A narrative review of graduate employability models: Their paradigms, and relationships to teaching and curricula

Author Identifier

Elizabeth J. Cook


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability


Deakin University


Strategic and Governance Services Centre




Cook, E. J. (2022). A narrative review of graduate employability models: Their paradigms, and relationships to teaching and curricula. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 13(1), 37-64. https://doi.org/10.21153/jtlge2022vol13no1art1483


Increasingly governments expect universities to improve graduate employment outcomes. Universities respond by implementing employability strategies in, alongside and outside curricula, with debates ongoing about whether employability is part of the curriculum, why and how. The context and process of employability is commonly framed in neoliberal and human capital paradigms. Some academics are resistant to their university’s employability strategy and programmes often adopt a ‘bolt on’ approach, which is outside the curriculum. At this time, the world is in the midst of multiple crises, linked to sustainability, technology and survival in societies, which are redefining and affecting life and work. With all these tensions in mind, should universities reconsider how they think and act with respect to graduate employability, careers and the world of work? What are the key values of employability paradigms and models, and how do they connect to the curriculum? This paper presents a narrative review of conceptual employability models published in the peer reviewed higher education literature since 2000 with each model positioned on a continuum based on its: (1) paradigm, i.e., underlying beliefs about careers, employability and employment; and (2) relationship to teaching and curricula (i.e., intra-, extra- and/or co-). I observe that most models are focused on the employability of individuals (i.e., career, skills, capabilities) and economic success (i.e., markets, knowledge economy, workforce), with limited consideration of wider contributions to local and global career development through social, ecological or technological lenses. Models with stronger individualistic focus appear to be less connected to teaching and curricula than models that also focus on others. The potential implications of these observations for universities and teaching and learning are discussed.



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