Student Employability Profiles for English

Benchmark statement, Employability & Enterprise

Brief description

This project took skills listed in the Benchmark Statement and mapped them to those typically sought by employers so that students are better equipped to demonstrate their skills in a language helpful to employers. A template and supporting documentation are provided.


For most students, employability on graduation and over the long term is a major priority. More and more higher education courses provide the means for students to develop their employability skills, to raise their own awareness of these skills and to increase their ability to articulate these skills. Such capabilities can be put into practice in personal development planning, work experience opportunities, job searching, interviews and similar situations and this is of real help when making major career and life changes.

The underlying assumption is that a student’s life long learning capability and employability can be enhanced through their higher education experience and that this can be achieved as part and parcel of academic study. The impact of the effects of widening participation in higher education, along with greater diversity in the ways in which students learn, provides a climate where increased numbers of students can and need to benefit from supported development of their employability skills.

Project design

The English Subject Centre has participated in a Higher Education Academy project to create student employability profiles to indicate the skills that typically can be developed through the study of English. The profile (available from the links below( are for use by staff, potential or current students. (For the latter group especially with regard to CV preparation or personal development planning.) The template, which is supported by explanations and reflective questions, seeks to capture key behavioural indicators or criteria identified within the Subject Benchmark statement. It cross references these with the competencies identified by members of the CIHE Employers Forum as being the attributes/qualities that are the key components they have observed in those individuals who can transform organisations and add value early in their careers (see the report Graduates Work by Professor Lee Harvey, CIHE 2001).

Key findings

English-Employability Skills

The employability skills that can be gained by studying English, as identified by the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement, are:

  • Advanced literacy and communication skills and the ability to apply these skills in appropriate contexts including the ability to present sustained and persuasive written and oral arguments cogently and coherently.
  • The capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
  • The ability to adapt and transfer the critical methods of the discipline to a variety of working environments.
  • The ability to acquire substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of the distinctive interpretative skills of the subject.
  • Competence in planning and executing essays, reports and project work.
  • The capacity for independent thought and judgement, and skills in critical reasoning.
  • The ability to comprehend and develop intricate concepts in an open ended way which involves an understanding of aims and consequences.
  • The ability to work with and in relation to others through the presentation of ideas and information and the collective negotiation of solutions.
  • The ability to understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives.
  • The ability to handle information and argument in a critical and self reflective manner.

Key findings: Employers’ Criteria

Employers have identified the attributes they seek in the graduates they recruit. The qualities or attributes used here have been identified and categorised by employer members of the Policy Forum of the Council for Industry and Higher Education:

  • Cognitive Skills/Brainpower: The ability to identify and solve problems; work with information and handle a mass of diverse data, assess risk and draw conclusions.
  • Generic Competencies: High-level and transferable key skills such as the ability to work with others in a team, communicate, persuade and have interpersonal sensitivity.
  • Personal Capabilities: The ability and desire to learn for oneself and improve one’s self awareness and performance. To be a self starter (creativity, decisiveness, initiative) and to finish the job (flexibility, adaptability, tolerance to stress).
  • Technical Ability: For example, having the knowledge and experience of working with relevant modern laboratory equipment.
  • Business and / or Organisation Awareness:An appreciation of how businesses operate through having had (preferably relevant) work experience.
  • Practical Elements – Vocational Courses: Critical evaluation of the outcomes of professional practice; reflect and review own practice; participate in and review quality control processes and risk management.

Learning outcomes

The student profile can therefore be used as a tool to help an individual student identify examples of their own skills development. By reviewing the list of possible skills from the Benchmark Statement and then mapping these to the list of qualities and attributes typically sought by employers, the student is better equipped to evidence the skills in language helpful to employers.

Project Leader

  • Jane Gawthrope, English Subject Centre

Project partner/s

Research period

June 2003 – October 2004