The research team from 12 countries
From autumn 1998 to spring 2000, about 3,000 graduates each from 9 countries in the European Region, one EFTA country (Norway), one of the Central and Eastern European countries in transition (the Czech Republic) and one economically advanced country outside Europe (Japan) provided information through a written questionnaire on the relationship between higher education and employment four years after graduation. They respondents answered questions on their socio-biographic background, study paths, transition from higher education to employment, early career, links between study and employment, their job satisfaction and their retrospective view on higher education.
Key research questions
The aim of the research project "Higher Education and Graduate Employment in Europe" was to analyse employment and work of graduates from institutions of higher education in nine European countries during the first few years after graduation.The following objectives were pursued.
- In-Depth Knowledge on Current Issues of Higher Education and Work
- Socio-biographic Background and Career
- Exploring International Mobility
- Identification of Early Career Trajectories
- Identification of Impacts of Higher Education
- Theoretical and Methodological Improvements
- Preparatory Study for a Regular Data Base
In-Depth Knowledge on Current Issues of Higher Education and Work
The project addressed current issues of graduate employment and work. It aimed to provide information on the ways in which graduates cope with the most urgent and pressing challenges in the 1990s. Substantial findings were expected, among others, regarding the following questions:
- Technology: How do employment and work change in the technologically most advanced sectors of production and services, and how do graduates master these changed tasks?
- New employment and upgrading: What changes in occupational sectors and work tasks occur as a consequence both of the increase in student enrolment and of growing labour market problems? How do graduates fare in sectors viewed hitherto as marginal for graduate employment, in positions traditionally not considered suitable for graduates or in newly emerging occupational roles?
- Unemployment: What happens to graduates who experience longer than average periods of unemployment immediately after graduation? What are the impacts of re-training and other counteracting measures? What are the effects of early employment problems on the subsequent stages of professional life?
- Regional disparities: How does employment and work differ according to region? What are the specific conditions of higher education in economically and socially disadvantaged regions? To what extent do we observe regional mobility of graduates from disadvantaged regions, and what are the consequences of this mobility both for the disadvantaged and for other regions?
- General knowledge, attitudes and social skills: What role do aspects as general knowledge, attitudes and social skills play for job performance during the early years after graduation?
Socio-Biographic Background and Career Opportunity
The study, on the one hand, raised the question as to whether the relationships between socio-biographic background (parental education, employment and wealth, gender, and regional background), education (over various stages) and career have changed in the 1990s. On the other hand, the study aimed to establish the extent to which overt links between higher education and employment are spurious and have to be attributed to the different student intake. Exploring European and International Dimensions of Graduate Employment and Work The study aimed to be the first of its kind providing representative information on the extent to which graduate employment and work have already become European and international. It aimed to show, for example,
- how many graduates from European institutions of higher education get employed in other European countries or in countries outside Europe;
- what role foreign language proficiency plays on the job; how important European and international communication and co-operation are for graduates' work tasks,
- to what extent knowledge of culture and society of other European countries is employed;
- whether temporary study abroad or enrolment in programmes strongly emphasising the European dimension have a corresponding impact on graduates' subsequent employment and work assignments.
Information of this kind is a pre-requisite for assessing the specific needs for European higher education policies as well as the impacts of prior policies and activities in this area.
Identification of Early Career Trajectories
The analysis focused on the transition from higher education to employment and on employment and work during the first four years after graduation. As educational paths were identified retrospectively, the study allowed to examine the trajectories over a substantial period of the life-course. The study analysed inner dynamics and the relative autonomy of the transition process, i.e. the extent to which job search, transitory employment and unemployment etc. on the part of the graduates, guidance, counselling and assistance in job search on the part of higher education institutions and employment agencies, as well as recruitment policies on the part of the employers, shape the graduates' early career stages.
