Classifying university employability strategies: three case studies and implications for practice and research

Stephane A. Farenga, Kathleen M. Quinlan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This qualitative study documents three main strategic models used by Russell Group Careers Services to support students’ preparation for graduate careers. It is framed against the backdrop of a challenging graduate labour market, discussions of employability in the literature, and the policy assumption that universities are responsible for developing students’ employability. First, we classify the strategies used at Russell Group universities through a content analysis of Careers Service websites. We then select three case studies representing contrasting patterns of provision. Interviews with Careers Service directors and staff at the case study institutions provide the rationales behind these three different strategies, which we describe as “Hands-Off”, “Portfolio” and “Award.” Drawing on 17 interviews and analysis of participation data provided by the Careers Services, we compare and contrast the approaches. The first case fills gaps in an esteemed academic system in which most students already have social capital. The second case focuses on segmenting their market to directly serve varied student needs. The third case emphasises partnership with academics and embedding career development within the curriculum. We take a critical perspective on these strategies in relation to major theoretical conceptions of employability found in the literature. Finally, we suggest implications for practices within Careers Services and further research in this under-developed field.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767
Number of pages787
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2015


  • higher education
  • employability
  • careers services
  • career development
  • graduate attributes


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