Graduate employability case studies

This collection of case studies showcases a wide range of initiatives and measures universities and colleges have introduced, in response to the challenges brought on by the pandemic, to support final year students and recent graduates as they transition from university to graduate life.

The Government has engaged with the higher education sector to obtain case studies that demonstrate the breadth of innovative work that university and college careers services are doing to help graduates prepare for their next steps.

Knowing that over 87 per cent of recruiters use the professional networking site LinkedIn to find talent and research candidates, the University of Birmingham is now providing specialist advice on how to utilise the platform to network, job search and create a positive online profile.

The university has also set up a dedicated page on LinkedIn and has invited all final-year students and recent graduates to join the group. This offers an alternative centralised communications channel through which to engage recent graduates plus an effective way to advertise graduate-level opportunities. Included within the range of listed vacancies are also those from sectors that students may not have previously considered working in, as well as from local and regional small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This diversity of opportunity encourages graduate flexibility and helps to support gaps in the labour market.

The university has also launched a programme which connects postgraduate students with recent graduates, who help signpost them to the enhanced graduate support available, including mentoring and internships. The initiative has been particularly helpful at targeting students who are less likely to proactively engage.

The university is also running ‘Spotlight Sessions’, inviting alumni who experienced challenges when graduating following the 2008 financial crisis, to speak openly about their career pathways. This is a useful opportunity for students to learn about the flexibility and resilience that is sometimes needed when looking for graduate-level employment.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)’s Centre for SME Development, in collaboration with its Careers department, organised a virtual expo in March for its students. The expo focused on connecting SMEs with students, in particular final-year students, to understand the sector, secure jobs and work experience, and meet SME skills needs.

UCLan’s ‘Graduate with Confidence’ programme, organised by Careers and UCLan’s start-up unit Propeller, encourages UCLan graduates to recognise their strengths and to develop their skills. The programme offers sessions for interview preparation and insight into working culture. At the end of the programme, graduates can apply for up to £100 in funding to support their transition to work.

UCLan has also prepared 60 full-time internships for graduates of 2020 and 2021. Held between June and July 2021, these paid opportunities will last eight weeks and are designed to be challenging but rewarding. UCLan has planned for remote delivery but will offer students practical opportunities where possible.

Contact: [email protected]

In response to the pandemic, City has adapted its successful GradVantage Programme, which helps 100 final-year students from underrepresented groups and minority ethnic backgrounds to prepare for starting their careers. City’s Careers team secured funding from City’s Access and Participation Plan to add 10 additional internships to this year’s programme. The team also created resources for unsuccessful applicants to ensure that they did not leave university without support.

City introduced an external assessment centre to improve participants’ ability to perform well in recruitment activities. Students will speak with the centre before attending interviews for their internships, so they can act on assessors’ feedback to improve their chances of gaining a place.

City also held a jobs fair, offering permanent job opportunities with SME) in the university’s local area. Not only will this give several students their first graduate work, but it will also help the community to develop and recover from the pandemic.

Throughout the year, City’s team has also used data on graduate outcomes and feedback from students and graduate employers to refine their support and services. They will continue to draw on these sources to deliver even stronger support for next year’s graduates.

Contact: [email protected]

De Montfort University (DMU) is inviting all final-year students for a ‘final-year interview’. These informal practice sessions allow students to talk about the skills they have gained at university, as if speaking to an employer in a job interview. The aim is to help students recognise and understand the value of their graduate skills, including those they have developed during the pandemic, e.g. resilience, motivation and digital working.

During the first lockdown in 2020, DMU launched a COVID Digital Support Scheme, offering free business support to SMEs in Leicester by matching them with digital-savvy students. Students work remotely to help smaller businesses develop digitally. This gives students an opportunity to build their CVs and experience, while local businesses benefit from support to resolve specific issues. DMU students have won praise from companies across the city and county for their work.

DMU is also offering regional support through the Leicester 1,000 (L1K) project, a new initiative which seeks to place 1,000 DMU grads into 1,000 highly skilled Leicester jobs over three years. L1K aims to create a community of DMU graduates, regional businesses and DMU alumni, to boost graduates’ skills and networks, and to directly support finalists and recent graduates into graduate-level work in the region. 

