28 SES 02 B, Digital Technologies, Digital Economy and Neuroscience in European Space of Education
This paper focuses on universities’ activities and structures to support graduate employability (Yorke, 2006) and especially their use of social media. Much of literature on graduate employability focuses on policy in analysing national or institutional reforms that have brought employability in the centre of attention (cf. Chadha & Toner, 2017; Knight & Yorke, 2003). The second focus in literature is on how universities have adapted their curriculums and how they have included employability skills (cf. Bridgstock, 2009; Cranmer, 2006). There is far less known about universities’ structural reforms and administrative decisions to support graduate employability. This paper brings new knowledge to the field by investigating how European universities adapted structurally and administratively to employability as a central policy aim in higher education. It especially focuses on universities’ use of social media and the role of digital platforms.
Theoretically, the study is draws from two bodies of literature, namely the political economy of higher education and the political economy of digital platforms.
Employability is part of the knowledge economy discourse in that universities are seen to educate the human capital for the economic well-being of states and regions. This has led to a policy expectation that universities would deliver the learning outcomes that employers look for (Knight & Yorke, 2003) and such a utilitarian notion has resulted in universities being called upon to change their curriculums and teaching practices in order to deliver the required skills (Teichler, 2011). The retraction of the Keynesian state’s commitment to full employment and jobs for life (Jessop, 2008) shifted the responsibility from the state to the individual, so that it is now the citizens who are responsible for safeguarding their own futures by accumulating particular skills, engaging in lifelong learning and becoming ‘employable’ (Mulderrig, 2008). Finally, the employment policies constitute the basis for higher education policies (Fairclough & Wodak, 2008). Consequently, employability of graduates has become key policy aim of higher education (Boden & Nedeva, 2010).
Today’s economic and social life is turning increasingly digital. ‘Digital economy’ refers to all businesses and sectors that increasingly rely on data, technology and the Internet (Srnicek, 2017). It operates on data, which has turned extremely profitable (Fuchs, 2009) while the platform has emerged as a new business model. Social media are digital platforms and have well penetrated the higher education sector (Komljenovic, 2018). Academics, students and university administrators use social media platforms for various reasons. In terms of employability, LinkedIn is a key platform. It is specifically targeting the higher sector with developing particular features that are generated explicitly for students and universities. Previous research revealed that universities became reliant on LinkedIn, and especially in their work with alumni (Robertson & Komljenovic, 2016).
This paper will theoretically, conceptually and empirically bring together the analysis of digital platforms and their increasing role in governance of the higher education sector with employability as one of the key policy aims. The research questions are the following:
- What kind of structures (such as career offices) have European universities introduced to support graduate employability
- Whit kind of measures and tactics (such as networks with employers or mentorships) have European universities introduced to support graduate employability
- How are European universities using social media to support graduate employability and what is the role of LinkedIn as the key platform
- What are the differences between institutions based on the country, size and age.
This study is built on quantitative research design combining two methods. The first method is large scale surveying of European universities. A short questionnaire has been designed enquiring about universities’ structures, measures and use of social media. It was applied on the Internet and disseminated with the help of the European University Association (EUA) and European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) that together encompass 900 higher education institutions in Europe. The data was statistically analysed to look for trends and correlations. The second method is digital methodology. Big data was collected using Application Programme Interface (API) and webscraping. The focus was on LinkedIn related data (what can legally be collected from LinkedIn and webscraping universities’ public webpages), followed by exploratory text-mining of gathered data sets. The data refers to universities use LinkedIn and explores the volume, scope and scale of use. The data gathered by surveying and by digital methodologies were compared and merged for a wider analysis of the field.
The biggest research outputs are: (i) the first ever mappings of European higher education institutions on the scale and scope of their digital activity in relation to LinkedIn, (ii) quantitative and internationally comparative data about the practices of European HEIs (with regard to how they work towards enhancing graduate employability). The combination of surveying and digital methodologies is novel and innovative in higher education research and will yield important insights. The biggest outcome will be the data produced. At the moment not much is known about universities’ employability measures and especially in the context of digital platforms and technology. It is not only data from surveying, but actual data from the Internet, which will provide a unique approach into exploring the field. The results will have important implications for policy makers across Europe as research will generate new knowledge on employability practices of universities, which is a key policy issue. The research will also provide comparative data between European states and between the size, type or position of HEIs. Universities will learn about practices of promotion, branding in relation to employability. And finally, the research will investigate the commodification and monetisation opportunities of big data, which is seen as key in the emerging digital economy.
Boden, R., & Nedeva, M. (2010). Employing discourse: universities and graduate “employability.” Journal of Education Policy, 25(1), 37–54. Bridgstock, R. (2009). The graduate attributes we’ve overlooked: enhancing graduate employability through career management skills. Higher Education Research & Development, 28(1), 31–44. Chadha, D., & Toner, J. (2017). Focusing in on employability: using content analysis to explore the employability discourse in UK and USA universities. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 14(33). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-017-0071-0 Cranmer, S. (2006). Enhancing graduate employability: best intentions and mixed outcomes. Studies in Higher Education, 31(2), 169–184. Fairclough, N., & Wodak, R. (2008). The Bologna Process and the knowledge-based economy: a critical discourse analysis approach. In B. Jessop, N. Fairclough, & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the Knowledge-Based Economy in Europe (pp. 109–128). Rotterdam: Sense. Fuchs, C. (2009). A contribution to the critique of the political economy of the Internet. Rethinking Marxism: A Journal of Economics, Culture & Society, 21(3), 387–402. Jessop, B. (2008). A Cultural Political Economy of Competitiveness and its Implications for Higher Education. In B. Jessop, N. Fairclough, & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the Knowledge-Based Economy in Europe (pp. 13–39). Rotterdam and Taipei: Sense Publishers. Knight, P. T., & Yorke, M. (2003). Employability and Good Learning in Higher Education. Teaching in Higher Education, 8(1), 3–16. Komljenovic, J. (2018). Higher education actors as prosumers: the case of LinkedIn reassembling the university. Globalisation Societies and Education. Mulderrig, J. (2008). Using Keywords Analysis In CDA: Evolving Discourses of the Knowledge Economy in Education. In B. Jessop, N. Fairclough, & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the Knowledge-Based Economy in Europe (pp. 149–170). Rotterdam: Sense. Robertson, S. L., & Komljenovic, J. (2016). Unbundling the University and Making Higher Education Markets. In A. Verger, C. Lubienski, & G. Steiner-Khamsi (Eds.), World Yearbook of Education 2016, The Global Education Industry (pp. 211–227). London: Routledge. Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform capitalism. Cambridge, England ; Malden, Massachusetts: Polity. Teichler, U. (2011). Bologna – Motor or Stumbling Block for the Mobility and Employability of Graduates? In H. Schomburg & U. Teichler (Eds.), Employability and Mobility of Bachelor Graduates in Europe: Key Results of the Bologna Process (pp. 3–41). Rotterdam, Boston, Taipei: Sense Publishers. Yorke, M. (2006). Employability in higher education: what it is – what it is not. York: The Higher Education Academy.
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