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Employability tautological trauma

Carol Elaine Cuthbert (Rhodes Business School, Faculty of Commerce, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa)
F. Owen Skae (Rhodes Business School, Faculty of Commerce, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Article publication date: 5 July 2021

Issue publication date: 9 July 2021




This paper explores the institutional and economic drivers of employability, as existing literature focuses on the individual and skills aspects, of employability. Tertiary institutions, possessing a strong academic reputation and standing amongst potential employers, will achieve high graduate employability, however when measured, this is not the case.


This exploratory study builds on Santos' career boundary theory, recognising organisational boundaries; those related to the labour market, personal-aspects and finally, cultural boundaries (Santos, 2020). 37 Universities that provided their employability rate, within 12 months of graduation for 2020, are analysed. The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Ranking, measures drivers in terms of institutional reputation through survey responses, and partnerships with employers via research and placement data.


The regression explained 19% of the variation between the number of graduates being employed and the institutional and economic drivers. Universities in the same economic context, do not have the same number of employed students. Equally, those universities with the most favourable academic reputation, do not have the most employed student rate.

Research limitations/implications

Only 37 universities provided all their employability data, thus, research with a larger sample will have to be conducted, but equally more needs to be done to establish why the smaller universities are unable to submit all the required data.


An exploratory understanding of the institutional and economic drivers of employability, is provided.



Declaration of interest statement: No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.


Cuthbert, C.E. and Skae, F.O. (2021), "Employability tautological trauma", Education + Training, Vol. 63 No. 6, pp. 939-946.



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