Introduction and guidance

‘Employability’ is one of the current buzzwords in higher education across Europe. Governments and the European Commission take it for granted that one of the major functions of universities is to enhance the employability of their graduates, and assume that the main reason anyone would want to go to university is to improve their job prospects.

Although this agenda can sometimes seem like a threat to the traditional values of a university education, implying that you should all be required to take compulsory units on entrepreneurship and the like, this is not necessarily the case. Recent discussions have stressed that ‘employability is, at heart, a process of learning’; it is ‘about how individuals engage with opportunities, and reflect and articulate their skills and experiences’. Put another way, at Bristol we aim to help you develop your 'employability' not by making radical changes to course structures but by helping you to develop the skills you need to succeed on your courses and to recognise how these skills can be used in other contexts.

Student skills are sometimes described as either ‘subject-specific’ or ‘generic’. This isn't necessarily helpful; almost all the skills which you need in order to do well in your studies are likely to be useful to you later in life, while the best way of enhancing your 'employability' is to do well in your degree programme. However, one useful way of thinking about the distinction is to say that it has nothing to do with the nature of the skills themselves but is rather a matter of the form of delivery. In other words, there are skills which are best delivered and developed in a subject-specific context, in the course of your programme, and there are skills essential for success which, if you don't possess them already, you'll need to develop alongside your degree studies.

Edit this page