Consumer vulture culture

January 24, 1997

It was interesting to read two separate articles on transferable skills in the workplace (THES, January 17) but neither of them really addressed the issue of what the student thinks they get out of their chosen degree and what we should be doing to change it.

It has always surprised me that students when first starting their degree tend to think degrees are more about content than process. To change their outlook I do the same exercise every year within the tutorial system. I am writing this in the hope that it may be of interest to other tutors.

Within the first few weeks I get my students to spend ten to 15 minutes writing down what they think they will learn or gain from doing a degree. After the pre-designated time period is over they each read out their replies. Almost all of the time, the students' responses are content based (eg "I'll learn more about personality/cognitive psychology/abnormal behaviour etc.").

It is at this point I tell them about transferable skills. For the first time, many of the students realise that their degree will give them the transferable skills of literacy, numeracy, computer literacy, interpersonal awareness, environmental awareness, problem-solving skills, information finding skills, presentational skills, critical evaluation, research skills, measurement skills, pragmatism and higher order analysis. We then use the rest of the session to work out how we are going to use the content based material as an aid to developing the transferable skills process.

Mark Griffiths Faculty of economics and social sciences, Nottingham Trent University.

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