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What is Focus On?

Each year, we choose a topic for the Focus On project. We base this on our findings from Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR). We invite all Scottish higher education institutions and students’ associations to tell us how we can give them the best support around this topic. This guarantees what we do will be useful and relevant.

Why graduate skills?

With the apprenticeships and skills work high on the agenda across the sector, a Focus On: Graduate Skills is relevant and timely. This project will also build 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.

The project

We consulted Scottish higher education institutions and students’ associations to identify the priority areas for our work on graduate skills. As a result, the project will consider:

  • Readiness for employment and effective ways of embedding skills inside (and outside) the curriculum, including digital skills for graduates from all disciplines.
  • Equality and diversity and how we can support students from all backgrounds and characteristics to develop skills that will help them to secure and sustain their success in the workplace.

There will also be an international angle to our work, recognising that Scotland is an exporter of graduates around the globe and that all graduates will live and work in a global society.

Elements of graduate skills

Publication Date: 18 Feb 2019

Activities 2018-19

We will:

  1. Share key messages and analysis of existing information on graduate attributes, skills and employability.
  2. Explore student views - what approaches to skills development work well? How can we improve? What do students want more of?
  3. Showcase and share practice - we will hold an event in summer 2019 to celebrate good practice and share current approaches to skills development.
  4. Hold a policy and practice summit in summer 2019 - to consider our approach in Scotland in an international context, consider our future challenges and our readiness as a sector to meet these and take action.
  5. Work with graduates and employers – what do graduates and employers tell us that we can do better in HE to support students for life after University, and how do we work most effectively with employers to embed effective skills development in the curriculum?

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. You can see the whole tweetchat conversation by clicking on this button.

Student Views research project

The aim of this project is to analyse the views of current students on the skills they are developing through their studies at higher education institutions in Scotland, addressing the following questions:

  • What do current students think their institution is doing well, and where could it do better?
  • What digital skills do current students feel they are developing through their studies, and are there differences in these views across different disciplines and subject areas?
  • Do current students feel that their institution ensures that all students (irrespective of background and different characteristics) are able to access the full range of skills development opportunities offered in higher education?
  • Are current students confident that they are developing the skills required to live and work in a global society?

This work is being carried out by Dr Maxine Swingler, Dr Archie Roy, Anna Rolinska, Dr Maria Gardini, and Scott Kirby of the University of Glasgow. Project outputs will be posted here in May 2019 and shared at the Focus On: Graduate Skills sharing practice event on 5 June 2019.  

Sharing Practice event


Focus On: Graduate Skills Sharing Practice event on Wednesday 5 June 2019 – hold the date!

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. In addition, the early outcomes of two commissioned research projects on student, graduate, and employer views on graduate skills will be shared on this day. The event will be held in The Studio in Glasgow. The registration page for this event will be posted here in due course.

Related resource

Employability and Graduate Attributes: Thematic Report update 2018

Publication Date: 05 Nov 2018

Other useful resources

Resources from ‘Graduates for the 21st Century’ Enhancement Theme

The ‘Graduates for the 21st Century’ Enhancement Theme, which ran from 2011-2014, combined the work of the earlier Enhancement Themes. Issues raised relating to Employability (originally an Enhancement Theme in 2004) are still relevant in 2019, and the following resources may prove useful.

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