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Dr Gerbrand Tholen

Senior Lecturer in Sociology

School of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of Sociology

Contact Information


Visit Gerbrand Tholen

D606, Rhind Building

Postal Address

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom



Gerbrand Tholen is a senior lecturer in Sociology and Director of Research (internal). His research interests are centred around education, skills, jobs, occupations and the labour market. He has previously examined issues of skill utilisation, graduate work, elite education, labour market mobility, income inequality, skill formation and the global labour market as well as social theory.

From 2012-2015 he was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Education, University of Oxford in which he conducted a study on the UK graduate labour market. This study aimed to create a better understanding of the post-recession British labour market for graduate workers, providing in-depth qualitative case studies on the work of software developers, financial analysts, laboratory scientists and press officers.

His latest book is Graduate Work Skills, Credentials, Careers, and Labour Markets (Oxford University Press, 2017) The book examines some of the assumptions placed on graduate work, graduate jobs, graduate skills, and graduate careers. It provides valuable insights into how we can understand the meaning of graduate work within a rapidly changing economic, technological, and organizational context.

Based on in-depth qualitative case studies of software developers, financial analysts, laboratory scientists, and press officers, the book shows that the graduate labour market is more heterogeneous than often is understood. What counts as graduate work remains contested and under constant reinterpretation and re-negotiation. Access to work, job performance, and career advancement are not necessarily driven by university qualifications and skills associated with Higher Education. The book begins to explore how and to what extent, those workers with university degrees are defined by their educational experiences, status, and qualifications.

Gerbrand is currently working on research on the recruitment and selection process, using interview data with recruitment consultants. He is also writing a book on the marketisation of Higher Education, to be published with Policy Press.


  1. Senior Lecturer in Sociology, City, University of London, 2017 – present
  2. Lecturer in Sociology, City, University of London, 2015 – 2017
  3. British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) Department of Education, Oxford University, 2012 – 2015
  4. Research Officer, Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) Department of Education, Oxford University, 2011 – 2012
  5. Research Associate, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, 2010 – 2011


Research interests

The graduate labour market
Recruitment and selection
Higher Education
Unemployment scarring
Social closure
Occupations and professions
Occupational change
Social stratification
Educational inequalities


Books (2)

  1. Tholen, G. (2017). Graduate Work. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-874448-1.
  2. Tholen, G. (2014). The changing nature of the graduate labour market: Media, policy and political discourses in the UK. ISBN 978-1-137-47906-8.

Chapters (3)

  1. Tholen, (2017). Higher Education and the Myths of Graduate Employability. In Waller, R., Ingram, N. and Ward, M.R.M. (Eds.), Higher Education and Social Inequalities Getting In, Getting on and Getting Out London: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-138-21288-6.
  2. Lauder, H., Brown, P. and Tholen, G. (2012). The Global auction model, skill bias theory and graduate incomes: Reflections on methodology. Educating for the Knowledge Economy?: Critical Perspectives (pp. 43–65). ISBN 978-0-415-61506-8.
  3. Brown, P., Lauder, H., Ashton, D. and Tholen, G. (2006). Towards a High-Skilled, Low-Waged Economy? A Review of Global Trends in Education, Employment and the Labour Market. In Porter, S. and Cambell, M. (Eds.), Skills and Economic Performance (pp. 55–90). London: Caspian Publishing.

Journal articles (14)

  1. Tholen, G. (2020). Degree power: educational credentialism within three skilled occupations. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 41(3), pp. 283–298. doi:10.1080/01425692.2019.1690427.
  2. Tholen, G. (2019). The limits of higher education institutions as sites of work skill development, the cases of software engineers, laboratory scientists, financial analysts and press officers. Studies in Higher Education, 44(11), pp. 2041–2052. doi:10.1080/03075079.2018.1490894.
  3. Tholen, G. (2017). Symbolic Closure: Towards a Renewed Sociological Perspective on the Relationship between Higher Education, Credentials and the Graduate Labour Market. Sociology, 51(5), pp. 1067–1083. doi:10.1177/0038038516641857.
  4. Tholen, G. (2017). The Changing Opportunities of Professionalization for Graduate Occupations. Comparative Sociology, 16(5), pp. 613–633. doi:10.1163/15691330-12341438.
  5. Tholen, G., Relly, S.J., Warhurst, C. and Commander, J. (2016). Higher education, graduate skills and the skills of graduates: the case of graduates as residential sales estate agents. British Educational Research Journal, 42(3), pp. 508–523. doi:10.1002/berj.3222.
  6. Brown, P., Power, S., Tholen, G. and Allouch, A. (2016). Credentials, talent and cultural capital: a comparative study of educational elites in England and France. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(2), pp. 191–211. doi:10.1080/01425692.2014.920247.
  7. Power, S., Allouch, A., Brown, P. and Tholen, G. (2016). Giving something back? Sentiments of privilege and social responsibility among elite graduates from Britain and France. International Sociology, 31(3), pp. 305–323. doi:10.1177/0268580916629966.
  8. Allouch, A., Brown, P., Power, S. and Tholen, G. (2015). L'éthique des élites scolaires. Du mérite à la responsabilité chez les étudiants de sciences po Paris et de l'Université d'Oxford. Annee Sociologique, 66(1), pp. 193–224.
  9. Tholen, G. (2015). What can research into graduate employability tell us about agency and structure? British Journal of Sociology of Education, 36(5), pp. 766–784. doi:10.1080/01425692.2013.847782.
  10. Tholen, G. (2014). Graduate employability and educational context: A comparison between Great Britain and the Netherlands. British Educational Research Journal, 40(1), pp. 1–17. doi:10.1002/berj.3023.
  11. James, S., Warhurst, C., Tholen, G. and Commander, J. (2013). What we know and what we need to know about graduate skills. Work, Employment and Society, 27(6), pp. 952–963. doi:10.1177/0950017013500116.
  12. Power, S., Brown, P., Allouch, A. and Tholen, G. (2013). Self, Career and Nationhood: The contrasting aspirations of British and French elite graduates. British Journal of Sociology, 64(4), pp. 578–596. doi:10.1111/1468-4446.12048.
  13. Tholen, G. (2013). The Social Construction of Competition for Graduate Jobs: A Comparison between Great Britain and the Netherlands. Sociology, 47(2), pp. 267–283. doi:10.1177/0038038512444815.
  14. Tholen, G., Brown, P., Power, S. and Allouch, A. (2013). The role of networks and connections in educational elites' labour market entrance. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 34, pp. 142–154. doi:10.1016/j.rssm.2013.10.003.



SG1027 Researching Society: Qualitative Methods (UG)
SG2021 Understanding Social Change (UG)


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Other Activities

Editorial activity (2)

  1. Work, Employment and Society, editorial board member.
  2. British Journal of Sociology of Education, editorial board member.