Contact: [email protected]

Over 2,000 of Derby’s students have made use of Career Pulse, a tool designed to assess students’ skills and experiences and help them find opportunities to develop or find work. This tool has been used to shape a four-week programme of employability sessions and webinars for students in May, covering topics tailored to students’ needs.

The university is working closely with local employers and SMEs to arrange internships and work experience. Bringing students and business together is key – Derby students can pose questions to employers in ‘Ask the Expert’ sessions live on Instagram. There will also be 50 paid internships available at the university itself, available to any Derby student with limited work experience. Derby’s programme culminates at the start of June with GradFest, an employability fair for Derby students and graduates.

As a result of adjustments arising from COVID, Derby has found that improving its digital offer has increased student and employer engagement. In the future, Derby will continue to invest in building digital capability and engaging students in innovative ways, such as the ‘Ask the Expert’ sessions, blending virtual and traditional internships and employer fairs, and global big challenges with employers.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of East Anglia (UEA) focuses on confidence-building campaigns for its class of 2021 students and recent graduates. Its campaigns have included ‘Progress in a Pandemic’, a series of case studies, promoted across social media channels, spotlighting recent graduates and final–year students who have made employability progress despite the pandemic – whether upskilling, getting a job or securing internships or volunteering placements – explaining how they progressed and how to use CareerCentral’s support to succeed.

UEA also delivers a live ‘GradFair’ (a physical careers fair, currently delivered as a live, virtual event online) for all final-year students and recent graduates. All employers exhibiting have live, graduate-level opportunities. Attendees can book one-to-one support with careers advisors, and attend workshops largely focusing on confidence, resilience and becoming employable during the pandemic. 

As part of UEA’s ‘GradReady’ programme for its class of 2020, humanities students are encouraged to explore freelancing, self-employment and other entrepreneurship options. EnterpriseCentral offers tailored support, education and funding (up to £50,000 grants in some circumstances) to support UEA’s creative students.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Essex has adapted its Generation Essex offer, which provides specialist careers support to final-year students and recent graduates, to ensure that the class of 2020 and 2021 are supported to achieve their graduate goals.

Last year’s Generation Essex resources have been made available online, including recordings from career events webinars and workshops. The university has also recruited coaches to support graduates, with no limit to the number of appointments.

The university also works closely with its Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service to ensure quality careers workshops are delivered around mental health, disability and diversity when searching for graduate roles.

For those considering an entrepreneurial career, the university provides support through access to a new stream of matched funding, which offers up to £500 for a business start-up and £1,000 for theatre projects. For successful projects, the Essex Startups Team provides specialised support to help make the business or company a continued success.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Exeter is running an educational Festival of Discovery from 24 May to 4 June, with an additional focus on wellbeing and employability. The extensive programme of activities will support all students, including final-year students, helping them to develop practical workplace skills through access to facilities and equipment, as well as helping them to build up their confidence.

The Festival of Discovery supports Exeter’s broader employability strategy, which also includes helping students to develop portfolios suitable for an increasingly digital working environment and online recruitment techniques. Virtual work and global experience opportunities have been created to enable the acquisition of valuable remote working skills, while bespoke recruitment and selection systems have been introduced to make it easier for SMEs to promote vacancies to the university’s students.

For students who cannot attend the Festival of Discovery, the university is again running ‘Grand Challenges’ online, an opportunity for students to collaborate in interdisciplinary groups to design solutions to real-life global problems, such as social inequality. This allows students to build a wide range of transferable skills.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Hull will soon launch ‘GradFest’, a three-week intensive employability festival for Hull’s 2021 graduates. GradFest sessions will cover a variety of employability topics, including career pathways, job interviews and continuing professional development. For each session attended, Hull students receive points which contribute to an Employability Award and can also be redeemed against incentives such as a guaranteed interview for one of the university’s three summer internship programmes.

The university will be launching a new internship programme in May, the Humber Graduate Internship Programme. This will focus on regional economic growth and the retention of graduate talent. There is a drive and focus for the project to support regional growth while supporting Hull graduates’ efforts to secure meaningful work experience.

The programme will recruit and deploy a dedicated team of advisers to undertake engagement activities – needs assessments, succession planning, identifying skill gaps and more – with regional SMEs. Where appropriate, the project will provide the SME with access to graduate talent and support through a subsidised salary model.

