By their graduate attributes shall ye know them

June 3, 2010

In the past students have tended to be identified by their unkempt hair, scruffy clothes and rucksacks full of dog-eared reference books.

Now, plans are afoot to ensure that graduates of one Scottish university can be picked out by more worthwhile personal characteristics.

Scholars at the University of Abertay Dundee are working to refine a list of qualities that should be common to all graduates of the institution.

The list is being reviewed with the help of student representatives two years after "graduate attributes" were first included within the university's curriculum.

At an Abertay conference asking "What defines a graduate?", delegates debated the pros and cons of the new graduate blueprint, which was drawn up earlier this year.

The list contends that Abertay graduates should be four things: confident thinkers, determined creators, flexible collaborators and ambitious enquirers.

The end result should be that its students have the skills to "challenge complexity" in whatever they go on to do when they graduate.

Steve Olivier, pro vice-chancellor for academic development at Abertay Dundee, said the university was leading a debate that was equally relevant to other institutions.

"We have been quite instrumental in the development of graduate attributes. This is not common currency among universities yet," he said.

"We feel we shouldn't stand still on this, because society and the demands of the economy are constantly changing."

As part of the initiative, the university now requires its teaching staff to complete a postgraduate teaching course, including a module exploring how to embed the "graduate attributes" into the curriculum, and funding is available for projects related to the attributes.

The participants in the conference last month included Laurie O'Donnell, former director of Learning and Teaching Scotland, Norman Sharp, former director of the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland, and Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students Scotland.

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