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Getting in, getting on: fragility in student and graduate identity

Smith, Sally; Sobolewska, Emilia; Hunter, David


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Prof Sally Smith
Head of Graduate Apprenticeships and Skills Development and Professor

David Hunter


Over a period of three years this longitudinal study explored new approaches to consider student identity during the transition from university to employment. Students were followed through a new portfolio-based final year course and beyond university into the workplace. With universities increasingly recognising the employment aspirations of their students, facilitating self-awareness of graduate attributes and the development of employability skills are becoming integral to the higher education proposition; however the impact of employability initiatives is not well understood. The aim of the study was to examine changes in self-identification through the development of a portfolio of work using Holmes’ Claim Affirmation Model of Emergent Identity as the conceptual framework. Data was collected through student questionnaires and graduate interviews. The study uncovered the ways in which role models, developmental networks, and imaginings of a possible self were used in identity work. A fragile re-construction of identity was observed as graduates faced the labour market, with this fragility continuing to be experienced while navigating an uncertain work landscape. We used these findings to allow us to refine Holmes’ Model by (a) adding a dynamic element and (b) grounding it on longitudinal data.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 20, 2019
Online Publication Date May 5, 2019
Publication Date May 5, 2019
Deposit Date Jan 21, 2019
Publicly Available Date Nov 6, 2020
Journal Higher Education Research & Development
Print ISSN 0729-4360
Electronic ISSN 1469-8366
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 38
Issue 5
Pages 1046-1060
Keywords student identity; graduate identity; fragile identity; portfolio; employability,;curriculum design
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date Jan 21, 2019


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