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October 12, 2018

Are ‘graduate skills’ a thing of the past?











Although employability has long been accepted as comprising more than skills (Yorke and Knight, 2006), the discourse is expanding to one of ‘graduate identity’ that incorporates personal characteristics, attributes and behaviours and the ability of graduates to articulate their acquisition and development upon entry into and transfer within the labour market. That this conversation has gained credibility is evidenced in the QAAs 2018 revision of their Enterprise and Employability Guidelines where these ‘enterprise competencies’ are now viewed as ‘essential attributes … identified by employers as priorities’ (p.3).In an increasingly marketized HE context, where institutions are expected to respond to multiple agendas and policy initiatives, including the TEF, many HEIs are focusing more on the personal development of students as part of a wider repositioning of themselves as ‘market-oriented educational enterprises’ (Grotkowska et al, 2015).

This Campfire session will consider the outcomes from the University of Northampton’s ’Changemaker in the Curriculum’ project and explore the value of pure ‘graduate skills’ in the 21st century. It will question whether the conversation should be focused on graduate identity and consider how HEIs might begin both to define and achieve this, and enable their students to stand out in the graduate labour market.

Finally, it will pose questions around the role and purpose of HE in this context and consider whether this is, in fact, the function of HE in the first place.

Strand Student Outcomes
Type Campfire
Learning objective(s)
  1. explore the value of traditional graduate skills sets in the 21st century
  2. consider whether the conversation should more rightly be positioned around notions of ‘graduate identity’
  3. consider how the University of Northampton’s Framework of Graduate Attributes could function as a starting point for participants to explore what it is that defines graduates from their institutions and how this might be achieved in practice.
References Grotkowska, G., Wincenciak, L. and Gajderowicz, T. (2015) Ivory-tower or market-oriented enterprise: the role of higher education institutions in shaping graduate employability in the domain of science. Higher Education Research & Development. 34(5), pp.869-882.Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2018) Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education: Guidance for UK Higher Education Providers.

Yorke and Knight (2006) Embedding Employability into the Curriculum. Learning and Employability Series One [online]. York: Higher Education Academy.