Contact: [email protected]

Leeds Trinity has been working with other universities in Leeds to retain and attract more Leeds graduates, in addition to an extended internal package of employability support on offer to Leeds Trinity students and alumni. The #InLeeds programme shares opportunities and vacancies with students in Leeds to encourage them to bring their skills and talents to the city.

Building on this, Leeds Trinity is also working with the West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges to help graduates gain skills and secure in-demand jobs. The consortium’s ‘[re]boot’ scheme offers students a fully-funded six- to 12-week part-time course, designed for the skills needs identified by regional employers.

In addition, Leeds is working with other Leeds universities and the Department for Work and Pensions to promote six-month paid highly skilled job opportunities provided via the Kickstart Scheme to Leeds graduates.

To take these initiatives further, Leeds Trinity is collaborating with 13 other universities and colleges across West Yorkshire to explore an initiative that would support graduates through a skills development and employment programme with Leeds Trinity as lead partner.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Lincoln created the Finalist Career Launch as a direct response to student feedback on what support they needed to graduate in a pandemic. The programme is made up of opportunities, information, and special events put together in a checklist format to help give a boost to final-year students’ career planning. It includes experiential learning, with over 160 students participating in the motivational sessions alone, and a new bespoke programme, Work Day, which provides virtual one-day taster experiences for final-year students with no prior work experience.

In addition, Lincoln has just completed Breaking Barriers, a week in March to highlight the type and range of careers support available to help students celebrate diversity, learn about inclusive careers and be their best selves, through skills development. Over 260 students participated in 18 events, including events on cultural awareness in the workplace, active allyship and talks from inclusive employers. 75 per cent of students who attended were from underrepresented groups.

Contact: [email protected]

To support final year students and graduate retention, the University of Liverpool is working with the Liverpool City Region (LCR) combined authority and local enterprise partnership to create graduate jobs in the city region. An important element of the LCR Grad Scheme is that, once successful applicants go through the new development programme and settle in their new roles, they become ambassadors for their career sector and speak at local schools and colleges to inspire future students.

The university has also created a Skills Enhancement Project, where students from different academic disciplines work together to solve problems, sponsored by businesses and recruiters, over a six-week period. The initiative helps to support students who may have had less opportunity to develop their professional networks as a result of the pandemic.

Liverpool students who are coming to the end of their studies but are unsure about next steps are offered personalised support through the careers team’s Your Future project. In the project, which is powered by a segmentation exercise that uses six data points, students complete a tailored survey so that they receive relevant information about virtual internships, digital employability tools, jobs, enterprise challenges and events, all designed to guide them through the career search process.

Contact: [email protected]

To support graduate employability, the London School of Economics (LSE) coordinates a community engagement programme through its Volunteer Centre, providing students with the chance to work on nine-week projects with local charities. Students can also participate in the Micro Internship programme: micro internships last up to four weeks and involve virtual work with a charity or non-governmental organisation.

Final year students with limited experience of the workplace can also receive advice from a mentor throughout the academic year. Each mentor is an alumnus of LSE, whose career path or entry into the labour market matches the needs and interests of the mentee. Alumni and major employers are also invited to attend special themed workshops on different market sectors, for example, creative industries, data and tech, and political risk. This offers final year students the chance to meet alumni and ask them about their careers.

To further support finalists, LSE also runs GradFest, which includes a programme of career-focused webinars and workshops. To help maximise engagement and improve outcomes, LSE Careers triages the needs of students in attendance, and after completing surveys, students are invited to 30-minute guidance appointments with careers consultants.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Manchester’s Final Year Future Week will be a virtual, immersive careers programme held in mid-June for final-year students and graduates. During the week, guests will be introduced to a variety of sectors across the labour market, including healthcare, IT and technology, and the creative industries.

To support and prepare participants, Manchester’s Careers Service will be running sessions with students to help them better recognise and articulate the employability skills they have developed during the pandemic, for example digital working, resilience and self-motivation. This will help to improve participants’ confidence as they build networks and connect with recruiters.

Each day of Final Year Future Week will feature several sessions, including speakers from local businesses and SMEs, and will include a focus on non-linear pathways and portfolio careers. There will also be sessions to advise students on how to find regional graduate jobs in Manchester and elsewhere, how to relocate for work and find new housemates and accommodation, and how to ‘survive and thrive’ in the first few weeks of employment.

