CGHE seminar 22

Employability in higher education: tensions, risks and alternatives

  • Thursday, 14 Jul 2016 12:30 - 14:00
  • Room 901, UCL Institute of Education
  • Tristan McCowan, UCL Institute of Education
  • CGHE Research Programme 2


The employability agenda in higher education has spread from its original base in the Anglo-Saxon countries to become a veritable global phenomenon. While to a large extent it is endorsed by supranational agencies, nation states, institutions and students alike, it nevertheless presents some highly problematic implications for universities.

This seminar starts by outlining examples of employability provision in higher education and their implications from a recent research project in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Next, there is a normative analysis of the question, highlighting three dimensions: the implications for equality of opportunity, given middle-class capture of employability enhancing activities; the ethical relevance for universities, and the impact on the moral and civic development of students; and the coherence of the agenda with the fundamental purposes of the university. Attention to these three factors demands a serious rethinking of the practice of employability in higher education.

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Tristan McCowan

Tristan McCowan

Tristan McCowan is Reader in Education and International Development at the UCL Institute of Education, London. His work focuses on the areas of access to and quality of higher education, alternative and innovative universities, citizenship education and human rights, and covers a broad range of contexts, particularly in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently leading multi-country research projects focusing on higher education pedagogy and graduate destinations. He is the author of Rethinking Citizenship Education (Continuum, 2009) and Education as a Human Right (Bloomsbury, 2013).

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