Background information


The Virtual Study Visit, the first of its kind under SPHERE, is an opportunity to reframe a highly relevant topic for universities as they face the implications of a global pandemic and its repercussions on teaching, learning, skills development, employability and the wider mission of universities in a fast-changing society. It will essentially explore how universities are navigating the topic of employability of graduates, and tools and approaches used to drive and shape this. This can include innovative industry partnerships linked to skills, curricula and micro-credentialing, student career support services, curricula reform and graduate tracking and impact assessment.

This HERE study visit is framed under the umbrella theme identified for 2020/21, namely ‘“Higher education responding to changing skills needs”. This topic is particularly salient in the context of the global pandemic. The Irish case has been selected as particularly relevant, given the advanced practices at institutional level, as well as the supportive national framework for graduate employment. In addition, the event will draw upon a virtual SPHERE seminar that was held in November 2020 on micro-credentials, which is becoming a possible tool for universities in addressing skilling, re-skilling and lifelong learning.

This study visit will be hosted by Dublin City University (DCU), with support of the Irish University Association, which also plays a critical role in articulating university approaches to employability in Ireland. It will frame the topic from the following perspectives, showcasing different national and institutional approaches and initiatives:

  • Rethinking the university contribution to employability in light of the challenges presented by the global pandemic
  • Employbility considerations in teaching, study programmes & curricula design
  • Career support services for students
  • Work placements and internships in a Covid context
  • Universities supporting inclusive employment
  • Data systems and quality assurance/ student tracking systems
  • Collaboration with employers and other external stakeholders etc.
  • Skilling/re-skilling and the role of micro-credentials

Learning Outcomes:

  • Frame the employability of graduates in the Irish content, examing the Irish HE system and its adaptation to an involving economy and social fabric, accelerated by a global pandemic;
  • Understand DCU’s approach and strategies for graduate employability and how this relates to teaching and learning, curricula design, student services, lifelong learning/skilling and reskilling and industry collaboration;
  • Examine mechanisms and tools for assessing the impact of university studies on graduate employment, and understand better how this relates to quality assurance processes and mechanisms and well as national data.


The virtual study visit addresses all HERE, at all levels of knowledge and experience regarding the topic:  In particular, it would be beneficial for university leadership and for those engaged in quality assurance, university-industry collaboration and data management. It is also relevant for ministries, as the national Irish policy perspective will be included. A core group of 60 participants will be nominated by the national Erasmus+ Office. They will be expected to participate in a pre-survey for the event and review literature that is posted on the SPHERE website.


  • The most recent (published June 2020) Graduate Outcomes Survey, Class of 2018 – sector-wide findings and analysis of higher education graduate outcomes in Ireland, published by the Higher Education Authority (National Agency) on the basis of a survey carried out by HEI Careers Offices 9 months after graduation. E.g., for 2018 graduates, 80% were working or due to start a job, 13% were engaged in further study, 4% were unemployed and 3% were engaged in ‘other’ activities. The analysis shows that higher educational attainment levels are linked to higher employment rates.
  • Central Statistics Office Higher Education Outcomes – findings and analysis of administrative data, compiled using the Educational Longitudinal Database that the CSO established in collaboration with Irish public sector bodies to examine learner outcomes across a range of educational levels and programmes.