Employability through a philosophical lens – a conceptual analysis

PhD Thesis

Songhurst, A. 2018. Employability through a philosophical lens – a conceptual analysis. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Faculty of Education
AuthorsSonghurst, A.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameEdD

This thesis argues that the primary importance placed on skills as a panacea for economic growth is a misplaced emphasis, situated within an employability and skills narrative that has so far failed to deliver on its claims. Furthermore, the failure to acknowledge and give equal weighting to notions of personal formation and human flourishing, in other than financial terms, has resulted in a one-dimensional dominant political discourse that depicts a reductionist view of higher education and impoverishes the concept of employability.

The government-commissioned reviews and reports examined for this study chart the changing nature of this discourse over a fifty year period (1963-2013), as it moves away from the holistic vision for higher education set out in the Robbins Report (Robbins, 1963), towards a dominant discourse of ‘economically valuable skills’ (Leitch, 2006, p.44) and the assertion that universities ‘should assume an explicit responsibility for facilitating economic growth.’ (Witty, 2013, p.6). The philosophical lens through which the concept of employability is examined focuses primarily on the work of David Carr, whose thinking on moral and virtue education serves as the central voice around which other voices and perspectives can be identified and heard, and to show how a virtue ethical approach can form the basis of a credible, alternative employability and skills narrative.

By bringing a case study approach into the conceptual analysis of employability, I have been able to interrogate how a particular university perceives and engages with the concept and this has provided unique insights into how universities, through key stakeholders, engage with employability in ways that are complex and negotiated. The term ‘nostalgic pragmatism’ has been coined in an attempt to convey what I have found to be a sense of yearning for the pre-expansion period of higher education, balanced by recognition of the relative importance of the concept of employability in an era of mass participation.

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Publication process dates
Deposited27 Feb 2019
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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