Employability has been put into focus of educational developments by governments, policymakers and other stakeholders since the beginning of the Bologna process. This woften met with strong negative reactions coming from academics and students. Keeping academic values at the core of education is opposed to transforming higher education institutes purely into agents for economic development. At the same time students do strive for employment after graduation, and preferably meaningful employment.
The European Students’ Union held a survey among its members and found that 31,5% of respondents characterize the possibility of finding meaningful work as medium, 17,8% of respondents considered the possibility low and only 9,6% thought he or she had a high chance of finding meaningful work. In addition, 78.1% of respondents claim that employers are not aware of the value of a bachelor’s degree.
Hard or soft skills?
The survey findings suggested that students consider social and soft skills to play a big role in the learning process. Higher education institutions and the labour market believe that hard skills and work experience are more important.
“Employability is a process and a concept of learning, rather than a mere mathematical relationship between completion rates and employment statistics. As such, employability coincides with those goals of higher education that concern personal development, critical thinking, active citizenship and enhancement of democracy,” says Nevena Vuksanovic, the main coordinator of the SAGE project.
ESU’s research furthermore identified many problems in the recognition of non-formal and formal education. “These shortcomings need to be rectified to ensure a fair recognition of all prior learning processes. Study choices should also reflect the real interest of students and the diversity of the European Higher Education Area”, states the report.
The results of the survey also highlighted the need to strengthen ‘student-centred learning’ and develop learning outcomes further. “Students must be considered full partners at all levels in decision-making during the design of curricula and learning outcomes. Learning paths must also be made flexible.”