Does All Work and No Play Make a Dull Graduate? Perceptions of Extra-curricular Activities and Employability


  • Sharon Milner Ulster University
  • Wendy Cousins Ulster University
  • Iain McGowan Ulster University



extra-curricular activities, employability, undergraduate, students


It has been argued that there is a prima facie case as to why extra-curricular activities should be thought to contribute to graduate outcomes, yet few studies have examined student activities beyond the classroom and their role in student experience and graduate outcomes. This study collected data via a questionnaire survey (n=852) and a series of focus groups with students (n=95) to examine undergraduate perceptions of the role that extra-curricular activities play in developing employability skills. It was found that extracurricular activities were significantly correlated with other employability related aspects of student experience and viewed favourably by students in terms of CV building and enhancing employability. Yet students also reported that it was often difficult to participate in activities outside of their academic work and paid employment. It is concluded that the value of extra-curricular activities is widely recognised and universities should support students who wish to engage in them. Furthermore, future programmes aimed at harnessing the capacity of extra-curricular activities to develop student employability need to give due consideration to strategies for enhancing inclusion and diverse participation.

Author Biographies

Sharon Milner, Ulster University

Sharon Milner is the Employability Development Manager at Ulster University. She is a chartered psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She supports staff in evaluating and embedding employability good practice. She also manages the University’s employability award (Ulster EDGE).


Wendy Cousins, Ulster University

Wendy Cousins is a chartered psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She is a member of the Research Centre for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at Ulster University where she is course director for degree programmes in health and wellbeing.

Iain McGowan, Ulster University

Iain McGowan is a lecturer at Ulster University School of Nursing where he is academic lead for quality assurance and an associate member of the Institute of Nursing and Health Research. He is a registered mental health nurse, an experienced nurse tutor and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.


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Original Research