Universities should look beyond the image of student unions as political and campaigning bodies and ask them to help prepare undergraduates for the jobs market, academics were told this week.
A conference on student employability at Derby University heard that student unions across the country were keen to work with university authorities to help improve undergraduates' prospects.
Kate Lester of the National Union of Students told the conference that unions in some parts of the country already hosted "key skills" workshops and worked closely with careers services.
She told The Times Higher : "The political and campaigning role has been at the forefront of the NUS's image, but other aspects of our work are also now coming to the fore. We need to ensure that students, having been encouraged to go into higher education, leave it with the skills they will need in the jobs market."
The conference was organised by the Enhancing Student Employability Coordination Team, set up in 2002 to consider how universities can best prepare students for the jobs market.
Delegates also discussed graduate entrepreneurship and the effectiveness of alumni surveys in helping to build a picture of the careers prospects of graduates.
Earlier this month, the head of the employability project, Peter Knight of the Open University, urged academics to work more closely together in the design of degree programmes to ensure teaching methods helped students to develop personal attributes employers look for, such as confidence and initiative.