With the emergence of an information society in the late 80’s and early 90’s came a shift of focus in the industry from technical skills to generic skills. This shift, as well as pressures from governments, employers, and organisations, triggered the introduction of graduate attribute (GAs)(click for definition) frameworks in universities. The intended result was to deliver graduates that are better prepared for the workforce.
In spite of similarities between these sets of GAs, there is also great diversity when it comes to naming and describing them. Every university uses slightly different names and definitions for these attributes. This lack of shared standard names and definitions can hinder communication and make it harder to research GAs. Our goal was to develop a universal, standard model of graduate attributes with clear names and comprehensive definitions, using input from a variety of stakeholders, including academics, students, employers, educational developers etc.
The program of PhD research is now complete and encompassed the following studies:
- Analysis of UK University graduate attribute information to produce a preliminary framework of universal graduate attributes – named the 7i model.
- An interview study with stakeholders (academics, students, employers) to investigate perceptions of graduate attributes, and where these attributes are best developed (classroom, co-, extracurricular).
- An online survey study with multiple stakeholders (students, academics, employers, education developers etc.) to confirm the structure of the 7i model along with ensuring the element definitions were appropriate and clear.
- An online survey with stakeholders (students, academics, employers) to assess the degree to which graduate attributes are observable in the classroom, gather behavioural examples that would illustrate these attributes in practice, and assess the degree to which each specific attribute can be successfully developed across three contexts: classroom, co-curricular, extracurricular.
- The final study used discussion groups to validate and refine the developed 7i graduate attribute behavioural marker system (based on the studies outlined above). The 7i marker system can be used by academics to assess and track graduate attribute development in the classroom.
We analysed lists of graduate attributes from 27 universities across the UK.
We identified 43 unique graduate attributes in our dataset.
These attributes were grouped into 7 broad categories.
Graduate attributes definition
Graduate attributes are “the qualities, skills and understandings [that] include but go beyond the disciplinary expertise or technical knowledge that has traditionally formed the core of most university courses. They are qualities that also prepare graduates as agents of social good in an unknown future.”
Bowden et al. (2000, p.3)