All university students must gain leadership skills, says new employability report

  • Majority of employers (70%) believe management, enterprise and leadership modules should be integrated into all degree subjects to boost employability
  • 85% of employers want students to have work experience – yet only 29% say they actually offer placements
  • 62% of managers expect graduate recruits to demonstrate professional management skills
  • The Chartered Management Institute calls on employers to collaborate with business schools and universities in creating courses to provide future leaders

New research published today [21 February] has found that employers now want all higher education students to enter work with practical management and leadership skills – not just those graduating with business and management degrees.

The Chartered Management Institute's 21st Century Leaders report, published with the Chartered Association of Business Schools and Institute of Student Employers, surveyed more than 1,000 managers and 830 students. It reveals that seven in 10 (70%) of prospective employers now want management, enterprise and leadership modules made available to all higher education students to improve their work-ready skills. Two-thirds (66%) of employers say they want to see graduates achieve professional qualifications as well as their main degree.

The findings suggest that business and management students in particular recognise the advantages of such qualifications, with three-quarters (75%) saying that they looked for a combined professional body accreditation when selecting their degree.

The growing emphasis on graduate employability has been driven by employers concerned about skills shortages, with 82% of employers reporting problems recruiting managers.

Graduate employability is also a priority for higher education following the government's introduction of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) in 2016. Universities and business schools are now measured and ranked by ‘student outcomes', which include post-education employment rates for graduates.

Three in five (62%) of employers say they look for graduates with practical management and leadership skills. The top five professional abilities they want in new managers are:

  • taking responsibility (identified by 60%)
  • people management skills (55%)
  • honest and ethical (55%)
  • problem solving and critical analysis (52%)
  • collaboration and team-working (48%)

Ian Myson, Director of HE Partnerships at the CMI, said:

As the government's review of higher education funding puts the spotlight on crippling levels of student debt, we need to talk about how to support graduate employability. Our research shows that employers want leadership and management skills to be baked into all higher education courses to give students the work-ready skills needed to prepare the leaders of the future.
Every graduate should leave education with a professional qualification to enhance their employability – and, as CMI’s data show, it also increases student satisfaction scores for universities. Employers must now work with higher education and professional bodies to create a skilled workforce ready to meet the business challenges of the 21st century.

Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Student Employers said:

This report confirms the value of work experience in developing a student's skills, which is why employers are more likely to hire those who have it. We'd like to see more courses include structured placements with more students encouraged to take up those placements.
The latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that business and management graduates are 10% more likely to be in full-time employment six months after graduating than other graduates. When asked to rate the skill sets of new business school graduates, employers are generally very positive, scoring them particularly highly on 'honesty', 'problem solving' and 'collaborative skills' – but they rate their 'people management skills' and taking responsibility among their weakest areas.

A majority of managers (85%) said work experience should be embedded into courses to help develop these skills and make students more employable. Yet only 29% of businesses work with business schools to offer placements. Although this marks a rise from the 22% in 2014 there is still potential for much greater collaboration between educators and employers.

Anne Kiem, Chief Executive of the Chartered Association of Business Schools, says:

Improving people management skills is key to increasing the productivity of UK's businesses. Business schools begin to develop these skills in their students but they can only be honed through experience in the workplace. Business schools will welcome the greater desire from employers to offer students placements and internships.
Managers of course may have studied any subject. We welcome the recommendation to provide management modules across university courses. Business schools are willing and able to collaborate with university colleagues to teach management to students across disciplines.

The new research follows CMI's original 21st Century Leaders report in 2014, insights from which contributed to the development of the new degree and master's level apprenticeships in management and leadership. More than 1,200 apprentices have now started Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeships – and 48% of current business and management degree students actually say they would consider such apprenticeships if they had the choice.

CMI's Ian Myson adds:

Degree and Master's apprenticeships combine university study with work-specific learning and development. That helps apprentices apply what they learn straight away in the workplace and sets them on a path to achieving professional status. Universities and business schools are working closely with employers to create innovative delivery models and we now need to build on those innovations to deliver more brilliant apprenticeships for learners.

For more information visit or 21st Century Leaders page or follow @cmi_managers #21cenleaders


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Further information:

For further information, interviews or case studies please contact:

Notes to editors

About the "21st Century Leaders" data and methodology

21st Century Leaders includes data from:

  • a survey of 1,045 managers across the UK, carried out in December 2017
  • a survey of 837 students who are currently taking business and management degrees, carried out online, December 2017 to January 2018

Case studies: the report includes case studies based on interviews with 13 universities and business schools. It highlights universities already offering management, enterprise and leadership modules for students in all disciplines, such as:

  • Coventry University, which offers a Global Professional Development module at no extra cost to students, reaching around half of post-graduate courses and extending beyond the business school.
  • Queen's University Belfast, which has opened up an opportunity for a six-month strategic management certificate through to all their post-graduate students. The move widens the reach of professionally accredited management courses to students from all walks of life.

Notes to editors

About CMI

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is the only chartered professional body for management and leaderships, dedicated to improving managers' skills and growing the number of qualified managers.

Our professional management qualifications span GCSE to PhD equivalents, including the unique Chartered Manager award, which increases earning potential and improves workplace performance. We have been registered as an apprentice assessment organisation by the Skills Funding Agency.

CMI has led the way in developing a suite of trailblazing management apprenticeships with a 40-strong group of employers. These start from Level 3 (team leader) and Level 5 (operations manager) through to Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship. The Senior Leader Master's Degree Apprenticeship gives employers the option to upskill up to executive and C-suite level. CMI is a Skills Funding Agency-registered apprentice assessment organisation.

We provide employers and individual managers with access to the latest management thinking and with practical online support that helps them to embrace change, create high-performing teams and keep ahead of the curve.

With a member community of more than 157,000 managers and leaders, we promote high standards of ethical practice through our Professional Code of Conduct, and help managers to build their expertise through online networks, regional events and mentoring opportunities.

About the Chartered Association of Business Schools

The Chartered Association of Business Schools is the voice of the UK’s business and management education sector. They support members to maintain world-class standards of teaching and research, and help shape policy and create opportunities through dialogue with business and government.

The UK's business schools contribute over £13b to the UK economy annually through their teaching, research and wider impacts. They teach more students than any other subject in UK universities. Business and management graduates go on to lead global businesses or become entrepreneurs, contributing to our dynamic economy. Business school research has an impact across society and helps to turn our capacity for invention into viable businesses. Our members consist of 120 business schools and higher education providers, as well as affiliate stakeholders, corporate members and international partners.

For more information visit:

About the Institute of Student Employers

The Institute of Student Employers (ISE), formerly the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), is an independent, not-for-profit member organisation that was established in 1968.

As the UK's leading independent voice for student employers, the ISE's vision is that every businesses success is maximised by full access to student talent.

The ISE achieves this by bringing together employers, the education sector and supplier partners, providing leadership and support in all aspects of student recruitment and development.

ISE activities include:

  • Promoting excellence and innovation in the resourcing, assessment and development of emerging talent including school leavers, apprentices and graduates
  • Providing expert information and insight to ISE member organisations, creating engaged communities for professional networking and sharing of best practice
  • Delivering comprehensive research on a range of issues affecting graduate, intern and apprenticeship recruitment and development, including current and future trends and benchmarking data
  • Investing in the professional development of members to enhance their skills and knowledge, maximising their career opportunities within the profession
  • Influencing key policy areas affecting student employment and the education sector
  • Building a strong professional organisation with the right structure and team capabilities to deliver the services and support members require to fulfil their objectives

For more information visit: