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The transition from higher education into work: tales of cohesion and fragmentation

Rick Holden (Leeds Business School, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK)
John Hamblett (Leeds Business School, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 18 September 2007




This series of papers aims to explore the transition from higher education into work. It reports on research undertaken over a period of two years and which sought to track a number of young graduates as they completed their studies and embarked upon career of choice.


The approach adopted is defined and discussed as one of “common sense”. Alongside the notion of “common sense” the paper deploys two further concepts, “convention” and “faith” necessary to complete a rudimentary methodological framework. The narratives which are at the heart of the papers are built in such a way as to contain not only the most significant substantive issues raised by the graduates themselves but also the tone of voice specific to each.


Five cases are presented; the stories of five of the graduates over the course of one year. Story lines that speak of learning about the job, learning about the organisation and learning about self are identified. An uneven journey into a workplace community is evident. “Fragmentation” and “cohesion” are the constructs developed to reflect the conflicting dynamics that formed the lived experience of the transitional journeys experienced by each graduate.

Research limitations/implications

Whilst the longitudinal perspective adopted overcomes some of the major difficulties inherent in studies which simply use “snap shot” data, the natural limits of the “common sense” approach restrict theoretical development. Practically speaking, however, the papers identify issues for reflection for those within higher education and the workplace concerned with developing practical interventions in the areas of graduate employability, reflective practice and initial/continuous professional development.


The series of papers offers an alternative to orthodox studies within the broader context of graduate skills and graduate employment. The papers set this debate in a more illuminating context.



Holden, R. and Hamblett, J. (2007), "The transition from higher education into work: tales of cohesion and fragmentation", Education + Training, Vol. 49 No. 7, pp. 516-585.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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