Employability horror story

November 6, 2008

It is, perhaps, very appropriate that Lee Harvey's letter (30 October) should have been printed in the week leading up to Hallowe'en and in the same issue as your leader article on the validity of university degrees in "alternative medicine".

The scary prospect of the Higher Education Funding Council for England linking funding with employability is compounded by Harvey's reference to some spectral "essence of employability". This, presumably, is based on the model promoted by Harvey and colleagues in the Higher Education Academy's employability team, based on vague notions such as "employability skills", coupled with the spooky idea of "meta-cognition" and the ghostly "self-efficacy".

Most universities have accepted without critical thought the now-dominant skills and attributes approach to employability, based on ideas that are probably as conceptually, theoretically and empirically sound as those on which "alternative medicine" are based.

While they do this, they fail to address the realities of how graduates engage with, and experience, the labour market, particularly in terms of its uncertainties and structured inequities. Time for some exorcism in the employability arena?

Leonard Holmes, Watford.

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