Struggles in Becoming Employable: Non-Traditional Student Narratives of the Transition from Higher Education to Working Life in Sweden

Agnieszka Bron, Camilla Thunborg


The notion of employability has been dominating the higher education policies and strategies of the European Union and other western countries for two decades. From an employability perspective, individuals are responsible for acquiring the skills to find and move between jobs, market themselves, and effectively express their social, personal, and cultural capital. This article focuses on non-traditional students' perspectives of their transition from higher education to working life, especially on the pathways they have taken and the struggles they have experienced in becoming employable. A biographical learning perspective is used to analyse biographical interviews with five female students who were 25 years of age or older, with a non-Swedish background, studying full time. In the students' stories, four transition pathways from higher education to working life were identified: a linear, a parallel, a further education, and a changing career pathway. The five non-traditional students struggled with becoming employable and seemed to be anxious about not being good enough at Swedish; being an outsider as a student; being overqualified; and facing discrimination in the labour market. These employability struggles mainly arise due to the assumption that all graduates are young, Swedish, without children or disabilities, and competing only with their employability within an equal labour market. Thus, the notion of employability still gives little attention to non-traditional students and has negative consequences for them.

Klíčová slova

employability struggles; non-traditional students; biographical learning; transition paths

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