Jim Bright writes about “the uncertain story of career development”


Jim Bright has just posted a guest post on the University of Derby Institute of Education blog. The post is entitled “the uncertain story of career development“.

Certainty is something that we seem to strive for in life, so it is odd that we so often bewail that we are bored. Judging by their popularity, we love a good suspense thriller and hate to have it spoiled by someone telling us who did it. With the exception of illegal bookmakers and bent goalkeepers, sports lovers don’t want to know the result in advance. After all, what would be the point? So despite our pursuit of certainty, uncertainty plays an essential and even pleasurable role in life. It turns out that we seek pattern and surprise, change and constancy, order and chaos. Read on…

Jim will also be lecturing on this topic at the University of Derby on the 4th November. There is still time to book to attend the lecture.


The Web We Need to Give Students – Audrey Watters

Emily from the Jockey and the Architect blog has just written a great post about the role of the internet in career building for higher education students.

In it she argues both for the creation of open resources by HE careers services and a focus on digital career literacy.

I couldn’t agree more! Go and check out her post.

Source: The Web We Need to Give Students – Audrey Watters

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery – final paper published


As you probably know a few weeks ago I gave my inaugural lecture. I have now published the paper of it as follows.

Hooley, T. (2015). Emancipate Yourselves from Mental Slavery: Self-actualisation, Social Justice and the Politics of Career Guidance. Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby.

You can also view a video of the lecture and download the slides as well.

Get yourself connected

get yourself connected

We have just published a new paper looking at the role of new technologies in career guidance. We wrote the paper for the expert committee advising Norway’s Career Guidance Initiative and so it has a strong focus on the policy implications of new technologies in this field.

You can view the paper at

Hooley, T., Shepherd, C. and Dodd, V. (2015). Get Yourself Connected: Conceptualising the Role of Digital Technologies in Norwegian Career Guidance. Derby: International Centre for Guidance Studies, University of Derby.

Are graduates different?


I’ve been thinking about graduates and graduateness a bit recently. In general I’m fairly sceptical of the idea that everyone in the world should go to university. We’ve done some work recently looking at higher apprenticeships and in I think that there is a lot of value in having a range of different approaches for people to develop skills and gain qualifications. I would even argue that it is possible to gain high levels of skills, knowledge and expertise without having any qualifications or formal learning at all (SHOCK – HORROR!). Wikipedia offers us a list of autodidacts which includes people like John Clare, Terry Pratchett, Charles Darwin, Ben Franklin and Karl Marx who I think that we’d all have to admit made a contribution to the world that ranks with most graduates.

Personally I got a lot out of university. It shaped my thinking in a whole host of ways, introduced me to new people and formed my career. I’ve then spent most of my career working in and around higher education and while I’m not uncritical of it, it is something which I believe is socially, economically and politically important to society. But, what of the students that we produce? Are they really different as a result of experiencing a higher education?

There are clearly a number of different kinds of answers that we could give to this question. The first one is that clearly they are because they have a degree. If universities achieve nothing else they at least deliver formal qualifications that people want to have and that at least some employers value. We know that employers value degree qualifications because they actively recruit from higher education and because there continues to be a considerable graduate labour market premium. A recent paper from the ONS highlights the fact that graduates are more likely to be employed, more likely to be employed in skilled occupations and less likely to out of work or economically inactive. It also points out that graduates earn more than non-graduates across their lifecourse.

This in turn raises the question of why graduateness is so prized and whether this is justified. This is a particularly sharp question in an era when there is a growth in alternative routes to professional status. In a useful piece of research commissioned by The Edge foundation Lowden et al. highlight the complex mix of things that employers believe that they get from graduates. Employers believe that degrees develop both technical skills (which in some cases it would be possible to develop in other ways), but also a range of soft skills including the capacity to lead and manage and to think critically. Older research in the US suggests (see the synthesis in How College Affects Students) that these kind of economic impacts have maintained for a long while and that they are global. It also suggests that some research has found that graduates are better at doing many jobs when they are employed alongside non-graduates. However, the literature is rather weaker on why this might be.

