The Social Embeddedness of the Influence of Higher Education Expansion on Graduate Employability

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Hörsaal 47 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Pepka BOYADJIEVA, Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge, BAS, Bulgaria
Petya ILIEVA-TRICHKOVA, Institute for the Study of Societies and Knowledge, BAS, Bulgaria

The paper aims to explore how higher education expansion and social and economic transformations in nine post-socialist countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) influence on graduate employability. Drawing on data from the European Social Survey (2010) and the official statistics (Eurostat), it investigates different dimensions of graduate employability and combines macro-level and micro-level factors in explaining national differences in it. It is argued that employability refers to graduates’ abilities to find an employment of a specific quality and that these abilities have two sides: agency-related and structure-related. Two aspects of graduate employability are outlined: vertical mismatch and unemployment and the analysis focuses in particular on the first one.

By using descriptive statistics, bivariate associations and logistic regression the study reveals that higher education expansion has created new conditions and challenges for graduates’ employability. It does not allow drawing the conclusion that the expansion itself automatically translates into worsening of the employability. Rather, it provides evidence that this relationship is mediated through the state of the economy in each country. Thus, graduates’ employability depends on other factors such as the state of the economy, the structure of the graduate body and how it matches to the labour market demands.

The paper shows that in the era of mass higher education and knowledge-based economies, the development of higher education of a given country is an important part of its specific ‘institutional package’. It also demonstrates that the problems that graduates currently experience on the labour market may be viewed as a sign that in the context of higher education expansion higher education has characteristics of a positional good. This raises new questions and arguments in the ongoing discussion if and when higher education could be defined as public or private good.