22 SES 04 C, Employability and Transition to Work of Higher Education Graduates
The paper focuses on one of the “construction sites” (Teichler 2009) of the relationship between higher education and the world of work, namely the transition from university to work, as it is experienced by students in two European countries: England and Romania. The main aim was to describe, understand and interpret the transitional journeys of students via higher education by looking into the reasons why they go to university, what it is like being a student, the tensions of multiple status positions (work and student life) and how the experience contributes to their planned future employment plans.
In the paper, the concept of ‘education-to-work transitions’ is analysed through the multiple status experiences of final year undergraduate students with the aim of answering the main research question: What are the characteristics of school-to-work transitions in two European countries and how does agency and structure shape the experiences of university students? To explore these questions I use the theoretical map of the structure and agency debate, embedding concepts from Pierre Bourdieu (habitus, capital, field, practice), Norbert Elias (figurations), Phil Hodkinson (turning points) and Maarten Wolbers (double status positions).
Wolbers (2001) distinguished three types of double statuses when talking about youngsters combining learning and working: young people who combine learning and working in the dual system, full-time students who have jobs, and employed individuals who invest in training to advance their working career. My research focused primarily on Wolbers’ second category, on full time students and their extracurricular activities and I found that there are students who engage in more than one or two activities during their university course and consequently multiple status students is a more appropriate term to describe them.
The research is taken from a biographical perspective, using students’ life stories as basis for social research in order to understand processes of transitions (Merrill and West 2009). This perspective, as Goodson and Sikes (2001) argue, has “the potential to make a far-reaching contribution to the problem of understanding the links between ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues’”.
Bourdieu, P., 1977. Outline of theory of practice. Cambridge: University Press. Cortazzi, Martin. 2005. Analysing narratives and documents. In Coleman, Marianne and Briggs, Ann R. J. (eds.) Research methods in educational leadership and management, London: SAGE Publications, pp. 196-212. Elias, N. 1991. The Society of Individuals. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Goodson, I. and Sikes, P. 2001. Life History Research in Educational Settings - Learning from Lives. Doing Qualitative Research in Educational Settings. Buckingham: Open University Press. Hodkinson, P. 1998. The Origins of a Theory of Career Decision‐making: a case study of hermeneutical research. British Educational Research Journal, 25:5, pp. 557-572. Lieblich, A., Tuval-Mashiach, R. and Zilber, T. 1998. Narrative research. Reading, Analysis and Interpretation. Applied Social Research Methods Series. vol 47. London: SAGE Publications. Merrill, B. and West, L. 2009. Using biographical methods in social research. London: SAGE Publications. Riessman, C. K. 1993. Narrative Analysis. Qualitative Research Methods Series. California: Sage. Squire, C. 2008. Experience-centred and culturally-oriented approaches to narrative. In Andrews, M., Squire, C. and Tamboukou, M. (eds.) 2008. Doing narrative research. London: Sage Publications. pp. 41-63. Teichler, U. 2009. Higher education and the world of work. Conceptual frameworks, comparative perspectives. Empirical findings. Rotterdam/Taipei: Sense Publishers. Ward, B. 2003. Reflecting on the Value and Use of the Edited Topical Life History Approach - a Research Approach. In O'Donoghue, T. and Punch, K. (eds.) Qualitative Educational Research in Action - Doing and Reflecting. London: Routledge Farmer, pp. 26-41. Webster, L. and Mertova, P. 2007. Using narrative inquiry as a research method: An introduction to using critical event narrative analysis in research on learning and teaching. London: Routledge. Wolbers, M. H. J. 2003. Learning and Working: double statuses in youth transitions. In Müller, W. and Gangl, M. (eds.). Transitions from education to work in Europe. Oxford University Press. 131-155.
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