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The role of social capital in Iranian agricultural students' acquisition of generic skills

Hesamedin Gholami (Institute of Agricultural Education and Extension, Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), Tehran, Iran)
Amir Alambeigi (Department of Agricultural Extension and Education, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran)
Mohammadreza Farrokhnia (Department of Education and Learning Sciences, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Omid Noroozi (Department of Education and Learning Sciences, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands)
Mostafa Karbasioun (University of Shahrekord, Shahrekord, Iran)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 4 August 2020

Issue publication date: 27 April 2021

115

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to investigate the role of social capital in Iranian agricultural students' acquisition of generic skills. For this purpose, the effect of various social capital dimensions on students' generic skills development was examined.

Design/methodology/approach

A survey was conducted among 190 third- and fourth-year undergraduate students in one of the colleges of agriculture and natural resources in Iran. The partial least square method was used to examine the relationships among various social capital dimensions (i.e. social values, social trust, social networks, social cohesion, social participation, social communications and information sharing) with students' generic skills.

Findings

The findings showed that social networks and social participation are effective factors in the generic skills development of students. A model designed for the development of students' generic skills based on their social capital level predicted up to 33% of generic skills' variances. Furthermore, the multi-group analysis showed that males and females vary on how various social capital dimensions affect their generic skills. In this respect, the social participation dimension had a significantly greater impact on female students' generic skills, whereas the generic skills of male students were influenced more by the social cohesion dimension.

Practical implications

Developing generic skills through social capital can be considered as an effective strategy in countries that do not have formal programs for developing students' generic skills. Additionally, higher education policymakers should present a more supportive approach for developing generic skills of female students through social participation in the campuses.

Originality/value

So far, no study has examined the relationships among various social capital dimensions and students' generic skills in Iran. The picture is even more unclear when it comes to the differences between male and female students. The results of this study confirmed the importance of social networks and social participation in the universities to support students and to improve their generic skills and, consequently, their employability competencies. Furthermore, it could be inferred that male and female students have similarities and also differences in terms of the effect of social capital on developing generic skills that can provide a path for future studies.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would also like to thank the research participants who contributed to this study.

Citation

Gholami, H., Alambeigi, A., Farrokhnia, M., Noroozi, O. and Karbasioun, M. (2021), "The role of social capital in Iranian agricultural students' acquisition of generic skills", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 508-527. https://doi.org/10.1108/HESWBL-01-2019-0015

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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