Cynics might argue that this is actually describing a processes of cultural learning that graduates undergo whereby they learn to be middle class and to behave and perform in ways that are acceptable to the kinds of people who run organisations. In Paul Willis’ memorable phrase are graduates merely ‘learning to labour‘ in more sophisticated ways that their school leaver counterparts. Professional or graduate labour includes the ability to demonstrate some level of shared cultural interests with the people who run organisations. Is university just a rite of passage that delivers this?

Such analyses highlight the social and cultural importance of university education rather than its much trumpeted ability to bring about educational and cognitive change. Does university actually change the way that you think?

The answer to this is not as straightforward as we might like. It took me a long while to find any literature that addressed this issue at all. Brennan et al.‘s recent paper for BIS makes the point that there is a lot that we don’t know about the wider impacts of university beyond the kind of economic things that I’ve discussed already.

Brennan et al. then go on to discuss the wider benefits of higher education under a number of headings.

  • Citizenship and civic engagement – going to HE seems to make you more likely to vote and to participate in a range of social and civic activities.
  • Crime – going to HE makes you less likely to commit most offences (interestingly graduates are just as likely to commit violent crimes).
  • Health and wellbeing – more education generally makes us healthier and handle personal problems.

They also note that there is some evidence of an influence on a variety of personal and psychological attributes. Students will often report increased confidence, independence and maturity.

Brennan et al. also summarise the work of Pascarella and Terenzini (who I’ve already mentioned for their book How College Affects Students). This American work concludes that higher education has five main impacts.

  • Learning and cognitive changes e.g. things like verbal skills, critical thinking, problem solving and flexibility. So for example Pascarella et al. argue that liberal arts education encourages deeper forms of learning which in turn support cognitive development and critical thinking. Jessup-Anger argues that conventional residential university experiences foster a commitment to lifelong learning.
  • Psychosocial changes e.g. leadership skills.
  • Attitudes and values. These were mainly associated with civic involvement but also with decreased racism.
  • Moral reasoning. This describes the use of principled reasoning in addressing moral problems.
  • Career and economic impacts.

Much of this literature struggles to demonstrate causality, but there does seem enough evidence to suggest that higher education is doing something other than just increasing the number of people with degrees.

I’d be very interested to hear others opinions on this subject and to hear more about any literature in this field.

Professor Jim Bright coming to iCeGS for lecture and workshop


At iCeGS we are lucky to have a brilliant set of Visiting Professors, Visiting Fellows and associates. It is this that makes the Centre much more than just the staff who work there all the time.

In November we have organised for Professor Jim Bright to come over and to deliver his inaugural lecture. Jim will be talking about The Uncertain Story of Career Development and will undoubtedly be injecting a little chaos into proceedings.

While he is in the UK he will also be delivering a workshop based on his Brilliant CVs book. The  workshop will include to date research covering everything from CV layout, content and the use of narrative to which font to use.

Book your place on both the inaugural and the workshop.

Building world class career education and guidance in independent schools

building world class

I’ve been invited to address the HMC conference in St Andrews. I think that it has broken my record for the longest travelling time while in mainland UK – but I’m now here and I had a very interesting evening meeting various people from independent schools.

I’ll be talking about school based careers work in general – drawing on various reports that we’ve done over the years. I’ll also be drawing on some of the specific work that we did in independent schools as part of the Gatsby project. In general the finding of that study was that careers work in independent schools is pretty good and that these schools invest in the area fairly seriously.

It would be good to do a bit more work looking at this in more detail at some point in the future. In particular it would be interesting to look at what drives independent schools to invest in careers work when many state schools don’t.

One thing that I’ve heard on the grapevine recently is that the Independent Schools Inspectorate is prioritising careers work more strongly. I couldn’t find any details about this so I’d be really interested if anyone could point me to the right document.

Anyway this is what I’m going to say.

Building world class career education and guidance in independent schools