Surrey's unit aims to boost job skills

August 25, 2000

A skills unit to boost the employability of students graduating from the University of Surrey will be launched in October.

Penny Burden, skills unit manager at the University of Surrey, said that students should be proficient in: reading, writing and oral communication; numeracy; IT; business awareness; personal effectiveness; and team working.

The move is in line with government thinking. Education secretary David Blunkett has called for universities to produce graduates with both specialist knowledge and the generic skills needed in the world of work.

Performance indicators for graduate employability will also be introduced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The first, based on what graduates are doing six months after leaving an institution, will be published in March 2001. A more complex indicator, which could take into account the nature of the job and its salary, is being developed. It will not be ready until 2003.

Ms Burden recently surveyed more than 1,000 students, graduates and employers to identify gaps in generic skills.

Employers said that graduates should be able to respond to the different environment of work and recognise that they need to modify their behaviour accordingly. The survey findings will be used to inform the university's strategy.

The aim of the unit will be to ensure that students gain generic skills by developing the curriculum and, in some cases, adding extra lectures where gaps have been identified. Gaining proficiency in these generic skills would carry credit and be assessed, said Ms Burden.

She said: "Most of our degree courses involve these skills anyway - our job is to identify individual skills and make sure they are embedded.

"The skills unit is very much part of the university's overall teaching and learning strategy."

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