Leiden wants to make transition from student to job market easier

What is the best way for students to prepare for the job market? What role can – and does – the University play? Some 80 Leiden students, lecturers, administrators and policy makers discussed these questions at a meeting on 2 April at Leiden University.

Leiden University Career Zone

The meeting on the theme of Students and the Job Market generated input for a plan that Leiden University is making to guide - and where possible improve – students’ transition to the job market. A new website has been launched to inform students about important aspects of their future career: Leiden University Career Zone.

80 students, lecturers, managers and policy makers

80 students, lecturers, managers and policy makers

Changing market

Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk: 'What can the University do?'

Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk: 'What can the University do?'

Vice-Rector Simone Buitendijk said in her introduction that she believes it is important for the University to focus attention on connecting effectively with the job market. ‘It is part of our mission statement that we want to deliver good students to the job market.’ The world around us is complex and it’s changing rapidly. That’s why we want to map out the job market and the skills – academic and other skills – that the student of tomorrow needs. We are also looking at what more we as a university can do to prepare and guide our students better.’

21st century skills

To be successful on the job market students need not only a good education, but also so-called ‘21st century skills’. The University wants to help students develop these skills: the ability to work in teams, international and intercultural skills, entrepreneurship and leadership qualities and digital competences.


Leiden University aims to prepare its students better for the job market by:

  • Focusing more attention on these skills and on career planning in teaching and more emphasis on contact with employers during the programme (by such means as internships).

  • Informing students better about all the facilities and opportunities available, including via the new website Leiden University Career Zone.

  • Innovative partnerships between the University and other parties (the business sector, government), such as Economie071, Lugus, Leiden Leadership Programme, Leiden Bio Science Park and LURIS.

Flexible job market

The ideal employee: specialist and generalist

The ideal employee: specialist and generalist

What does the job market look like for our alumni? At the meeting Tilburg Professor Ton Wilthagen sketched the job market in the present day: more and more flexible work, particularly among young employees, new kinds of work and increasing likelihood of unemployment for the highly educated. He believes that networks are the key.

Best practice at Exeter

The University of Exeter already does a lot to prepare students well for the job market. Paul Blackmore, head of Employability and Graduate Development in Exeter, gave a whistle-stop tour of what he and his team are doing. Their activities include a career zone, all kinds of facilities, a website, and a lot of working together with other partners. His two most important recommendations for Leiden: start early (in the first year of students’ programmes) and emphasise students’ own self-reliance.

Willem te Beest preparing to present the best ideas

Willem te Beest preparing to present the best ideas

Ideas of Leiden students and staff

During the lunch Leiden students and staff put forward their ideas, and Vice-Chairman Willem te Beest presented the best ideas to the group. The ideas fall into three categories: adapting the study programme, raising awareness among students (and lecturers) and providing support for students

Enkele suggesties:

  • Organise a career awareness day for students as soon as they arrive at the university.
  • Offer career orientation as an optional subject in the curriculum, or even as part of the set curriculum.
  • Offer internships that are specifically focused on developing soft skills (personal, emotional, social and communicative skills).
  • Have students make a personal development plan (POP) in their first year that covers the whole of their time as a student.
  • Appoint a career adviser/alumni networker for each faculty, who can make sure that student profiles match the needs of employers. This is an area where alumni can play a crucial role.
  • Create international/intercultural groups of students who can learn from one another by working together in different groups over the course of their student time. 

(9 April 2015)

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Last Modified: 09-04-2015