The Ethics of Employability in Higher Education

In the current neoliberal climate of higher education, the concept of employability has been uncritically embraced (Higdon, 2016). The question of who is shaping policy surrounding employability is one which has received limited attention and research. There is a push by governments and industries to incorporate employability into education agendas (Higdon, 2016). This push may be driven by governments in their quest to build human capital in order to contribute to the wealth and prosperity of the country. However, Kerr and Hosie (2013) believe that universities are driven by the optimisation of market share in their pursuit of greater revenue. As such, changes to universities priorities and agendas may be a response to achieving this strategic plan.

Costea, Amiridis, and Crump (2012) suggest that the notion of employability has become a priority for universities, so much so that it is a key indicator with which to measure and compare university performance. However, they argue that there are negative aspects to consider when assessing the ethos of employability and how it has permeated universities in recent years. When education and employability are intrinsically linked, it limits the opportunities for students to be able to fully explore and discover their inner qualities without agenda driven influence (Costea et al., 2012). Universities may be shaping and moulding graduates to fit within a particular labour market. This raises ethical questions about the place of employability in higher education.


Costea, B., Amiridis, K., & Crump, N. (2012). Graduate Employability and the Principle of Potentiality: An Aspect of the Ethics of HRM. Journal of Business Ethics, 111(1), 25-36. doi:

Higdon, R. D. (2016). Employability: The missing voice: How student and graduate views could be used to develop future higher education policy and inform curricula. Power and Education, 8(2), 176-195. :doi:10.1177/1757743816653151

Kerr, G., & Hosie, P. (2013). Strategic avoidance: can universities learn from other sectors? Australian Universities’ Review, The, 55(1), 59-65.


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