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Graduate Employability and Competence Development in Higher Education—A Systematic Literature Review Using PRISMA


  • Marta Abelha

    (CEIS20–Centre of 20th Century Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Coimbra, 3000–186 Coimbra, Portugal
    Portucalense Institute for Human Development, Portucalense University, 4200–072 Porto, Portugal)

  • Sandra Fernandes

    (Portucalense Institute for Human Development, Portucalense University, 4200–072 Porto, Portugal
    CIEC–Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho, 4710–057 Braga, Portugal)

  • Diana Mesquita

    (CIEC–Research Centre on Child Studies, University of Minho, 4710–057 Braga, Portugal)

  • Filipa Seabra

    (LE@D, Open University (UAb), 1269-001 Lisboa, Portugal)

  • Ana Teresa Ferreira-Oliveira

    (CISAS, Escola Superior de Tecnologia e Gestão, Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, Rua Escola Industrial e Comercial Nun’Álvares, 4900-347 Viana do Castelo, Portugal)


This paper aims to develop a systematic review on graduate employability and competence development, intending to present an international perspective on the matter. It analyses the role of higher education institutions in promoting the development of competences for employability. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews (PRISMA) statement was used as a formal systematic review guideline for data collection. Data was obtained from research studies over the period 2009–2019. The analysis included a total of 69 papers from Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus databases. Results show that Europe leads the number of publications on these topics during the past decade. One of the main issues associated with competence development and graduate employability found in the review is related to the (mis)match between university graduates’ competences and employers’ needs. Findings indicate that higher education institutions are concerned with using strategies to enhance the development of competences for graduate employability. Graduate employability and competence development around the world depend on a strong sense of innovation and collaboration practices implemented in higher education.

Suggested Citation

  • Marta Abelha & Sandra Fernandes & Diana Mesquita & Filipa Seabra & Ana Teresa Ferreira-Oliveira, 2020. "Graduate Employability and Competence Development in Higher Education—A Systematic Literature Review Using PRISMA," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(15), pages 1-27, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:12:y:2020:i:15:p:5900-:d:388035

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Patricia P. Iglesias-Sánchez & Carmen Jambrino-Maldonado & Carlos de las Heras-Pedrosa, 2019. "Training Entrepreneurial Competences with Open Innovation Paradigm in Higher Education," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(17), pages 1-23, August.
    2. Naresh Giangrande & Rehema M. White & May East & Ross Jackson & Tim Clarke & Michel Saloff Coste & Gil Penha-Lopes, 2019. "A Competency Framework to Assess and Activate Education for Sustainable Development: Addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals 4.7 Challenge," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(10), pages 1-16, May.
    3. Rafael Bautista-Mesa & Horacio Molina Sánchez & Jesús Nicolás Ramírez Sobrino, 2018. "Audit workplace simulations as a methodology to increase undergraduates’ awareness of competences," Accounting Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(3), pages 234-258, May.
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