Can students be “nudged” to develop their employability? Using behavioural change methods to encourage uptake of industrial placements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Preparing students for employment involves encouraging ownership of their employability and engagement in opportunities that can help them improve it. Industrial placements play an important role in this but declining numbers of students are undertaking them. Using data collected over a three-year period at a Business School in a UK university, this paper will explore an intervention based on nudge theory designed to increase the uptake of these placements. Drawing upon behavioural science, it will explore nudge theory and its criticisms. It will discuss the concept of employability, including the tensions between the necessity of promoting students’ ownership of theirs and the inherent assumptions that they will engage in opportunities to achieve this. Critical assessment of how the nudge intervention worked will be provided, demonstrating how almost half of those ‘nudged’ responded positively, thereby successfully increasing the uptake of placements. It will identify soft outcomes, notably the breaking down of some typical behavioural barriers to placements and encouraging students to think reflectively. It will offer recommendations for replicable practice in other universities; specifically a model for developing nudges not only in relation to employability but within higher education more broadly. It concludes by proposing a new pedagogic definition of employability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-168
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020


Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Education and Work on 3/4/2020, available online:


  • employability
  • nudge theory
  • higher education
  • work placement
  • Employability

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