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What is Focus On?

QAA Scotland's Focus On projects help the sector address recommendations and commendations from Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR). Focus On ties these outcomes to developmental activities, resources and events that the whole sector can get involved in. Projects last one academic year (from October to June). We try to focus on the most practical things that can help colleagues make a real difference in a short space of time.

Why graduate skills?

With debate on apprenticeships and skills high on the agenda in higher education, Focus On: Graduate Skills is relevant and timely. This project builds on our previous work, including the Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

We identified topics relating to graduate skills in Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) Outcome Reports and in our Thematic Report on Employability and Graduate Attributes. We then consulted Scottish higher education institutions and students’ associations to identify priority areas. As a result, the project will consider:

  • Readiness for Employment: how can we most effectively embed skills inside and outside the curriculum, including digital skills, for graduates from all disciplines?
  • Equality and Diversity: how can we support students from all backgrounds and characteristics to develop skills that will help them to secure and sustain success in the workplace?
  • Global Perspective: how do we ensure that all Scottish graduates are enabled to live and work in a global society, and that the Scottish sector is informed by global developments?

Research projects

We have commissioned two projects. Outcomes will be shared in June 2019.

  1. Graduate Skills: Students Views
  2. Graduate Skills: Graduate and Employer Views

These projects will work together to analyse the views of current students, graduates, and employers on the skills developed by students at higher education institutions in Scotland, and will answer the following questions:

  • What is the sector doing well, and where could it do better?
  • How is the sector ensuring that appropriate digital skills are developed by graduates in all disciplines and subject areas?
  • How is the sector ensuring that all students (irrespective of background and different characteristics) are able to access the full range of skills development opportunities offered in higher education?
  • How is the sector ensuring that graduates are equipped to live and work in a global society?

Graduate Skills: Students Views

A team from the University of Glasgow and Glasgow School of Art will lead the Graduate Skills: Students Views project. The team brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise on the development of graduate skills and attributes in higher education and will include:

  • Dr Maxine Swingler (Lecturer in Psychology)
  • Dr Archie Roy (Careers Manager)
  • Anna Rolinska (Lecturer in English for Academic Study)
  • Dr Maria Gardini (Lecturer in Psychology)
  • Scott Kirby (Vice-President of Student Activities, SRC)
  • undergraduate and postgraduate researchers.

Their exciting approach to research and engaging students in the project will help us to analyse the views of current students on the skills they are developing through their studies. We will present this material in a way that helps individuals, institutions and the sector as a whole develop new policies and practices in this vital area.

Introduction to the student views research project

Publication Date: 08 May 2019

Graduate Skills: Graduate and Employer Views

AGCAS Scotland (The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services) will lead the Graduate Skills: Graduate and Employer project. The project lead is researcher Shelley Morgan, who will be supported by AGCAS Scotland’s professional network of HE careers and employability practitioners. AGCAS will work with all Scottish Higher Education Institutions to deliver the project.

Agcas Scotland logo
University careers services have a strong track record of delivering creative and increasingly evidence-driven initiatives to support students’ skills development, increasingly in partnership with employers. Through this project, AGCAS Scotland looks forward to shining a spotlight on perceptions of graduate skills and showcasing best practice in skills development. The project outcomes will contribute to existing work and inform future debates around graduate transitions to employment and their preparedness to live and work in a global society.

Upcoming events - June 2019

We are holding two events in June 2019. These will take place at The Studio in central Glasgow.

Focus On: Graduate Skills - sharing practice

Wednesday 5 June 2019

This event will celebrate good practice and share current approaches to skills development through a variety of presentation and workshop sessions from institutions across Scotland.


The event will also feature a keynote presentation from Professor Simon Barrie and presentations sharing the outcomes of two commissioned research projects on student, graduate, and employer views on graduate skills mentioned above.


Focus On: Graduate Skills - shaping strategy

Thursday 6 June 2019

This is an invite-only summit for senior colleagues from the sector. The aim is to invite leading figures from higher education and government to join a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the future of graduate skills in Scotland; our approach in an international context; the future challenges we face and our readiness as a sector to meet these and take action. The programme is still in development, but will include:

  • Professor Simon Barrie, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Learning Transformations), Western Sydney University, Australia
  • Professor Sara Carter, Associate Principal (Learning and Teaching), University of Strathclyde and member of Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board
  • Dr Wendy Cukier, Founder/Academic Director, Diversity Institute, Ryerson University, Canada
  • Professor John Harper, Principal, Robert Gordon University
  • Professor Crichton Lang, Deputy Principal, University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Strathclyde
  • Professor Brad MacKay, Vice-Principal (International Strategy and External Relations), University of St Andrews
  • Professor Sarah Sharples, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, University of Nottingham.

We plan to produce outputs from the day that will contribute to policy direction in the Scottish HE sector.

Focus On: Graduate Skills tweetchat

On 5 December 2018 QAA Scotland guest-hosted the #LTHEchat on the subject of 'Graduate Skills'. We used this tweetchat to ask a series of questions about how higher education institutions and providers can better support student to develop the skills they will need to thrive in their lives and work following their studies. The whole conservation was captured on Tweetchat.

Related resources

Employability and Graduate Attributes: Thematic Report update 2018

Publication Date: 05 Nov 2018

Employability: Analysis of materials on Student Transitions Map

Publication Date: 21 Feb 2019

Employability and the austerity decade

Publication Date: 17 Jan 2019

What is topical/emergent in Employability?

Publication Date: 17 Jan 2019

Thinking strategically about employability and graduate attributes: Universities and enhancing learning for beyond university

Publication Date: 17 Jan 2019

Enhancing research-teaching linkages as a way to improve the development of employability attributes

Publication Date: 17 Jan 2019