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About Esect

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© Lee Harvey 2018, 2019, 2022, page updated 20 January, 2022

A novel of twists and surprises

About Esect

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) funded the Enhancing Student Employability Co-ordination Team (ESECT) to help the sector engage with employability.

The ESECT Team consisted of prominent researchers on employability along with representatives from organisations keen to promote employability in higher education.

ESECT's work began on 1st September 2002 and finished at the end of February 2005. It was based in the Centre for Outcomes-Based Education at the Open University, and worked closely with the LTSN Generic Centre and later the Higher Education Academy.

A priority was to strengthen links with others committed to enhancing student employability.

Areas of work

ESECT's main lines of work were as follows:

1. Appraise the literature and explore current practice, producing a set of five, updatable digests, which are on the HEA/ESECT web site. In the event, ESECT produced a large amount of material (briefings, reports, guides) still available under the side menu heading 'Employability Briefing, Reports and Guides'

2. Summarise this new knowledge base for seven main audiences: employers,students, careers services, LTSN
(now HEA) subject centres, educational development units, heads of subject departments, and other networks (such as professional bodies and subject associations). Briefing booklets have been produced for each of the first six of these client groups, they are available in hard copy and downloadable.

3. Work with partner networks to disseminate the summaries to these audiences. ESECT has arranged regionally-based conferences, and ESECT members have been active in presenting about ESECT at national and international conferences as well as running workshops in institutions.

4. Develop ‘toolkits’ for specific audiences, in collaboration with partners. These toolkits will help the different groups (Subject centres, student unions, employer groups, careers services) to review practice, identify gaps, weigh up opportunities for low-cost, high gain improvements, and take effective action to enhance their group’s contribution to student employability. The tools are available on this site.

5. Support colleagues in using the toolkits and working in consultancy and developmental roles with their colleagues.


ESECT was a network, as the list of members indicates.

  1. Peter Knight, the Open University-Director
  2. Lee Harvey, Sheffield Hallam University (w.e.f. 1/12/02) Deputy Director
  3. Carl Gilleard, Association of Graduate Recruiters
  4. Brenda Little, CHERI, the Open University
  5. Rob Ward, Centre for Recording Achievement
  6. Mantz Yorke, Liverpool John Moores University
  7. Sophie Holmes, National Union of Students
  8. John Gough, Association of Graduate Careers Advisers
  9. Margaret Dane , Association of Graduate Careers Advisers
  10. Val Butcher, LTSN Generic Centre Evaluator
  11. David Baume, independent education consultant.

ESECT approach

ESECT worked in partnership with networks such as the LTSN, subject and professional associations, employer, student, careers service and regional networks, and other groupings with interest in the field.

Only exceptionally dido ESECT work directly with individual departments, institutions and educational development units.

Faced with the challenge of enhancing higher education’s contribution to employability, many institutions have reasonably thought about what they could add to the student experience and, as a result, strengthened their extra-curricular provision. In some cases this has meant strengthening the careers service, and in others special courses, events and opportunities have been run for those students who want to take advantage of them. Universities and colleges have sometimes added curriculum options, perhaps by giving students the opportunity to create portfolios or progress files, by offering skill-building modules, by running entrepreneurship courses, and by developing work experience opportunities.

The sector contains a number of examples of good practices, and part of ESECT'S job was to identify and celebrate instances where teachers, students or employers have been particularly enthusiastic about their outcomes.

ESECT saw employability as a challenge to higher education to put more emphasis on a set of achievements that are very compatible with widely-shared hopes for undergraduate learning. Recognising that employers value achievements, ESECT was concerned to help stakeholders promote these educational and employability-oriented achievements through good teaching, learning, curriculum and assessment design.

For the ESECT definition of employability click here.