Key-skills drive may put study in shade

July 26, 2002

Undergraduate learning could be impaired by the growing pressure on universities to improve graduate employability, according to findings from the "Skills plus" project.

The project, which involved Liverpool John Moores, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan universities, has shown that a simple fine tuning of the curriculum can help instil in students the attributes that most employers look for.

This challenges the key-skills approach favoured by the government and the funding council that encourages universities and colleges to improve graduate employability by concentrating on curriculum add-ons, such as work experience and modules that develop entrepreneurship.

Project leader Peter Knight, director of the centre of outcomes-based education at the Open University, said: "Many academics see the government stress on 'employability' as invasive of higher educational values and driving good learning out. We believe that improving employability is not just about learning in, about or for work but about learning in general."

The findings come just as the Higher Education Funding Council for England is setting up a student employability coordination team to promote the integration of employment skills in courses.

In addition, a joint report, Enhancing Employability, Recognising Diversity , by Universities UK and the Higher Education Careers Services Unit also recommends course add-ons and calls on employers to become more involved in helping undergraduates gain workplace skills.

Details: www.open.ac.uk/vqportal/Skills-Plus/home.htm

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