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A specific skills-set curriculum to increase undergraduate students’ employability

25 Jan 2022 | Dr Pauldy Otermans, Dr Sofia Barbosa Bouças In advance of the Advance HE 2022 Case Study Series on Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship, Dr Pauldy Otermans and Dr Sofia Barbosa Bouças from Brunel University London, share their thoughts on how to increase employability of Psychology undergraduate students using a specific skills-set curriculum.

The focus of any undergraduate programme should be to prepare their students for the graduate world. Universities should aim to provide students with the right tools for them to use in the ever-evolving job market – irrespective of programme or studies.  

Employers want to employ graduates who can show and apply relevant transferable skills, not graduates who can beautifully regurgitate theoretical knowledge gained in the course of their degree. And we should make sure that our graduates are the ones who get the jobs! It is our responsibility to show our students what is out there; what they can achieve with their degree – and how they can achieve it. Some programmes already offer ‘placements’, ‘professional development opportunities’ or ‘internships’ – so do we! – but this is not how we get our graduates employed. 

The majority of students choose a degree with the goal to pursue a career in that field – quite a narrow view of the endless opportunities and challenges that are out there. A degree in psychology doesn’t necessarily mean that you will follow a career in psychology; in fact, that is quite the opposite for our students. Data shows that Brunel University Psychology graduates are successful in other, less psychology-related careers such as the health professions; social work and welfare; education; human resources and finance professions; marketing, advertising, public relations and sales; arts, design and media.  

So how do we get them there and help them be successful? We can’t have our students recite Piaget’s stages of cognitive development (1952/19771954/1999) when they apply to a job in social work – how do we get them to outshine all the other graduates who studied that subject? And, at the same time, we need to prepare them so they can follow a career in psychology and stand out from the hundreds of other psychology graduates who are competing for that same job. 

With this in mind, we created the Psychology Graduate Stream. The Psychology Graduate Stream is split in two parts – academic skills and employability skills. These skills are tailored to our students – their educational background, the needs of the programme (British Psychological Society-accredited), the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, and the wide variety of jobs they might get into. It includes modules directly embedded in the programme (across the three years), with weekly interactive teaching sessions where students can develop and improve the relevant skills (necessary and appropriate to each year), and weekly guest speakers who discuss their career journey as a Brunel Psychology graduate. Additionally, there are employability-enhancing activities which, at the moment, take place outside the teaching calendar and provide students with specific employability skills that will make them work-ready.  

The Graduate Stream also includes a ‘work experience’ opportunity and a ‘volunteering experience’ opportunity to put these skills into a professional context before they graduate. And if this isn’t enough, this all links to an award – the Graduate Stream in Psychology Award! Fancy, hey? Everything that students have done as part of the Psychology Graduate Stream will be added to their transcript and form a separate certificate – with Bronze, Silver and Gold categories. 

This is something that should be happening in every single programme – undergraduate or postgraduate – across all subjects, disciplines and higher education institutions. 

So, what will you do to increase the employability of your students?


Dr Pauldy Otermans is the Deputy Division Lead for Psychology, Academic Professional Development Unit Panel Advisor, and Fellow of the Brunel Academy for the Transformation of Teaching.  

Dr Sofia Barbosa Bouças is the Education Hub Lead, Psychology TEF Coordinator, Member of the University Education Committee, Academic Professional Development Unit Panel Advisor, and the former Psychology UG Programme Lead.  

Their research focuses on Employability and Transferable Skills; Teaching & Learning and Innovation in Higher Education; Student Experience and Student Satisfaction; EDI and Student Success; Assessment and Feedback; and Student Engagement. 


As part of our Connect Benefit Series for 2021-22, our Student Success longitudinal project focuses on embedding employability in higher education as well as access, retention, attainment and progression and flexible learning. 

Look out for our third Employability Case Study Compendium 3 Es for Wicked Problems: Employability, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship:

Solving Wicked Problems due to be published on 31 January 2022. Find out more about Student Success

The Advance HE Employability Symposium 2022

Our fifth employability symposium on 26 April will provide a space to discuss and share latest practices in developing graduates for successful trajectories beyond university.

The call for papers for the Employability Symposium 2022 is open until 4 February. Submit a proposal or book a place here

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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