for the betterment of oneself and the economy through productivity. As such graduate employability is inherently significant for economic growth highlighting the need to enact strategies and programs for impacting graduate employability within higher learning institutions. Kenny (2019) points out particularly the Stellify program at The University of Manchester which embeds “ethical grand challenge in degree programs” and “ helps ensure that Manchester University students hit the ground running with employers regionally, nationally and internationally as the reason why it ranks best in graduate employability according to the Times and Sunday Times. According to the UK department of Education (2019) employment rates have increased across all qualification groups including Graduates, Post graduates and non-

Kenny (2019) points out particularly the Stellify program at The University of Manchester which embeds “ethical grand challenge in degree programs” and “ helps ensure that Manchester University students hit the ground running with employers regionally, nationally and internationally as the reason why it ranks best in graduate employability according to the Times and Sunday Times. According to the UK department of Education (2019) employment rates have increased across all qualification groups including Graduates, Post graduates and non- graduates since 2011. While non-graduates have been the most increased at 4.8, Graduates have been able to significantly rise minimizing the graduate unemployment rate down to 5.1% in 2019, the lowest since 1979 (Prospects, 2018).

 Annual employment rates

Figure 1: Annual employment rates The importance of graduate employability further, as well as the role of universities is illustrated in the Global University World Rankings (2018) cited by the World University Rankings which reveals the top 250 universities in UK that employers think about in the process of their recruitment. The World University Rankings (2018) specifies that these are universities chosen by company recruiters based on how the university prepares the students for the labor market. This highlights the higher education institutions as one of the major factors that significantly impact graduate employability alongside a wide range of other factors including:

The Career Edge Model

According to the Career edge model highlighted by Dacre Pool & Qualter (2013) and Williams et al (2016) the human capital theory addresses the relationship between higher education attributes and labor market outcomes. Human capital theory posits that investment in education and training leads to returns in private and social lives (Tran, 2015). Social benefits include producing highly skilled individuals for economic development of the country. Private returns are highlighted in higher earnings (Adrian, 2017), significant career progression and broader labor market opportunities. Higher education, therefore, is viewed as a shared investment between the government and individual graduates. However, the questions remains, what does it take to produce employable graduates? The Career Edge model highlights that graduate employability is significantly reliant on the graduates self esteem which is drawn from self confidence and self efficacy which can only be determined through self evaluation.

 Employability model

In self-evaluation individuals majorly focus on their career development and learning abilities, their experience in terms of work and life, generic skills, emotional intelligence, subject knowledge and skills. Striking a major balance in all these aspects of one’s life enables improved self confidence and esteem which significantly impact graduates employability within the labor market.

Skill Shortages across many industries

A general law of nature as well as business is that an opportunity or space cannot exist in a vacuum or unexploited. As such the existences of skilled labor shortages significantly impact the persuasion of higher education among the population in the UK leading to a significant increase in the number of graduates each year subsequently translating to high graduate employability. Weale (2019) points out that skill shortage across many industries has significantly impacted job prospects with a significant increase in individuals entering professional jobs across all degree subjects. Prospects (2019) further emphasize that more qualified graduates have come out in high demand subjects such as IT, Engineering, Accountancy and Marketing. The inherent need for professional in this industries not only inspire the career choice but equally the commitment towards being the best and concurring the uncharted environment leading to increased graduate employability due to the seamless connection between the graduate skills and skills necessary in the labor market.

Higher Education Institutions

In an attempt to secure more students, higher education institutions have taken to developing programs that can effectively impact individual readiness for the labor market and thus significantly improve graduate skills and knowledge with regards to the labor market thus impacting their employability. Different Universities have developed different programs within their education courses which enable the students to not only learn about their jobs, duties and responsibilities but also give a unique and personalized experiences beyond the theoretical studies which afford the students an upper hand of having actual experience and understanding of how the labor market work (University of Manchester, 2019) Upon graduation the student is not only armed with education and effective theoretical information, but also a hands on experience that can be effectively practiced in the Labor market.


While a significantly wide range of positive factors exist impacting graduate employability no first hand research has been carried out with the aim of highlighting the different negative and positive factors that impact the concept and regardless of the witnessed recent increase, negative impacts such as generation changes have significantly impacted employability among youths on the global scale. While a majority actually graduate with professional degrees they are not entirely ready for the labor market and assuch end up unemployed despite their educational qualifications. This highlights the need for a primary study in evaluating the various positive and negative factors that impact graduate employability within the UK. The different methodology significant for this process is outlined as below.


