OVERED: University-to-work transition. A qualitative inquiry on over-qualification among Romanian youth

This project is supported by a grant of the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research and Innovation, CNCS – UEFISCDI, project number PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2016-0368. Contract number: 12/2018.

Period: 2018-2020


General presentationTeamResearch outcomesReportsContact

Europe has the most educated generation in its history. Yet, many graduates work in other fields; have jobs that require lower skills and offer limited opportunities for professional growth. They are overqualified. This project sets out to fill an important research void at the intersection of youth, employment and higher education. It aims to gain an understanding of overqualified peoples’ views on the world of work that is unfolding upon graduation and on the perceived value of education. For contextualizing their views, the project integrates qualitative research (in-depth interviews) with other key actors: employers/ HR staff, local employment offices and university career counsellors. Finally, the project engages in a critical dialogue with the policy making on employability and challenges dominant paradigms that either victimize or blame young people.




  • To explore overqualified graduates’ perspectives on their occupational history and meanings of work;
  • To examine the meanings young overqualified graduates attribute to education by large and higher education in particular;
  • To generate a typology of employers’ views on overqualification, based on theoretical sampling;
  • Based on interviews with a diversity of actors, to map the particularities of overqualification in Romania.


Maria-Carmen PANTEA – project director

Alina Petronela SILIAN – doctoral researcher

Gonzague ISIRABAHENDA – doctoral researcher

Publications and Reports:


Pantea, M.C. and Potočnik, D. (2019) Employability revisited. Mapping the role of youth work in the field of youth employability and entrepreneurship. Madrid: Erasmus+.

Pantea, M.C. (under review) ‘Higher education as seen through the lens of young people working in innovative technologies’.

Pantea, M.C. (2019) “Perceived reasons for pursuing vocational education and training among young people in Romania’. Journal of Vocational Education & Training. 72(1): 136-156.

Pantea, M.C. (IFirst) “Parents as gatekeepers? An indirect account on the image of vocational education in historical context” Journal of Family History. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363199019895995

A Background Report is available. It has the purpose of informing the qualitative research by updated studies on the main themes of interest: (i) the economic transformations in the nature of work in Romania; (ii) a critical analysis of employability and related concepts.

Conferences and seminars:


Alina Silian and Gonzague Isirabahenda took part at the workshop ‘Karl Polanyi and the New Deal: Can lessons be drawn for the Green New Deal?’ organised by the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, Faculty of European Studies UBB and Casa Tranzit Cluj (February 2020, Cluj), with the participation of professor Gareth Dale from Brunel University.

Maria-Carmen Pantea participated at the Spotlight Session – The Challenges Facing Young People Today, organized by The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation (March, 2020).

Maria-Carmen Pantea participated at the Asia Global Institute Webinar – The Economic Challenges of the Coronavirus Crisis (March, 2020). The webinar was conducted by Professor Zhiwu Chen, Director of Asia Global Institute (AGI), Chair Professor of Finance and Victor and William Fung Professor of Economics, University of Hong Kong and Alejandro T. Reyes, Director of Knowledge Dissemination and visiting associate professor the Asia Global Institute.

Maria-Carmen Pantea and Gonzague Isirabahenda proposed the presentation ‘Instilling compliance. A critical theory perspective of call center work at the conference ‘Thirty Years of Capitalist Transformations in Central and Eastern Europe: Inequalities and Social Resistance’, organized by the Institute for Social Solidarity and the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, UBB. The conference was postponed to September 2020.

Gonzague Isirabahenda proposed the presentation ‘They would not make it: overeducated employees of the call center industry in Romania’ at the conference of the Work, Employment and Society: Connectedness, activism and dignity at work. The conference was postponed to 2021.

Gonzague Isirabahenda made the presentation ‘A conceptual understanding of graduate underemployment in Romania’ at the conference ‘Tendințe ale cunoașterii și dezvoltării sociale în secolul XXI’, organised by Departamentul de Științe Sociale al Universității ‚1 Decembrie 1918’ Alba Iulia and Institutul de Cercetare a Calitatii Vietii (Octomber 2019, Alba Iulia).

Maria-Carmen Pantea made the presentation ‘‘Graduates’ over-qualification. Performing the border of precarious employment in Romania’s call centers’ and chaired the session ‘Housing transitions’ at the 14th ESA Conference ‘Europe and beyond: boundaries, barriers and belongings’ (August 2019, Manchester).

Maria-Carmen Pantea made a presentation at The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Regional Conference – Europe, Mediterranean and Arab States, (July 2019, Cluj-Napoca).

