Employers and Universities: Conceptual Dimensions, Research Evidence and Implications

  • Michael TomlinsonEmail author
Original Article

The relationship between universities and employer organisations has been given significant attention in the context of a changing graduate economy and the policy imperative to enhance post-university returns. This article presents a conceptual analysis of this relationship in the context of structural changes on both sides and its bearing on the nature, form and outcomes emerging from this relationship. Three key conceptual domains relating to theories of human capital, signalling and institutionalism are outlined to show the dynamics of the university–employer interplay and employer behaviour towards recruiting graduates. This is then further illustrated by an outline of salient research evidence from employers’ perceptions of graduate employability and approaches to recruitment. The article shows that a set of largely contextual and cultural dimensions underscores much of this relationship and this transcends the supply–demand and skill mismatch accounts which pervade policy approaches on how this relationship should operate in practice. Implications for higher education institutions and key stakeholders in this relationship are further illustrated.


human capital signalling institutionalism recruitment, employability 


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Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southampton Education SchoolUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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