Are industrial doctorates capable of overcoming skills mismatch?

O. Tavares, C. Sin, S. Cardoso, D. Soares

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


In the context of higher education, skills mismatch refers to the gap between the skills which graduates possess and the skills demanded by hiring industries. Several changes have been contributing to this mismatch. On the one hand, the labour market has been through a fast technological change and has become more volatile, which in turn has led to the emergence of new professional profiles (García-Aracil and Van der Velden 2008). According to the literature (Branine 2008), generic skills have gained more value for employers. However, a question remains whether graduates are capable of applying the generic skills acquired in higher education in a real work context (Billing 2003). On the other hand, higher education has also undergone significant changes – massification and diversification of the student body – which made it increasingly difficult for potential employers to assess the skills match in such a wide pool of candidates. Moreover, higher education has been accused of being distant from the labour market needs and of being incapable of keeping up with changes and demand (García-Aracil and Van der Velden 2008), particularly because of a poor focus on generic competences and of a lack of practical orientation. Assuming that higher education is partly responsible for overcoming the skills mismatch, a number of approaches have been suggested in the literature: collaboration with business and industry in day-to-day practices of teaching and research, such as work integrated learning programmes or internships, and external collaboration in the curricular design. Industrial doctorates are an example of an approach which aims to bring together academia and industry, thus presenting a high potential of closing the gap between the supply and the demand of graduate competences. This study aims to explore whether doctoral students enrolled in industrial doctorates believe that they acquire generic skills which literatures suggests are valued by employers. It relies on information gathered in 2018 through six focus groups discussions with students (N=30) enrolled in all the six industrial doctorates offered by Portuguese universities, funded jointly by the Portuguese foundation for science and technology and by private companies. Doctoral students think they are acquiring generic skills which could be relevant for a wide range of different jobs and industries. These skills include networking, communication, negotiation, teamwork and, with less emphasis, flexibility, writing skills and autonomy. Therefore, according to doctoral students, the competences gained during their degree have the potential to close the gap between employers expectations and higher education supply because these skills are fully aligned with those described in the literature and which are related to the business environment and its precise end goals, tight deadlines, teamwork and multi-tasking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN19 Proceedings
PublisherIATED Academy
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9788409120314
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies - Palma, Spain
Duration: 1 Jul 20193 Jul 2019


Conference11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies


  • Skills mismatch
  • Generic competences
  • Industrial doctorates


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