Call for Abstracts for 2019 Special Issue of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management

Employability and employment outcomes as drivers of higher education practice: Implications for development of a future-capable workforce

This special issue of the JHEPM will consider the policy focus on universities’ employment outcomes, resultant strategies to enhance students’ employability, and the impact of these on higher education practice. It seeks to explore the motivations, value and impact of highly publicised national and institutional graduate employment metrics that augment strategic directives for developing student employability and shape pedagogy, curricular and co-curricular design within institutions.

The return on investment of higher education is attracting increasing scrutiny in the context of rising fees, mass student participation, and a perceived oversupply of non-employment ready graduates. Some have argued that the strategic directive of developing student employability in a bid to improve, often short-term and narrowly-focused, employment outcomes is devaluing higher education. For others, it may provide some assurance that the higher education sector is committed to developing future-capable graduates. Preparedness for work, whether fostered through liberal or professional courses, or in co-curricular experiences at university, is perceived by many as increasingly important given graduates are transitioning to an uncertain world of work characterised by digital disruption, intense competition from globalisation, and precarious working arrangements. To accommodate these trends, the notion of graduate employability has broadened to encompass constructs such as career self-management, professional identity, a collaborative mindset, enterprise and entrepreneurship, cultural capital and social networking capabilities.  Developing these dimensions is intended to empower students to achieve their career goals while developing future workers and leaders that can drive innovation and prosperity, as well as make meaningful contributions to community and society.

Research on graduate employability has largely derived from a human capital perspective with a focus on how to best develop and assess disciplinary and non-technical/transferable capabilities. More recently there has been greater consideration of the role of underpinning qualities such as proactiveness and resilience, and also wider influences such as social, cultural and identity capital. However, there remains an opportunity to consider the impact of an employability agenda that is largely driven by graduate employment outcomes. Is the impetus of institutional performance in employment metrics and associated league tables detracting from higher educations’ core purpose, and the development of future-capable graduates? Or is it focussing much-needed educational attention on developing an employment-ready workforce right now? Is it possible to develop future capability and employment readiness at the same time?

Papers are sought from different perspectives focusing on conceptual issues, and empirical studies, which could address (but are not limited to) the following questions:

  • What are the benefits and pitfalls of employability (and employment outcomes) being a key driver of higher education practice?
  • What evidence is there of employability driving higher education practice?
  • To what extent, and if so how, are current employment outcomes measures constraining and/or enabling higher education’s bid to develop a suitable pipeline of talent for the future?
  • What would an effective set of outcome measures for lifelong employability and graduate future capability look like?
  • Can an employability agenda that is driven by employment-focused graduate outcomes produce future-capable graduates?
  • How should higher education measure student employability and/or graduate outcomes to align with contemporary labour demands while maintaining a strong institutional profile?
  • Should higher education be responsive to any oversupply of graduates in the labour market, and if so how?
  • Should higher education be more responsive to demand-side, labour market factors to improve graduate outcomes in certain disciplines and to correct any oversupply in the market, and if so how?
  • How should higher education be shaping practice to meet the demands of future life and work?
  • How should courses and co-curricular offerings be designed to enable career success and to develop graduates who can navigate effectively across multiple sectors, industries and careers?

Answering these questions would assist higher education management and educators with how to effectively measure and characterise student employability and graduate outcomes, and in turn develop educational offerings that can produce future-capable graduates and a strong institutional profile.


Abstract submission* (up to 500 words): by 15 December 2018
Notification of acceptance: no later than 21 December 2018
Submission of full paper for review: 26 February 2019

Submission of final papers: 23 April 2019

Likely Publication Issue: 41.04 (August 2019)

Download the abstract proforma.

Abstracts should be emailed to no later than 15 December 2018.

About the Special Issue Editors

Denise Jackson is an Associate Professor and work-Integrated Learning Coordinator for the School of Business and Law at Edith Cowan University. Denise has led research and published widely in graduate employment, employability, career development learning, student transition to the workplace and work-integrated learning. She is the State Chair (Western Australia) and a National Board member for the Australian Collaborative Education Network, the peak body for work-integrated learning.  Denise has received many research and teaching and learning awards, most recently a national Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning for sustained contributions to graduate employability. She serves on several editorial boards, including the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management. Prior to higher education, she worked in human resource management and ran her own business in the tourism industry.

Ruth Bridgstock is Professor of Curriculum and Teaching Transformation in the Centre for Learning Futures at Griffith University. She is Australian National Senior Teaching Fellow for Graduate Employability 2.0, which explores how collaboration, social connectedness and networked approaches to education can foster the future capability of learners, teachers and educational institutions. Ruth leads research and publishes about capabilities for the future of life and work. She designs, implements and evaluates curriculum to develop these capabilities, and also researches organisational transformation in higher education. Ruth is an AAUT citation awardee for leadership and innovation in graduate employability, is HEA Principal Fellow, and is a member of the Advance HE employability expert panel. Her most recent book is ‘Higher Education and the Future of Graduate Employability: A connectedness learning approach’ (Edward Elgar, 2018).