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New research to boost job prospects for autistic graduates

Academics at our university are collaborating with researchers across Europe to improve the employability of autistic graduates.

Dr Marc Fabri

The new three-year project (IMAGE) is being led by Dr Marc Fabri, Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing, Creative Technologies & Engineering, with partners from Free University Amsterdam, University of Helsinki, Medical School Berlin and the University of Toulouse.

Collaborators within our university are Dr Lisa Harkry, Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, Dr Roz Wyatt-Millington, Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing, Creative Technologies & Engineering, Claire Aydogan, Head of Student and Graduate Futures, and Kate Dean, Head of Disability & School Support.

Dr Fabri explained: “The prevalence of autism is approximately 1% of the population and autistic young people are entering higher education (HE) at an increasing and unprecedented rate. These individuals are academically competent and might achieve better than their non-autistic peers.

“Unfortunately, at the end of their studies, a large proportion of autistic graduates are left without employment. We know this from our previous project - Autism&Uni - where autistic students repeatedly talked about their anxiety of finding employment after their studies.

“European HE systems currently fail this student group, and autistic graduates enter a fast-growing pool of untapped economic potential, preventing personal fulfilment and creating long-term costs to society.”

The IMAGE project aims to address this employment gap by focusing on the transition from higher education into the world of work, and the support universities can provide during this transition.

The team aims to:

  • Create an employability toolkit for autistic students so that they can develop their employability skills and better understand career goals;
  • Develop new training materials for HE careers advisors so that they can better support autistic students, and provide training to 400 advisors across the partner countries;
  • Share examples of good support practice with academics, HE senior managers and policy makers, helping to make the HE sector more inclusive;
  • Help employers to recognise the strengths and benefits of qualified autistic employees, and reduce disabling barriers to recruitment and employment.

The project has received £360,000 of funding through Erasmus+ Key Actions.

Dr Fabri added: “Autistic people have many qualities that can make them desirable employees – such as attention to detail, honesty, loyalty, working longer hours and punctuality.

“We hope that the long-term impact of our project will be greater autism awareness amongst professionals, more inclusive HE institutions and procedures, better skilled autistic graduates, and ultimately more autistic graduates in employment.”

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