EMPLOY - Enhancing the Employability of Non-Traditional Students in HE

No. of the project: 2014-1-UK01-KA203-001842-TP

Project duration: 36 months (01/11/14  - 30/09/17 )

National Agency: British Council


EMPLOY is a European project involving six partners and is co-ordinated by Dr Barbara Merrill, University of Warwick.

EMPLOY promotes the enhancement of the employability of students in higher education from a non-traditional background (both younger and adult) through improving the efficiency of transitions into the graduate labour market. With the development of a mass higher education system across Europe the student population has become more diverse by age, gender, class, ethnicity and disability. The issue of employability is a central policy concern of the EU, national governments and a key goal of the Bologna Process (The European Higher Education in 2012: Bologna Process Implementation Report) and there is also emerging evidence that graduate employability is a problem across Europe. This situation has been affected by the economic crisis but at different levels across Europe so that, for example, it is more difficult for graduate students in Portugal to find employment than graduates in Sweden.

Research shows that non-traditional students are particularly affected in terms of graduateness. For non-traditional students the transition into employment often takes longer than ‘traditional students’ and there is the likelihood of entering employment which is below degree level and, therefore, less meaningful. There is also a mismatch between graduate credentials and employers' expectations. The project involves six partners from a range of countries from north and south Europe. We define non-traditional students as including those from low-income families, under-represented ethnic and socio-economic groups, mature students, first generation into HE and people with disabilities.

EMPLOY centrally aims to improve the efficiency of transition into the graduate labour market of those who enter higher education from non-traditional backgrounds, by developing two European toolkits that presents best practice by HEIs and offers guidance to students on improving their employability. This will be achieved by using the voices, experiences and perceptions of participants (students, university staff and employers) through biographical approaches and in-depth interviews to identify best practices, policies and guidelines to be used in two handbooks. One handbook will be aimed at non-traditional students in higher education while the other will be aimed at employers and university staff. The website and the use of social media, such as Twitter and podcasts, will be important in promoting dialogue and outcomes of the project. EMPLOY has a strong dissemination and exploitation strategy to ensure a wide European impact.

The project will offer new insights into the relationship and different perspectives on employability and competences in relation to non-traditional students in HE. Importantly, this project aims to work for a more inclusive graduate labour market for non-traditional students across Europe.