Aims to identify the need for graduate skills in the UK retail sector, and to assess the role that higher education currently plays and can potentially play in meeting these. Uses semi‐structured interviews with managers and graduates of six of the major companies, which demonstrate transferable skills dominate their skill needs. Finds that their need for demonstrated intellect and technical skills is small, and that vocational courses/course content play a definite role, but attributes required are not directly related to specific subject knowledge. Discovers that owing to competitive market place pressures, industry increasingly expects HE to play an active role in providing required skills. Claims that a lack of consensus on the extent to which HE can be held accountable for providing these skills is apparent, and that a clearer strategy for the use of graduate skills is needed, in view of the fact that HE serves a variety of different stakeholders in society with different value systems and objectives.
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