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Do students really engage with their skills development in the context of widening participation? An institutional case study

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This study investigates how the prior experience of a diverse undergraduate cohort at an English higher education institution relates to barriers to employability and changes in students' perceptions of their employability skills and career plans throughout the duration of their studies. It considers the impact of a range of demographic factors used to identify students from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education (HE). Data collection was conducted within a micro institutional context where the majority of students and staff are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Such diversity contributes to the originality of the study.

We have adopted a mixed methods approach by bringing together both quantitative and qualitative evidence. The study took two years to complete and 150 students across different programmes participated. We found that perceived levels of employability skills were closely associated with the background and age of the students. We observed that an increase in self-awareness resulted in a significant decrease in self-confidence, which caused a change in participants' career plans from looking for a relevant job to looking for any available job.
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Keywords: Widening participation; employability skills development; higher education; student engagement; underrepresented group

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • The journal is based on the belief that there are neglected links between research and theory, and policy and practice in the promotion of widening participation in post-compulsory education and lifelong learning. It aims to provide a forum for the development of theory, the addressing of policy questions and the dissemination of innovative practice in the field of widening participation and lifelong learning.
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