Identification of Impacts of Higher Education
The project, further, aimed to overcome the limitations of most existing statistics and surveys which do not allow to understand the impact of the various dimensions of higher education on graduate employment and work. In surveying the provisions and conditions of higher education and key aspects of study behaviour, this study aimed to provide evidence of different degrees of success or failure in preparing students for professional life. Also, it aimed to examine the impact of different models of diversification in Europe. Chart Framework of the Study
- Structures of the higher education system: The study aimed to establish the links between types of programmes, types of higher education institutions and differences of institutional and departmental reputation on the one hand and, the graduates' careers on the other.
- Curricular impacts: The questions were raised as to whether certain curricular thrusts within the major fields of study - for example the extent of general knowledge versus specialisation, disciplinarity versus interdisciplinarity, academic versus professional emphasis, etc. - turn out to be significantly relevant for graduate employment and work.
- Study behaviour: The survey also addressed - retrospectively - the graduates' actual study behaviour prior to graduation. Available research suggests that the ways students' make use of study conditions and provisions are more powerful in explaining study outcomes than the conditions and provisions as such.
- Study achievements: The survey addressed former students' achievements in terms of grades, and possibly other achievement measures used by the institutions of higher education. This allowed to analyse the extent to which achievement of higher education predicts career success and will help to explain the discrepancies between study achievements and early career success.
Theoretical and Methodological Improvement
The project aimed to contribute to theoretical innovation and methodological improvement in the area of research into higher education and employment. On the one hand, the project provided an opportunity to examine the need for revision of prevailing concepts in economics and sociology as regards the relationships between higher education and employment in the light of changing technologies, values, management and personnel policies as well as endemic uncertainties and vagueness as regards acquisition and utilisation of academic knowledge. On the other hand, the project team devoted a considerable component of its joint efforts to the development of a genuinely comparative methodology suitable for analysing competencies, employment and work in Europe. Categories were chosen or newly developed which are sufficiently neutral and polyvalent to allow for a comparative study of employment, work and utilisation of knowledge in a substantial number of European countries.
Preparatory Study for a Regular Data Base
The study aimed to serve as a first step towards a regular data base on graduate employment and work in Europe. For this purpose, available expertise was brought together in research team in order to develop concepts and a respective terminology suitable to analyse the varied European traditions in this domain in a genuinely comparative manner, i.e. identifying functional categories to overtly different phenomena and definitions; identify the best possible solution for analysing complex relationships between higher education and employment, work and career within the typical potentials and limits of standardised questionnaires; and provide a detailed design of a graduate questionnaire survey and a master questionnaire which could serve as a model for regular graduate surveys in the European Union.
Altogether the project aimed to provide a solid comparative account on employment and work of graduates from institutions of higher education in Europe. Information on employment and work of graduates from institutions of higher education is generally relevant for decision-making by politicians, as a valuable information base both for employers and leaders, managers and teachers in higher education, for educational and career decision-making by students.
Given the widespread consensus on the importance of such information, it is surprising to note how scattered and weak the available information up to now is. This study provided for the first time reliable comparative data. Making Use of the Potentials of Comparative Study
A comparative study in Europe can be more valuable than national studies in several important respects. The study was expected to serve as a de-mystification of concepts prevailing in individual countries - for example regarding the typical problems of certain fields of study, the role of short-cycle higher education for employment and work, etc. - by showing contrasting evidence from other societies; or, in contrast, to identify macro-societal factors which play a role in determining graduate employment and work; to determine the position of one country in a comparative perspective. Such "bench-marking" of a problem frequently mobilises efforts for change more readily than debates within a national context; to develop a conceptional framework for a study which is not biased by the idiosyncrasies of individual countries, but allows to analyse problems in a genuinely comparative perspective.