Across the semester, the university also runs regular pulse surveys to help determine what support final-year students and graduates need the most, which enables the Career Service to tailor provision accordingly.

Contact: [email protected]

Manchester Metropolitan University is funding opportunities for final-year students and recent graduates to intern for 10 to 12 weeks at a local SME or university department. The university is covering 50 per cent of the SMEs’ costs to run the internship – supporting post-pandemic local economic recovery, as well as providing graduates with a valuable chance to develop their CV and employability skills.

Manchester Met has also allocated £20,000 to an employability fund to support graduates looking for work. They can apply for financial help toward expenses such as travelling for an interview or putting together a portfolio. The fund will particularly benefit students from underrepresented backgrounds and those experiencing financial hardship.

The university has also separated its alumni pathways to provide more specialist support to early-career graduates, recognising that their needs often differ from those of alumni in established careers. It has funded and resourced a dedicated team to support early-career graduates just after they have left university, who are at a crucial point in starting out in their careers.

Contact: [email protected]

Newcastle University offers tailored support to finalists and recent graduates through the ‘Get Ready to Graduate’ programme (GRGP), an online programme of live and recorded events. GRGP helps students successfully make the transition from university to graduate life and provides a range of specialist career resources and next step support.

Part of the GRGP is a dedicated Graduate Recruitment Week, which offers sessions with employers offering immediate graduate vacancies commencing in summer 2021. Themes include diversity and inclusion, sustainability, local and regional opportunities, and the non-profit sector.

As well as helping prepare graduates for the job market, GRGP will raise awareness of lots of other ongoing support from the Careers Service, including careers guidance, application advice, interview preparation and help with starting businesses – available for up to three years after graduation.

Prior to the end of term, the university will be writing to all graduating students to promote this package and to ask whether graduates require any additional support from the Careers Service. All students requesting help will then be called in early summer by a dedicated call centre team, so that graduates can be triaged to the most appropriate support.  


Nottingham Trent University (NTU) runs the Innovation Community Lab, a six-month development programme for graduates. The programme places graduates in an SME, then supports them to proactively innovate for their employers, driving business growth and encouraging long-term job retention.

NTU has run three successful cohorts of this programme, supporting over 130 graduates. In 2017, 77 per cent of managers said the programme had a direct impact on their capability to innovate as a business. NTU is developing the programme by shifting the focus to sustainability; soon it plans to launch a Sustainability Community Lab, to equip graduates with the skills and tools to develop sustainable business practices in their future employment.

The Digital Marketing Academy is a collaboration between NTU and the University of Nottingham. The academy works with local employers to address skills deficiencies identified by Nottingham City Council. In its third year, the academy attracted over 400 students and recent graduates, offering online workshops and courses and Insight Days hosted by digital marketing agencies.

Contact: [email protected]

Sheffield Hallam has designed a ‘Class of 2021’ offer, specifically to address the challenges that final-year students will face as they graduate into a potentially challenging economy and to address underemployment. It brings together a range of opportunities, activities and resources aiming to support all students, with a particular focus on those who are less engaged or most disadvantaged, in whatever way works best for the individual student.

Part of the Class of 2021 offer is the Next Steps Programme. This programme asks students to rate their confidence in different aspects of their development, from academia to careers planning and wellbeing. The students’ individual ranking results in a tailored recommendation of next steps, which might include internships, wellbeing support and the Graduate Readiness Award.

Over 2,000 students have engaged with the Graduate Readiness Award within the first four weeks of its launch. It supports development in leadership, including decision making, collaboration, adaptability, and job wellbeing. Sheffield Hallam has committed to providing lifelong careers and enterprise support and ongoing wellbeing support, as students transition towards being a Hallam alumnus.

Contact: [email protected]

Staffordshire University has adapted the delivery of its showcase exhibition for finalists, GradEX, by moving the event fully online. Digital access allowed the class of 2020 to showcase their final year projects and interact with global industry experts. Across a three-month period, the portal was accessed by over 46,500 unique users across 63 different countries, including the USA, China, Brazil and South Africa, with student engagement up 27 per cent compared with previous years. In addition to the crucial sharing of expertise, lots of students were offered roles, work shadowing and work experience opportunities. Moving forward, GradEX will continue as a digital showcase, accompanied by a standalone face-to-face celebration event.

