Applying theory in practice: views of graduating business students

Kelly Benati, Sophie Lindsay, Juan Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Universities have traditionally focused on imparting theoretical knowledge, which graduates then transfer to the workplace. However, the unpredictable modern workplace makes this transfer less certain. Whilst the gap between theory and practice has often been considered from an employer and academic standpoint, less is known about the graduate perspective. The purpose of this study is to determine the ways in which theoretical knowledge and practical experience interact for graduating students. Design/methodology/approach: The views of 86 undergraduate business approaching graduation were gathered on how they applied theory to practice during their recent internship. Findings: Graduating students apply theory that they have learnt at university through the direct application of fundamental knowledge and through workplace experience, which built on and deepened the knowledge accumulated at university. The findings indicate that there is, indeed, a gap between theory and practice but that employability skills may assist in the transfer process. Research limitations/implications: The research broadens the understanding of how theoretical knowledge is applied in practice and helps to determine if graduating students are prepared to meet the demands of an ever-changing workplace. Practical implications: The results give us insight into how theory and practice interact for graduating students and give support to universities further exploring experiential learning opportunities for students and continuing to the development of employability skills. Originality/value: The findings encourage a more nuanced debate regarding the role of universities and that both the provision of core theoretical concept and employability skills are necessary for graduates to effectively use their academic education in the modern workplace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1213-1224
Number of pages12
JournalEducation and Training
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Business students
  • Employability skills
  • Intern
  • Internships
  • Transferable skills
  • Work-integrated learning

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