- Research proposal PDF
Questionnaires for Graduates of Institutions of Higher Education
- - Master questionnaire (English language) PDF
- - Questionnaire from Austria PDF
- - Questionnaire from Czech Republic PDF
- - Questionnaire from Germany PDF
- - Questionnaire from Spain PDF
- - Questionnaire from Sweden PDF
- - Questionnaire from United Kingdom PDF
- List of Publications and Papers PDF
Dissemination and Deliverables
- The concept and methodology of the project "Higher Education and Graduate Employment" was reported upon suggestion by the Austrian government at the Meeting of the Directors General of Higher Education (ministries of education of the European Union) and Heads of Rectors‘ Conference in Vienna on 28-29 October 1998. This meeting served to examine the potentials of statistics and surveys on graduate employment and work. The participants suggested to present the results of the project at a later stage to the Meeting.
- The questionnaire "Higher Education and Employment" was made known to many institutions of higher education. Some institutions in Germany and Spain accepted the invitation of conducting a survey of their "alumni" in association with the European study. The project eventually will revise the questionnaire in order to make it known as a model questionnaire for use by individual institutions.
- The questionnaire also was employed in consulting researchers and agencies outside Europe interested in undertaking graduate surveys, e.g. the Chinese Ministry of Education in December 1999 (World Bank Project on Science and Engineering Teaching) and the Association of African Universities in September 2000 (training programme of higher education researchers in Africa).
- A seminar took place in Tokyo on 30 May, 2000 (CHEERS Euro-Japanese Workshop), where the authors of the Japanese country report discussed their draft with some team members from 4 countries participating in the project.
Conferences with invited representatives from government, the world of work, higher education institutions, as well as academic experts were held or are scheduled:
- Japanese-European Comparison on Higher Education and Graduate Employment, 2 June 2000, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan
- "La formación y el empleo de los universitarios en Espana y en Europa", 11-13 September 2000, Santander, Spain;
- Trends in Graduate Employment: how do British Graduates Compare?", 24 January 2001, Centre for Higher Education Research and Information, London, United Kingdom
- As a start of international presentations of the project, a special panel "Transition from Higher Education to Work" with 8 speakers of the project from 4 countries was reserved at the 12th World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association (IIRA), 29 May-2 June 2000, Tokyo, Japan.
- Presentations of the results began at various national and international expert conferences on higher education, labour market, current societal changes, etc. Among others, the co-ordinator of the project presented the results at four international conferences in Germany, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
- The project also serves as a basis for information in the framework of teaching in the doctoral or advanced training programmes on higher education. For example, it formed the basis of one-day or two-day training seminars held by the project co-ordinator in February 2000 in Budapest (jointly arranged by the University of Debrecem and the Hungarian Institute for Educational Research) and in February 2001 in Bern (jointly arranged by the universities of Bern and Lausanne).
Institut für Soziologie
Institute of Sociological Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences
11636 Praha 1 (Prag)
Research Unit for the
Sociology of Education
Université de Bourgogne
Institut de Recherche sur
l'Economie de l'Education
Faculté des Sciences Mirande
F-21011 Dijon Cedex
International Centre for Higher Education Research (INCHER-Kassel)
für Berufs- und Hochschulforschung)
IARD Istituto di Ricerca
Via Soncino, 1
Università di Milano II-Bicocca
Dipartimento di Sociologia, vile Sarca
202 - 20126 Milano
Faculty of Education
Higashi-Ku, Fukuoka 812-8581
Japan Institute of Labor
|Per Olaf Aamodt
|Liv Anne Støren
Studies in Innovation, Research and Education
|José-Ginés Mora Ruiz
Centre for the Study of Higher Education Management (CEGES)
Edificio 6G -1p
Technical University of Valencia
Dept. of Economics
SE-405 30 Göteborg
Faculty of Social Science
University of Iceland
|Egbert de Weert
University of Twente
P.O. Box 217
|Rolf van der Velden
Research Centre for Education
and the Labour Market (ROA)
Faculty of Economics and
P.O. Box 616
The Open University
Centre for Higher Education
Research & Information (CHERI)
344-354 Gray's Inn Road
WCIX 3BP London