As part of its broader mentoring programme, Staffordshire University has launched a professional and alumni mentoring strand, which will provide all final-year students with access to an industry expert mentor. Mentors and mentees will engage for up to one hour a week for a 12-week period, to work on mentee-led career-based goals and skills development. This will offer students a chance to explore their next steps with a working professional, while also giving alumni the opportunity to develop management and leadership skills. The hope is that mentees will go on to be the professional mentors and engaged alumni of the future.

Contact: [email protected]

To support and empower graduating students, the University of Southampton is running a two-day virtual festival aimed at final year students. Attendees will benefit from presentations and panel talks across the two days with alumni and business experts, who will share insights on a range of work life topics, including workplace wellbeing and impostor syndrome.

The university has also adapted its Student Innovation Project (SIP), in which local businesses including small and medium-sized enterprises pose challenges or problems for teams of Southampton students to solve over a six-week period alongside their studies. The SIP is now being delivered virtually and as a rolling programme, to offer more flexibility and maximise student engagement. The programme offers students the opportunity to gain valuable experience working on a real-life business issue with other students across disciplines.

An intensive summer edition of the SIP scheme will also be piloted this year, which will see participating students engage with large national companies and organisations, drawn from across the university’s corporate strategic partners. The scheme is designed to help students recognise and develop the many transferable skills they will have learnt during their time at university and apply them in a business context.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Warwick has developed My Summer Opportunity, a student opportunity employer engagement initiative running over the summer term. The aim is particularly to support final-year students nearing graduation who want support in their next steps.

The programme will begin with a preparatory phase, ‘Get Ahead’, focused on sessions such as making the most of your summer, video interview masterclasses, and digital networking for career success. This will be followed by ‘Get Hired’, a ‘pop-up’ virtual employer event engaging a wide range of employers offering ‘bite-sized’ sessions, including hints and tips on gaining work experience, the art of resilience, and sessions for international students.

Warwick is also running the Sprint women’s development programme, a three-day immersive programme designed specifically for female students, in part to help address the gender pay imbalance and to equip them with the skills required to enable them to accelerate their potential.

Contact: [email protected]

The University of Westminster’s Spring Into Your Future programme offers final-year students virtual workshops and courses to help refine their skills. It encourages graduates to be confident and remain motivated, as well as helping graduates build their digital presence and prepare for interviews. Westminster graduates can also benefit from university partnerships with the Bright Network and Forage, who offer virtual work experience opportunities.

Those with ambitions to become freelancers or entrepreneurs receive tailored support from Westminster’s Creative Enterprise Centre. Across all its activities, ,2,191 attendees have been recorded. In 2021 the Big Idea Competition, the university’s annual student business competition, received 87 applications across the three categories – ideation, freelance and acceleration. Next year, Westminster will offer a Postgraduate Certificate in Enterprise, which will help support 2021 graduates build on the skills they have gained during their studies.

The university has also recently opened its successful 125 Fund to class of 2020 graduates. The 125 Fund provides graduates with up to £1,500 to help launch a project and support their professional development, including specialist equipment for new business ventures or training programmes to hone their skills.

Contact: [email protected]

Students who are due to become graduates this summer can access the university’s Student Internship Bureau for the opportunity to secure short-term, high-quality work experience projects, either on campus or with local businesses.

Those considering self-employment can apply for the university’s Accelerator Scheme, which provides funding and coaching for businesses to establish themselves over the summer months.

York’s ‘work exposure’ programme also allows final-year students to gain work experience. Local employers provide a business challenge to teams of graduates; each team gets to work on finding a solution, for which they receive feedback from the employer and York’s careers team.

York has extended its support for final-year students from underrepresented groups who have not yet had a chance to gain internships or work experience. These students can receive tailored help from an external recruitment coach working in conjunction with York’s own careers advisors.

To support the delivery of services, York’s team uses data analysis to identify the students who will most benefit from each opportunity and scheme. With this extra layer of insight, York can provide bespoke support to each student.

Contact: [email protected]

Published 10 May 2021

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback