Many universities have identified a set of generic graduate qualities or graduate attributes that they expect to characterise their graduates across all courses and programs.
An important motivation behind identifying and promulgating a set of expected graduate qualities in this way is the recognition of the importance placed by employers, by society and by graduates themselves on the generic characteristics that can reasonably be associated with a university graduate. This generic expectation is in addition to the more specific skills and knowledge that graduates should be acquiring through the specific university course that they have undertaken.
Until recently, Flinders University’s approach has been to identify graduate outcomes for each course relating to course-specific aims and learning outcomes. However, the University’s submission to its Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) auditors in 2006 noted the advice of an earlier Trial Audit Panel. That Panel had advised that, while the University's approach was sound, further consideration should be given to whether course-specific statements provided a meaningful resource for graduates and employers. Accordingly, the University undertook to review the ISSe.
The 2006 AUQA Report duly affirmed “Flinders’ planned development of a cohesive approach to identifying and implementing generic graduate outcomes (attributes) that will assist in preparing graduates for employment and define the characteristics of a Flinders graduate in the labour market”.
Emeritus Professor Gus Worby was appointed as a consultant to undertake a scoping study through the second half of 2007. Professor Worby produced an extensive and detailed report and background paper. The Report placed the concept of graduate attributes/qualities within a broad sectoral and intellectual context. It also provided detailed advice, based on intensive consultation across the University, about how Flinders staff and students perceived the characteristics - both distinctive of Flinders and more broadly applicable to all university graduates - that might be described as graduate attributes/qualities.
Under the authority of the Vice-Chancellor’s Committee, the statement of attributes recommended in the Worby Report was considered alongside a list of ideal graduate workplace skills set out in the Flinders University Employer Survey and the educational principles set out in the Education at Flinders statement. The draft statement that emerged was then considered several times by Academic Senate, by the Vice-Chancellor’s Committee and by the Education Matters Advisory Group (a committee that includes chairs of faculty teaching and learning committees).
The intention in drafting the final statement was:
- for the language describing the specified graduate qualities to be relatively simple so that it would be meaningful to students, employers and staff
- for the attributes to be broadly applicable, academically and professionally defensible, and readily recognisable
- for the statement as a whole - including the contextual paragraphs - to imply a sense of shared responsibility between the University and the student for achieving the intended outcomes.
The final statement was approved by Academic Senate on 23 July 2008 and in turn noted by University Council on 7 August 2008.