Academic experience develops students more fully than learning alone Academic experience develops students more fully than learning alone

However, many students are not aware that the abilities they are developing from their academic programmes are identified in programme specifications and are transferable to the workplace. These skills and abilities include:

  • Becoming analytic
  • Solving problems
  • Synthesising information
  • Communicating in written form
  • Constructing coherent arguments
  • Oral communication including contributing to discussions, presenting to groups
  • Working in groups including collaboration, resolving conflict, leadership
  • Resourcefulness
  • Thinking creatively
  • Managing time and resources

These skills and abilities align quite closely with the skills employers consider the most important when recruiting new graduates, although the order of priority differs. For example, communication skills may be considered by academics as secondary to core academic skills, yet the ability to communicate is consistently at the top of employer demands and many are dissatisfied that graduates can express themselves effectively (Archer & Davidson 2008).

Other studies on employer expectations have highlighted the importance of attributes including the ability to integrate quickly into a team, listening to others and showing attention to detail (Hinchliffe and Jolly forthcoming). Furthermore, integrity, confidence, trustworthiness and other personality traits are considered important by employers yet often fall outside conventional methods used to evaluate potential in selection processes and skills audits.

The development of such a suite of attributes and abilities requires using a range of learning activities and assessment methods including:

  • projects
  • groupwork
  • case studies
  • presentations
  • seminars
  • peer assessment
  • problem-based learning
  • work-based learning.

Across UEA as a whole, more than half of Schools already run explicitly skills-based modules, ranging from research and communication skills to industry relevant areas such as Scriptwriting (LIT), Science Communication (SCI) and Actuarial Methods (CMP). In non-vocational courses it can be especially challenging to identify where such modules can fit into the curriculum and as result many students graduate relatively unversed in the vernacular of skills or lacking in awareness of their development.  Whilst module-specific skills and employability profiles can aid awareness, in themselves they may be insufficient to address these issues.

The Learning Enhancement Team (LET) based in the Student Support Service offers expert guidance on the central academic skills that enable students to make the most of their course at UEA. The LET also offer support to lecturing staff to maximise the student learning experience.

Archer, W. and Davidson, J.  2008  Graduate Employability: What do Employers Think and Want?  Council for Industry and Higher Education. Full Report (PDF).