Getting in, getting on: Fragility in student and graduate identity

Sally Smith, David Hunter, Emilia Sobolewska

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4 Citations (SciVal)
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Over a period of three years this longitudinal study explored new approaches to consider student identity during the transition from university to employment. Students were followed through a new portfolio-based final year course and beyond university into the workplace. With universities increasingly recognising the employment aspirations of their students, facilitating self-awareness of graduate attributes and the development of employability skills are becoming integral to the higher education proposition; however the impact of employability initiatives is not well understood. The aim of the study was to examine changes in self-identification through the development of a portfolio of work using Holmes’ Claim Affirmation Model of Emergent Identity as the conceptual framework. Data were collected through student questionnaires and graduate interviews. The study uncovered the ways in which role models, developmental networks, and imaginings of a possible self were used in identity work. A fragile reconstruction of identity was observed as graduates faced the labour market, with this fragility continuing to be experienced while navigating an uncertain work landscape. We used these findings to allow us to refine Holmes’ Model by (a) adding a dynamic element and (b) grounding it on longitudinal data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1046-1060
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number5
Early online date05 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2019


  • Graduate Attributes
  • Emergent Identity
  • Holmes’ Claim Affirmation Model
  • fragile identity
  • portfolio
  • employability
  • graduate identity
  • Student identity
  • curriculum design


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