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Project 3 - Pathways into employment of graduates



This project is investigating the impact of various types of unpaid and involuntary temporary or part-time work on the early career outcomes of graduates who completed degree courses in 2009/10. In the past, this group has had less difficulty than school-leavers in making the transition from education into work, but as competition for graduate jobs has grown, so has the use of unpaid work experience as a gateway into employment in particular sectors and professions. The experiences of a number of more recent graduates are also being explored to assess the extent to which graduate opportunities have improved since the 2009/10 cohorts entered the labour market.

Previous research has shown that there are a wide variety of unpaid employment-related activities undertaken by graduates either while they are were in HE or in the years immediately following graduation. These include:

  • Paid and unpaid work placements undertaken while in HE or as a graduate;
  • Undergraduate or graduate internships;
  • Sandwich year courses;
  • Temporary and part-time work undertaken as a deliberate tactic to enhance future employment prospects;
  • Temporary and part-time work unrelated to future career aspirations.

Research questions

  • How do different types of unpaid work experience and temporary or part-time work facilitate the transition of graduates into local, regional and wider labour markets?
  • What impact do these activities have on graduate migration and retention?
  • In what ways are the types of unpaid and other precarious forms of work undertaken by more highly qualified young people different to those undertaken by the less qualified young people surveyed in Project 2?
  • In what ways do the motivations and aspirations related to unpaid work differ between the young people in Projects 2 and 3? In what ways do their outcomes differ?


The project will utilise the Futuretrack longitudinal dataset of 2005/6 UCAS applicants, focusing on the Midlands.

Phase 1

The first phase of the project involved quantitative analysis of the Futuretrack data to examine participation in unpaid and other forms of precarious work and drawing on other data sources to examine the changing nature and prevalence of unpaid work amongst relatively graduates since the 1990s.

Phase 2

In the second phase, 100 follow-up interviews are being undertaken with members of the Futuretrack cohort who have undertaken unpaid work, including internships, and a small number of more recent graduates. The objective of thse interviews is to investigate the motivations of graduates in undertaking unpaid work, their evaluations of their early career experiences and their perceptions of the impact unpaid work has had on these experiences.


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Professor Kate Purcell






Funded by:

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