Harnessing the potential of extracurricular opportunities to enhance graduate employability in higher education


  • Maria Moxey University of Winchester
  • Edward Simpkin University of Winchester




Extra-curricular activities; employability; leadership; skills; higher education


This paper addresses the emerging theme in the literature that graduates often do not demonstrate the relevant skills to employers in job applications, interviews and in the workplace, and that HEIs should harness the potential of extra-curricular opportunities to enhance employability (Tchibozo, 2007; Griffiths et al., 2017). This study reports on a survey which was distributed to students in voluntary committee roles at one university to garner information around students’ ability to identify the skills gained in their roles that are transferable as employability skills. The students’ level of confidence and readiness to articulate these skills during the job application process was then explored. Results suggest that, while students feel as though they are confident and ready to draw on skills developed in extra-curricular voluntary roles, questions could be raised as to whether their ability to identify and articulate them accurately reflects their level of confidence. Therefore, a workshop and resource have been created as part of the project to help students be able to recognise and articulate the employability skills gained.


Allen, K., Bullough, S., Cole, D., Shibli, S. and Wilson, J. (2013) The impact of engagement in sport on graduate employability. Available at: http://hdl.voced.edu.au/10707/260938 (Accessed: 21 May 2021).

Bowers-Brown, T. and Harvey, L. (2004) ‘Are there too many graduates in the UK?: a literature review and an analysis of graduate employability’, Industry and Higher Education, 18(4), pp.243–254. Available at: https://doi.org/10.5367%2F0000000041667538 (Accessed: 26 May 2021).

Branine, M. (2008) ‘Graduate recruitment and selection in the UK: a study of recent changes in methods and expectations’, Career Development International, 13(6), pp.497–513. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/13620430810901660 (Accessed: 26 May 2021).

Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2012) ‘Thematic analysis’, in Cooper, H., Camic, P.M., Long, D.L., Panter, A.T., Rindskopf, D. and Sher, K.J. (eds.) APA handbook of research methods in Psychology: quantitative, qualitative, neuropsychological, and biological. research designs, (Volume 2). Washington DC: American Psychological Association. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1037/13620-004 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Christians, C.G. (2011) ‘Ethics and politics in qualitative research’, in Denzin, N.K. and Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.) The Sage handbook of qualitative research. 4th edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Clark, G., Marsden, R., Whyatt, J. D., Thompson, L., and Walker, M. (2015) ‘”It’s everything else you do…”: alumni views on extracurricular activities and employability’, Active Learning in Higher Education, 16(2), pp.133-147. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787415574050 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Clarke, M. (2018) ‘Rethinking graduate employability: the role of capital, individual attributes and context’, Studies in Higher Education, 43(11), pp.1923-1937. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2017.1294152 (Accessed: 16 May 2021).

Creswell, J.W. and Clark, V.L.P. (2018) Designing and conducting mixed methods research. London: Sage.

Cumming, J. (2010) ‘Contextualised performance: reframing the skills debate in research education’, Studies in Higher Education, 35(4), pp.405-419. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/03075070903082342 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Donald, W.E., Ashleigh, M.J. and Baruch, Y. (2018) ‘Students’ perceptions of education and employability: facilitating career transition from higher education into the labor market’, Career Development International, 23(5), pp.513-540. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/CDI-09-2017-0171 (Accessed: 26 May 2021).

Flick, U. (2007) ‘Concepts of triangulation’, in Flick, U. (ed.) Managing quality in qualitative research. London: SAGE Publications, Ltd.

Fowler, F.J. (2014) Survey research methods. 5th edn. London: Sage.

