Achieving academically yet failing graduate recruitment processes – The truth for autistic graduates

by Claire Aydogan and Dr Marc Fabri, IMAGE (

The Situation

There is a steady rise in the numbers of autistic students in HE, fuelled by increasing numbers of diagnoses, widening participation initiatives and better support during enrolment and study. Often highly dedicated to their subject, academically competent yet challenged by rigorous recruitment processes, these students find gaining graduate employment a difficulty.

A recent post on this very blog already gave useful advice to autistic students and in our post we’re now focusing on what careers advisers can do.

Of course, Careers teams work relentlessly offering bespoke careers advice information and guidance, have key contacts with organisations and with limited resources do their best. Despite this, employers can be weary to recruit and are often not aware of the benefits autistic graduates can bring. Particularly the interview process is a big hurdle for autistic job candidates, as highlighted this week in a Times article and previously in The Guardian.

As a result, autistic graduates enter a growing pool of untapped economic potential, preventing personal fulfilment and potentially creating long-term costs to society. And this is where the EU-funded IMAGE project comes in.

The IMAGE Project

IMAGE (Improving Employability of Autistic Graduates In Europe – is about supporting autistic university students to develop and demonstrate their strengths to employers. The aim is to improve employability by focusing on the support given by careers guidance staff and tutors. The project will produce an employability toolkit that autistic students can use independently, create training materials for careers professionals to develop their skills and professional practice and produce good practice guides for employers to raise awareness of autism.

IMAGE is led by Dr Marc Fabri from Leeds Beckett University in collaboration with other academics and practitioners, including Claire Aydogan, Head of Careers and Employability at the University of Huddersfield. International collaborators include the University of Helsinki, Free University Amsterdam, Medical School Berlin and University of Toulouse.

How you can get involved

If you work as a HE careers advisor or in employer engagement we would like to hear from you. Please help us gain a better understand of what works and what doesn’t. You can get involved in the project by completing our survey at It should not take longer than 15 minutes.

There are also surveys for autistic students and graduates, academic tutors, HE managers and policymakers, and for employers. Please spread the word and forward this link: 

Our promise

Project outcomes will be made freely available to autistic students and graduates, the HE community and employers at the end of the project. The long-term impact will be greater autism awareness amongst professionals, more inclusive HE institutions and procedures, better skilled autistic graduates, and ultimately more autistic graduates in employment.

Let’s change this headline together to a more positive one!

About the authors

Claire Aydogan heads up the Careers and Employability Team at the University of Huddersfield. She brings with her over 12 years’ experience in the employability arena, including supporting organisations with outplacement through to 1:1 individual coaching into employment. In her previous post at Leeds Beckett University she delivered the ‘Autism into Employability’ project, working in partnership with autistic students, employers and specialist support organisations to ensure successful transition into work. Claire is an active member of AGCAS and AMOSSHE (UK Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education).

Marc Fabri leads the IMAGE project. At Leeds Beckett University he heads up the Technologies for Health and Wellbeing Research Group which brings together researchers from digital health, participatory design, computing and user experience design. Marc is a member of the UK National Autistic Society and advises the UK Government’s Student Loans Company on issues related to study support for autistic students. Prior to the IMAGE project he started Autism&Uni, an EU-funded partnership that helps autistic students navigate the transition from school into university. The Autism&Uni Best Practice Guides and the student toolkit are widely used in HE. Marc has published on barriers and enablers for autistic HE students, participatory design methods, and the technology preferences of autistic people.


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