One of the under-researched effects of higher education expansion in the last two decades has been increasing recruitment of graduates by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and to sectors of economic activity and occupations to which previously, undergraduate study had not been a normal route. A key strategic objective of UK government higher education and training policies and investment during the last 25 years has been to raise workforce skills levels on the assumption that this would have economic and social benefits and indeed, was essential for economic growth, innovation and national productivity in an increasingly competitive global economy. An integral aspect of the expansion of higher education was to widen access to it from previously under-represented groups and extend opportunities to socially and economically disadvantaged sections of the population.
The assessment of how far these objectives have been met is widely debated and the current labour market provides a challenging research opportunity to investigate emerging trends. There continues to be considerable concern about the extent to which the integration of this increasing population of graduates into the labour market has reflected increased levels of national skill development and utilization and how far it has led to increasing graduate underemployment. This studentship provides the opportunity for a PhD student to conduct research that builds on the Futuretrack longitudinal survey of the cohort of students that applied through UCAS in 2005-6 to study full-time undergraduate courses at UK higher education institutions (HEIs). The survey is funded by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), which is collaborating with the University of Warwick and the ESRC to offer this studentship. See https://www.go.warwick.ac.uk/glmf for recent research undertaken by the institute and in particular, details of the Futuretrack survey, and www.hecsu.ac.uk for details about the sponsoring partner organisation and its related activities.
It is envisaged that this will be a mixed-methods project, to take advantage of the resources available to the student. In addition to targeted analysis of the micro data and qualitative responses recorded in the survey, the successful applicant would be encouraged to conduct follow-up investigations of graduates who had appropriate employment and were willing to participate, and possibly their employers. HECSU, which produces the annual What do graduates Do? analyses of first destination statistics, has an extensive database of graduate recruiters and has conducted surveys of graduates from previous cohorts during their early careers, and it may be possible for the PhD student to draw on to identify suitable case study examples of organizations or potential graduate interviewees. The studentship would be attached to the IER Futuretrack Research team, directed by Professor Kate Purcell on a project agreed with HECSU and drawing on the expertise and resources of IER, WBS and HECSU.
Application Deadline: Monday 04 October 2010