Uncertain transition : exploring the experience of recent graduates

Christie, F ORCID: 0000-0003-1384-3683 2016, Uncertain transition : exploring the experience of recent graduates , Graduate Prospects/HECSU, Manchester, UK.

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Abstract

What is the transition from university student to being part of the workforce really like for graduates? How do they reflect upon this transition themselves and how do they tell their stories? Commentary on the graduate labour market comes from many sources; the media publish doom and gloom stories, government produces a raft of statistics about the variable return on a degree, employers bemoan the job-readiness of some graduates, and universities remain resolutely upbeat about their graduates’ prospects. But what do recent graduates say about their lived experience of uncertain and competitive job markets? Graduates for whom the transition from university was not smooth were the priority group for this study, rather than those who tend to be eagerly picked up by university marketers as success stories.

Drawing upon a range of data sources including focus groups with students before the end of their degree courses, and a survey and interviews (16-20 months after graduation), this study targets for analysis graduates from Arts, Creative Arts and Humanities subjects ; typically subjects that in mainstream reporting on the benefits of university study are considered to have a lower return in relation to a graduate premium. Data used is part of a larger data-set collected as part of a PhD research project which is still underway focusing on 2014 graduates from one northern, urban, Alliance group university and seeks to build a more nuanced narrative to that which emerges from debates about graduate destinations that are associated with the Destinations of Leavers of Higher Education (DLHE) survey.

The research discovers that some of the fears students have about the job market may not be borne out in reality. Tracing early trajectories shows that graduates experience considerable change in both career circumstances and ideas, with evidence of steady improvement overall. As such, this research supports critical voices which point out the limitations of the current timing of the DLHE survey. It also reveals the subjectivity of graduate responses to questions about the value of their degree for their career, but also shows that most are very proud of their academic achievements. There is a diminished confidence/understanding of the transferability of graduate skills and knowledge to areas of work not directly related to a degree subject. Graduates are not passive players in uncertain and precarious work environments and many are pro-actively responding to the challenges they face in seeking fulfilling work. A number of factors contribute to graduate resilience including the morale-boosting support from family and friends, living in a location where there are graduate opportunities and having people to turn to have career conversations. The ability to draw upon valuable resources in the guise of social, economic and cultural capital is significant in managing early challenges and differences in social background impact on this.

Implications are drawn from findings for universities, the current generation of students and graduates and those who advise and employ them.

Item Type: Other
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society > Centre for Applied Research in Health, Welfare and Policy
Publisher: Graduate Prospects/HECSU
Related URLs:
Funders: HECSU
Depositing User: Fiona Christie
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2018 11:14
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2018 11:14
URI: http://usir.salford.ac.uk/id/eprint/46332

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