Gonzague Isirabahenda took part at the conference ‘Work, Industry, Robotization’ at the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, UBB (June 2019, Cluj Napoca).

Alina Silian chaired the workshop ‘Continuous Vocational Education and Training’ at ‘The 3rd international VET Conference – Crossing Boundaries în Vocational Education and Training: Pedagogical concerns and market demands’ (May 2019, València).

The team had a public presentation of the project within the research seminar of the Sociology Department of UBB (October 2018, Cluj Napoca).

Maria-Carmen Pantea made the presentation ‘Imagined (working) lives of young people in Romania’s vocational education and training’ at conference ‘Self and Identity in Emerging Adulthood Babeș-Bolyai University’ a Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood (May 2018, Cluj Napoca).

Maria-Carmen Pantea participated at the conference ‘Skills for the future: Managing transition’ organised by the European Training Foundation (November 2018, Torino).

Participation in trainings:

Alina Silian took part in the programme FUTURE – Construiește cu pasiune of ReImagine Education Office Depot, a series of trainings for a better understanding of employability and the role of higher education (October, 2019 -February 2020, Cluj Napoca).

Alina Silian and Gonzague Isirabahenda attended the webinars “Program Evaluation with NVivo: Effective strategies for integrating and analysing qualitative data” (March, 2020), “What’s new in NVivo” (March, 2020), organized by QSR International and two interactive online courses on NVivo provided by Alfasoft® (October 2018 and May, 2019).

Maria-Carmen Pantea attended the MITx Shaping Work of the Future online course. The course included lectures by MIT teachers and course partners, from the World Economic Forum and the International Labor Organization (January-March 2020).

Gonzague Isirabahenda followed the Online Course – Web of Science Group ‘All About EndNote Online’, organized by Clarivate Analytics Company (February 2020).

Gonzague Isirabahenda participated at the public speaking course ‘Introduction to the Art of Impact Communication’ organized by Allan Kleynhans in Cluj Napoca (February 2020).

Gonzague Isirabahenda participated at the webinar “Staying well during your PhD, postdoc or research career” organized by Digital Health Cooperative Research Center (DHCRC), Australia presented by Dr. Melanie Haines, Education Manager (January 2020).

Maria-Carmen Pantea took part in the World Bank online course ‚The Future of Work: Preparing for Disruption’ (October 2019).

Gonzague Isirabahenda took part at the graduate seminar ‚Educație de calitate prin cercetare participativă în spaţiul rural’ Ediţia I – Şugag, organised by Centrul de Cercetări Sociologice al Universităţii „1 Decembrie 1918″ Alba Iulia (September 2019, Şugag Alba)

Gonzague Isirabahenda took part in an academic writing training: ‘Scrierea și publicarea de articole științifice și respectarea deontologiei și eticii în cercetare’ offered by Babes-Bolyai Universtaty within the project CNFiS-FDI-2018-0057 Educatie de calitate la UBB (June 2019, Cluj Napoca).

Alina Silian took part at the Research methods symposium ‚Researching (In)Equalities at Work’ organised by Alliance Manchester Business School (April 2019, Manchester).

Gonzague Isirabahenda took part in an Enformation event for improving access to scientific literature. The event was organised by Asociatia Universitătilor, Institutelor de Cercetare-Dezvoltare si Bibliotecilor Centrale Universitare din Romania “Anelis Plus” and SC E-nformation (March 2019).

Policy-related contributions:


Maria-Carmen Pantea contributed to the revision of the concept document for the preparation of the ‘Youth Knowledge Forum’ by the EU-CoE Youth partnership. Also, as a member of the editorial team of the European Training Foundation (ETF), she contributed to the revision of manuscripts that will be published in European Training Foundation’s book ‘Understanding skills demand in a changing world’ (Turin, 2020).

Maria-Carmen Pantea was invited to join the ET2020 working group network of the European Commission. Working groups are designed to help EU Member States address key challenges facing their education and training systems, as well as common priorities agreed at European level.

Maria-Carmen Pantea was invited speaker at the Kick off conference on Youth Employability & Entrepreneurship of the Youth@Work Strategic Partnership (June 2019, Istanbul).

Maria-Carmen Pantea contributed to the publication Youth research: the Essentials of the European Union– Council of Europe youth partnership (2019)

Maria-Carmen Pantea supported the European Training Foundation in developing and writing publications, as an editorial board member.

Maria-Carmen Pantea made a presentation at the ‘Towards Collaborative Practice 2018 – Forum on the environmental dimension of social entrepreneurship’ at the European Youth Center, Budapest (December 2018).


Maria-Carmen Pantea, project director: maria.pantea@ubbcluj.ro