Teaching Research in an Employability-Focused Undergraduate Curriculum





Employer engagement, Curriculum design, Relevance,, Independent research, Undergraduates


Employability has emerged as a key part of many universities’ strategies, with initiatives to integrate work with employers, and input from professional careers advisers, into course material.  This is especially relevant for business and management courses, and particularly at the undergraduate level offers some scope for courses to be differentiated through the nature of the interaction which they provide with employers. Undergraduate students are expected to learn some research techniques and to demonstrate an ability to carry out a measure of independent inquiry as part of their studies.  Superficially these research techniques can appear to represent a very different facet of academic study from employability, and be seen as training in purely academic techniques.  This paper explores the potential to build connections between research and employability and to harness students’ knowledge of research methods when working on practical business issues. This paper is based on experience of developing a series of projects which students in their final year of an undergraduate degree can carry out in partnership with employers.  These projects are on a smaller scale than independent projects that students have worked on in the past and allow for more focused aims and more structured supervision than other student research projects.  While the original motivation was to increase the structure and certainty for students their final year the approach has evolved to be aligned with the university’s policies around practical experience and employer engagement.  Therefore the project, while not mandatory for students, is positioned as one of a number of possible ways to gain practical experience, with the expectation that students will take up at least one of these options so that they will graduate with this experience. Setting up these projects has depended on collaboration between academics, careers advisors, and others involved with employer engagement including the team working with alumni.  The approach has been implemented across a range of business, management, and finance degrees and has proved effective in creating a connection between independent research and employability.