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Examining the graduate attribute agenda in Australian universities

A review of (continuing) problems and pitfalls

Peta S. Cook

Graduate attributes refer to an amalgamation of cognitive, personal, interpersonal and social skills, abilities and qualities that students are expected to develop and apply during and after their degree programme. They have been widely adopted across higher education in Australia and internationally. In this article, I review some of the continuing problems of graduate attributes in the Australian higher education sector some twenty years after their introduction, including the concepts of employability and work readiness, the processes of mapping and resourcing and whether graduate attributes are generic. This examination foregrounds the ongoing pitfalls of graduate attributes in relation to their purpose, contextualisation and implementation. While there remains potential positive student and institutional outcomes from graduate attributes, the continuing problems of resourcing and the diversity of roles and purposes that universities serve for students and communities, are being overlooked.

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Penny Welch and Susan Wright

In this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences, academics from Sweden, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom offer insights into a number of features of undergraduate study – independent study projects, the development of political attitudes, the graduate attributes agenda, general education courses in global studies and the attainment gap between students with different types of entry qualifications.