This chapter entails a significant outline of the research methodologies, approaches, strategies, and techniques which will be used in the process of the study to conduct research and produce sufficient results related to answering the proposed research questions of this study. It will also study the research population as well as highlight the various data collection and analysis methodology in addition to any matter for ethical consideration within the process of conducting the research

Research Strategy

The strategy highlights the different structure and processes including the design that will be used within the process of primary research. According to Remenyi et al. (2003) the research design dictates the direction of the actual study as well as the manner by which the research is conducted and Saunders et al. (2009) further clarifies that a suitable research design needs to be selected based on research questions and objectives, existing knowledge on the subject area to be researched, the amount of resources and time available, and the philosophical leanings of the researcher. As such this study will take up a qualitative research design which involves detailed exploration and analysis of particular themes and concerns with regards to the topic of study which is factors impacting graduate employability. research used the Interpretive philosophy due to the fact that the study is involved in the nature of social entities especially with regards to work and businesses as well as their general and desired impact to the society majorly of which is minimizing unemployment and increasing graduate employability.

Research Methods

This section highlights the different methods that will be involved in the actual process of collecting data in the field. Based on the qualitative nature of the study, the research will adopt the combined use of questionnaires in highlighting factors that impact graduate employability among the students and graduates as well as interviews of various professors in different universities with regards to the graduates’ employability.


According to Phillips and Stawarski, (2008), Questionnaires are efficient due to their ability to capture not only an individual’s opinion, but also their attitudes and beliefs. In addition, they are flexible and easy to fill up in a short time. The questionnaires used will contain detailed questions offering ranking scale and/or choices that respondents can easily pick for their response as well as a few open-ended questions for clarification of deep insight points.


The researcher further involves the use of interviews given their efficiency in enhancing extra information other than the actual context and subject asked about. In interviews, interviewers can be able to ask follow up questions to clarify on any misunderstood or unclear points thereby enabling effective collection of information as well as the information’s credibility and viability.

Population of Study

Population refers to a group of people, objects or subjects or items that produce a significant impact or have a relevant impact on any specific element of study and as such presents a unique perspective on the research (Gobo, 2011).These are people with a specific attachment or approximate to the features or subjects of the study that are being researched (Morse and Richards, 2002). The study will use both graduates and who are employed and unemployed in determining the actual skills required for employability as well as professors and lectures within various higher education institutions within the UK.


Blaikie (2010) premises that the awareness of a researcher as to the magnitude and the extent to which ones population goes and therefore the confines from which the sample for study can be selected is equally a key consideration in the decision of which sampling technique to be employed. Palinkas et al., (2015) further emphasizes that understanding the different logical explanations that baseline sampling approaches is crucial in being able to understand the distinction between qualitative and quantitative sampling techniques.

Given the various categories of individuals making up the target population as well as the richness of the information offered by each one, the researcher will use random sampling to identify a group of 15 graduates who are yet to be employed or who are employed in various fields that they are not professionally qualified for as well as another 15 graduates who are actually currently employed within their professional fields. In addition the researcher used Random Opportunity sampling in being able to identify available and willing lecturers and professors within the top 10 universities ranked according to graduate employability.

Data Analysis

A most common characteristic of qualitative studies is that they produce a large amount of textual data that is extensive and as such one of the best techniques for the analysis of the data is thematic analysis. Thematic analysis involves a widely used qualitative research method of first hand data analysis which primarily focuses on the identification and relation of patterns, themes and connections within a huge database (Braun and Clarke, 2006) Through analysis of first hand data which can be collected through a wide range of different methods such as questionnaires, observation as well as interviews, inferences that are accurate, effective, reliable and replicable can be obtained from various patterns and themes.

Ethical Consideration

Involvement of humans as a source of information or the population of study requires the application of moral frameworks and their considerations from the early stages of research (Biggam, 2015; Oliver, 2010) The study should be able to occur whilst respect to human dignity, autonomy, privacy and integrity of the participants is observed at all times. Among the matters for ethical consideration within the study include confidentiality and informed consent of the respondents to which relevant permits were secured. In addition the respondents were kept anonymous to further ensure protection of their dignity and safety.

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