Disentangling the impact of social disadvantage on 'becoming employable': evidence from STEM student university-to-work transitions

Belgin Okay-Somerville, I. Allison, D. Luchinskaya, D. Scholarios

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article aims to examine alternative explanations of social disadvantage on the university-to-work transition experiences of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students. ‘Becoming employable’ during the university-to-work transition is reflected in three ways: students’ cognition/patterns of thinking (i.e., perceived employability); affect/emotion (i.e., anxiety); and career-related behaviour (i.e., job search and networking). To understand how social disadvantage affects ‘becoming employable’, we examine three potential explanations: students’ social background, type of higher education institution attended and individual financial strain. A cross-sectional survey design targeted at final year students in two UK Higher Education Institutions provided 288 survey responses. Findings show support for an institutional explanation to ‘becoming employable’. The study contributes to our understanding of social disadvantage during preparation for labour market entry and the ‘employable graduate’ identity construction process. Practical recommendations focus on alleviating some of the pressures on socially disadvantaged students.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Apr 2020


  • employability
  • graduate identity
  • STEM
  • social disadvantage
  • university-to-work transition

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