Frankham, J. (2017) ‘Employability and higher education: the follies of the “productivity challenge” in the Teaching Excellence Framework’, Journal of Education Policy, 32(5), pp.628-641. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2016.1268271 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Gedye, S. and Beaumont, E. (2018) ‘“The ability to get a job”: student understandings and definitions of employability’, Education + Training, 60(5), pp.406-420. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-10-2017-0159 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Griffiths, K., Bullough, S., Shibli, S. and Wilson, J. (2017) ‘The impact of engagement in sport on graduate employability: implications for higher education policy and practice’, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 9(3), pp.431-451. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/19406940.2017.1359648 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Heaton, N., McCracken, M. and Harrison, J. (2008) ‘Graduate recruitment and development: sector influence on a local market/regional economy’, Education + Training, 50(4), pp.276-288. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/00400910810880524 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Hesketh, A.J. (2000) ‘Recruiting an elite? Employers’ perceptions of graduate education and training’, Journal of Education and Work, 13(3), pp.245-271. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/713676992 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Hilliard, A.T. (2010) ‘Student leadership at the university’, Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 7(2), pp.93-98. Available at: https://doi.org/10.19030/tlc.v7i2.93 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Jackson, N. (2011) ‘Recognising a more complete education through a Lifewide Learning Award’, Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, 1(3), pp.247–261. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787415574050 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Lackner, C. and Martini, T. (2017) ‘Helping university students succeed at employment interviews: the role of self-reflection in e-portfolios’, Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 5(2), pp.3-15. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.5.2.2 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Lowden, K., Hall, S., Elliot, D. and Lewin, J. (2011) Employers’ perceptions of the employability skills of new graduates. Available at: https://www.educationandemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/employability_skills_as_pdf_-_final_online_version.pdf (Accessed: 26 May 2021).

McCaig, C. (2011) ‘Access agreements, widening participation and market positionality: enabling student choice?’, in Molesworth, M., Scullion, R. and Nixon, E. (eds.) The marketisation of higher education and student as consumer. Abingdon: Routledge.

Milburn-Shaw, H. and Walker, D. (2017) ‘The politics of student engagement’, Politics, 37(1), pp.52-66. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395715626157 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Office for Students (2020) About the TEF. Available at: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/teaching/about-the-tef/ (Accessed: 21 May 2021).

Oliver, B. (2015) ‘Redefining graduate employability and work-integrated learning: proposals for effective higher education in disrupted economies’, Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 6(1), pp.56-65. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.21153/jtlge2015vol6no1art573 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Porter, S.R., Whitcomb, M.E. and Weitzer, W.H. (2004) ‘Multiple surveys of students and survey fatigue’, New Directions for Institutional Research, (121), pp.63-73. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1002/ir.101 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Prospects (2018) Graduate unemployment rate lowest in 39 years as skills shortages boost prospects. Available at: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/prospects-press-office/graduate-unemployment-rate-lowest-in-39-years-as-skills-shortages-boost-prospects (Accessed 21 May 2021).

Roulin, N. and Bangerter, A. (2013) ‘Students’ use of extra-curricular activities for positional advantage in competitive job markets’, Journal of Education and Work, 26(1), pp.21-47. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13639080.2011.623122 (Accessed: 21 May 2021).

Stevenson, J. and Clegg, S. (2011) ‘Possible selves: students orientating themselves towards the future through extracurricular activity’, British Educational Research Journal, 37(2), pp.231-246. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/01411920903540672 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Tchibozo, G. (2007) ‘Extra-curricular activity and the transition from higher education to work: a survey of graduates in the United Kingdom’, Higher Education Quarterly, 6(1), pp.37-56. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2273.2006.00337.x (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Teng, W., Ma, C., Pahlevansharif, S. and Turner, (2019) ‘Graduate readiness for the employment market of the 4th industrial revolution: the development of soft employability skills’, Education + Training, 61(5), pp.590-604. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1108/ET-07-2018-0154 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Thompson L.J., Clark, G., Walker, M. and Whyatt, J.D. (2013) ‘”It’s just like an extra string to your bow”: exploring higher education students’ perceptions and experiences of extracurricular activity and employability’, Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(2), pp.135–147. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787413481129 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Tieu, T.T., Pancer, S.M., Pratt, M.W., Wintre, M.G.,Birnie-Lefcovitch, S.,Polivy, J. and Adams, G. (2010) ‘Helping out or hanging out: the features of involvement and how it relates to university adjustment’ Higher Education, 60(3), pp.343–355. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-009-9303-0 (Accessed: 22 May 2021).

Tymon, A. (2013) ‘The student perspective on employability’, Studies in higher education, 38(6), pp.841-856. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2011.604408 (Accessed 26 May 2021).

Winstone, N., Balloo, K., Gravett, K., Jacobs, D. and Keen, H. (2020) ‘Who stands to benefit? Wellbeing, belonging and challenges to equity in engagement in extra-curricular activities at university’, Active Learning in Higher Education, 16(2), pp.133-147. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787420908209 (Accessed: 16 May 2021).




How to Cite

Moxey, M. and Simpkin, E. (2021) “Harnessing the potential of extracurricular opportunities to enhance graduate employability in higher education ”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (21). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi21.631.