Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Generic Skill Development for Research Higher Degree Students: An Australian Example

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Generic Skill Development for Research Higher Degree Students: An Australian Example

Article excerpt


With an increasing number of research graduates looking for employment outside universities, it has become more important that they are able to develop and document the range of transferable skills that they acquire as part of their research education that go beyond the completion of a scholarly thesis. Until recently, Australian universities have only focused on undergraduate generic skills, or graduate attributes as they are also called, and have begun to map their development throughout undergraduate degree programs (Bowden et al, 2000). Few have officially listed postgraduate research generic skills. This paper examines the Australian Council of Deans and Directors list of generic skills research higher degree students should develop, which they discussed in 1999. The different approaches adopted to the development of these skills in Australia and the UK are explored. This provides a background to an innovative project conducted by the Australian Technology Network (l) Deans and Directors Of Graduate Studies (ATN DDOGS) group to develop a series of online modules designed to facilitate the development of research graduates' generic skills (the ATN Learning Employment Aptitudes Program (ATN LEAP)). These modules will broaden the skill and knowledge base of ATN research students, supporting the fundamental learning partnership between supervisors and students and ensuring that research graduates are able to experience a smoother transition from study to work in the professions or industry.


Holdaway (1996) was one of the first to develop a conceptual framework of research education that delineated not only the primary activities and foci of preparing a thesis but also a list of secondary activities that included developing skills, knowledge and a reputation in both research and teaching; establishing contacts; and developing a research profile through publications. The Council of Australian Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies (DDOGS) extended this in 1999 when they discussed a draft statement prepared by Mairead Browne from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). In this draft statement, Browne (1999, pp. 2-4) identified the following groups of skills that need to be developed during research higher degree studies:

Generic/Transferable skills for research and thesis preparation:

* Software skills

* Communication skills

* Information skills

* Project skills (including project management and compliance with regulations and guidelines)

* Cognitive skills

Generic/Transferable skills for personal development and career:

* Tertiary teaching skills

* The structure of business and industry

* The employment relationship

* Values and future directions

* Intercultural/interdisciplinary understanding

* Postdoctoral position

It was agreed that, while there were a number of significant difficulties in embedding generic skill development in research education programs that will be discussed below, each Australian university would adopt their own strategy to provide their students with opportunities to acquire and enhance their skills in these areas.


Since 1999, many Australian universities have started to develop their own list of the generic skills they would like their research higher degree students to develop and only a few have implemented programs to achieve this development. For example, a number of universities provide face-to-face workshop programs that are designed to, among other things, raise research students' awareness of employment-related generic skills such as commercialization, project management and intellectual property protection. The University of Queensland, for example, offers sessions on media skills, commercialization, setting up a business and being a consultant--http://www. …

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