University of Oulu

International degree student conceptions of employability

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Author: Estievenart, Johan1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
Pages: 109
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : J. Estievenart, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-06-22
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Lehtomäki, Elina
Reviewer: Haapakoski, Jani
Lehtomäki, Elina
Jokikokko, Katri


Employability has become a core directive of higher education. In Europe, the Bologna Process has been instrumental in strengthening the ties between higher education and the labour market to meet the needs of the knowledge economy. As higher education institutions are prescribed an increasingly important responsibility in contributing to national welfare and maintaining an economic competitive edge, internationalisation strategies aimed at attracting international talent are implemented both at the national and institutional levels. As an EU member state, Finland has incorporated such policies as part of its internationalisation strategy. However, student perspectives on employability are underrepresented in the prevailing employer-driven discourse and academic research. This thesis responds to the need for contextually relevant research on the role of higher education in employability development in Finland. It aims to fill the gap by investigating the perspectives of international degree students enrolled at the University of Oulu.

Using phenomenography this thesis investigates (a) international students’ conceptual understanding of employability and, (b) their perceptions of and expectations of the employability development opportunities provided by the University of Oulu. The findings show that international students have a predominantly instrumental understanding of employability and expect the University of Oulu to provide them with more opportunities to find work. Students also indicate that they feel unprepared to enter the Finnish job market after graduation. A theoretical exploration of employability reveals that employer-driven definitions of employability are formulated narrowly. Alternatives propose a more comprehensive approach to graduate employability development which can be useful to the University of Oulu. A customisable model of graduate capital, in addition to developing an inclusive campus community with the input of the university’s new Career Centre, may provide options for a new employability agenda that can support the attraction and retention of international talent.

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Copyright information: © Johan Estievenart, 2023. Except otherwise noted, the reuse of this document is authorised under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) licence ( This means that reuse is allowed provided appropriate credit is given and any changes are indicated. For any use or reproduction of elements that are not owned by the author(s), permission may need to be directly from the respective right holders.