Careers service: Scoping the needs, career aspirations and work experience of English students

Employability & Enterprise

Project Description

The University of Hertfordshire project will:

  1. scope the needs, career aspirations and work experience of students of English across the university;
  2. develop and run a workshop at which English Studies alumni would speak on their work, how they entered their profession, and how they now draw on skills and knowledge from their degree;
  3. write up this input as case studies for wider dissemination (e.g. via Subject Centre newsletter or report), and to evaluate the impact of the event for the students;
  4. target students of English Language and English Literature, all levels (pool of 350 students; single honours, major, joint).

This is one a series of projects. You can read about them all on the main project page.

Project report

Benefits to English students

Many University of Hertfordshire students of English, in common with others both from the discipline and outside, particularly in post-1992 universities, face specific challenges in accessing the graduate labour market:

  1. perception of limited range of options open to graduates from non-vocational degrees;
  2. difficulty in articulating their skills and experience and in pitching the benefits of hiring them to a potential employer;
  3. poor self confidence;
  4. prolonged transitions to graduate careers.  The University of Hertfordshire’s latest DLHE statistics demonstrate that of the Hertfordshire Humanities graduates who are in employment 6 months post-graduation, 56.5% of them will be in non-graduate level posts. (No comparator statistics are available from other institutions.) However Hertfordshire Humanities graduates are more likely to be unemployed at the 6 months snapshot date than Humanities graduates in England overall (7.29% vs 6.2%), and also more likely to be unemployed than Hertfordshire graduates overall (7.29% vs 6.7%).

The project would:

  • help students of English to explore a broader range of career options while still at university;
  • help overcome the fear that these are not open to graduates of English by explicit messages from alumni;
  • articulate pathways into the career, highlight development opportunities for immediate action and signpost support within the university;
  • pilot career development work with alumni within the institution, possibly, in the medium-term, leading to a bank of mentors for English students;
  • provide audiovisual resources and written case studies to inform future cohorts;
  • serve as a catalyst for other bespoke careers activity over the year (e.g. piloting a workshop on Interview Skills for English students; establishment of internship programme.)

Outline Plan of Activities

  • Baseline audit to learn more about our students of English (level 2 & 3) – questionnaire on levels of self awareness, opportunity awareness, decision making and transition skills;  career aspirations; and current work experience (role, sector, hours) – to be handed out/gathered in lectures, offering prize for those questionnaires drawn. (Oct 2006)
  • Analysis of audit, mailshot to alumni (Nov 2006)
  • Mailshot to students (to home address over Christmas to harness parental influence), and targeted follow-up weekly emails;
  • Half-day workshop for students (levels 1-3) with English alumni speaking on their work, sector, day-to-day realities, how they entered their profession, tips to success and how they now draw on skills & knowledge from their degree.  Where possible speakers will be chosen from as broad a range of career paths as possible, and in particular to present options beyond the usual suspects. We are aware that the Subject Centre has already done some work in this area and would plan to build on this (February 2007). 
    The presentations will be filmed and written up as case studies to inform future students.  Production of case studies by end April 2007.)
  •  Evaluation of workshop and its impact by student questionnaire at end of workshop to inform future activity; at end of 2007 we will carry out a comparison between the graduate destinations of this cohort and the previous.

Desired outcomes

  • In-depth snapshot of vocational aspirations and preparedness of English students at University of Hertfordshire to inform future activities;
  • Students inspired by alumni role models to take active steps to manage careers before graduation;
  • Engaged pilot group of alumni enthused to work further to mentor English Studies students;
  • Initial resources developed to address specific career management issues for English Studies students.

Other Information

Project Team
This will be a joint initiative between Catrin Davies, (University of Hertfordshire Careers Service), Dr Andrew Maunder (Subject Leader for English Literature), Dr Marjolein Groesfma (Subject Leader for English Language) and Elizabeth Paine (University of Hertfordshire Alumni & Development Manager).

Contact Details

Catrin Davies, Careers Adviser
University of Hertfordshire