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Universities, Employability and Human Development (2013-2016)

Melanie Walker, with Tristan McCowan (UK, project co-ordinator), Eric Ananga in Ghana, Ebrahim Oanada in Kenya, and Segun Adedeji and Stephen Oyebade in Nigeria.  

Funding: British Council

The research project was proposed by the British Council to help identify what universities were already doing and what else they could do to enhance the employability of their graduates. The project involved five countries: the UK, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya and ran for three years from 2013 to 2016, with a focus on undergraduate education and case studies of universities in each country, 14 universities in total. A comprehensive final report including chapters on each participating country, was prepared by the research team and recommendations drawn out to contribute to discussions about the direction and practices of higher education in sub-Saharan Africa. The South Africa study was especially concerned to understand employability as a matter of justice inside universities – what universities could do to reduce injustice - even while recognizing the real constraints imposed on universities by the broader economy and labour market. It produced case studies of four South African universities– University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) and University of the Free State (UFS), the historically disadvantaged comprehensive University of Venda (Univen), and a comprehensive university, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).  The research methods included a desktop review of literature and an empirical quantitative and qualitative field work phase in the case study universities during the second and third year. Secondary data was also collected: policy documents, strategic plans, relevant faculty and departmental reports, as well as other important documents such as from the graduate and student placement office. The quantitative data was collected through an online survey of all final year students in the four case study universities.  A total of 1618 (17.5 per cent) students responded to the survey. In all 165 people were also interviewed - final year students and staff in the universities, focusing on general degrees in science and/or engineering, arts social science, and commerce.   Thenumbers at each university varied in relation to how many students were willing to volunteer.  Not all were interviewed individually, some were interviewed in focus groups where there were larger numbers of volunteers. A sample of 25 of the students were later tracked about one year after graduation for a telephone interview.  In addition, 17 employers were interviewed in order to understand how they view graduates produced by the universities.

Employability book

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