Work Integrated Learning in higher education: Enhancing workplace readiness and graduate employability in Malaysia

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Ragunathan, Chitra Devi (2023) Work Integrated Learning in higher education: Enhancing workplace readiness and graduate employability in Malaysia. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Enhancing graduate employability is an ever-increasing focus for stakeholders in Malaysia as many universities contend with the notion of developing knowledgeable and skilled graduates for the workforce. National statistics show declining rates of graduate employment outcomes, suggesting a skills gap between industry requirements and the outputs from the education system. Despite efforts to improve graduate employability, including policy reviews by the government and initiatives taken by a few universities, results have not yielded the desired outcomes in terms of work-ready skills development. This study confronts the challenge of enhancing graduate employability within Malaysia. It surveys existing approaches and initiatives in the Malaysian higher education sector and then evaluates a Work Integrated Learning (WIL) framework which, it is argued, can enhance the work-readiness and employability of Malaysian business graduates. The context of this study began by recognising the highly centralised education system and cultural differences in Malaysia, a developing country. Literature reveals that while Malaysian universities have attempted to incorporate generic skills in undergraduate studies, the initiatives were not supported by significant or measurable learning outcomes. This study addresses the gap between the existing fragmented efforts to build work-ready capabilities by proposing the introduction of a structured framework and teaching pedagogy which includes the development and assessment of workplace competencies. This research focuses on the ongoing concerns regarding graduates’ workplace readiness and examines the need for collaborative work by multiple stakeholders to address this problem. More precisely, this research seeks to examine the attitudes and expectations of stakeholders regarding the quality of existing employability teaching strategies and the potential value of a structured WIL program. The academic discourse on employability and the concept of WIL by non-Malaysian scholars are discussed by drawing on key theories underpinning WIL development in universities worldwide. Specific learning frameworks are examined to define a WIL model to suit different learning requirements. As evidenced in substantial global literature, using WIL in the curriculum can aid in the development of positive learning outcomes, specifically graduate attributes and employability skills. Such literature shows the importance for WIL programs to be structured in their design, and customized to individual country’s needs, particularly those relating to learning culture and education systems. A social constructivist approach using a qualitative methodology was adopted to undertake this research. A purposive sampling protocol was employed to select the groups of participants as stakeholders of this research outcome. A total of 24 interviews and focus group sessions were conducted involving 57 participants. A robust thematic data analysis process identified the perspectives and expectations of the stakeholders to establish the contribution of WIL to enhance graduate employability. There was strong evidence across the groups for the career, social and personal benefits of WIL for graduates. The foremost challenges to successful WIL were identified as policy empowerment involving curriculum flexibility, establishing a structured assessment and measurement of WIL in the curriculum and the collaboration of all stakeholder groups. Building on these research findings, the thesis then advances a three-stage process by which an effective WIL program may be operationalized, including the preparatory, implementation, and evaluation stages. Overall, the thesis makes an important contribution to our understanding of stakeholder attitudes and expectations regarding the current state of employability teaching in Malaysian higher education and the means by which this vital area of university practice can be improved.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3903 Education systems
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords graduate employability; Malaysia; higher education; Work Integrated Learning framework; business graduates
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