Graduate attributes: How some university students experience and learn them
The voices of university students are often absent from academic discourses on the learning of graduate attributes (GAs). Such attributes are mostly constructed and conceptualised from the viewpoint of academics, institutions, education authorities and industry. However, as students within democratic contexts are increasingly challenged to assume greater responsibility for their own growth and development, it seems imperative that they participate in discussions related to the acquiring of graduate attributes. This article reports on how students at one South African university understand and relate to graduate attributes. Data were generated from a group of students at the University of the Western Cape through focus group interviews and photo elicitation. The results indicate that students who understand what graduate attributes are and how they can acquire these attributes might enhance such students’ further growth and their employability.
Barrie, S. C. 2006. Understanding what we mean by the generic attributes of graduates. Higher Education 51(2): 215‒241.
Barrie, S. C. 2007. A conceptual framework for the teaching and learning of generic graduate attributes. Studies in Higher Education 32(4): 439‒458.
Barrie, S. C. 2012. A research-based approach to generic graduate attributes policy. Higher Education Research & Development 31(1): 79‒92.
Bawa, A. 2014. Foreword in Perspectives on Student Affairs in South Africa, ed. M. Speckman and M. Mandew, i‒v. African Minds. South Africa.
Bester, M. 2014. Academics’ conceptions and orientations of graduate attributes in applied design programmes at a university of technology. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University. Unpublished Master’s thesis.
Bosanquet, A., T. Winchester-Seeto and A. Rowe. 2010. Changing perceptions underpinning graduate attributes: A pilot study. Research and Development in Higher Education 33: 105–117. Special edition on “Reshaping Higher Education”.
Bowden, J., G. Hart, B. King, K. Trigwell and O. Watts. 2000. Generic capabilities of ATN university graduates. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/34352/20030513-0000/www.clt.uts.edu.au/ATN.grad.cap. project.index.html (Accessed 31 January 2017).
British Council: International Higher Education. 2015. Student perceptions of employability and inclusive development: South Africa. https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/2.5_ student-perceptions-of-employability-inclusivity.pdf (Accessed 27 September 2018).
Brits, H. J. 2018. Assessing employer satisfaction: An attempt to enhance graduate employability at an institution of higher learning. South African Journal of Higher Education 32(5): 39‒53.
Bryman, A. 2012. Social research methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Carrim, N. and G. Wangenge-Ouma. (Ed.). 2012. Higher Education in South Africa. Cape Town: British Council of South Africa.
Clark-Ibáñez, M. 2004. Framing the social world with photo-elicitation interviews. American Behavioural Scientist 47(12): 1507‒1527.
Clowes, L. 2013. Teacher as learner: A personal reflection on a short course for South African university educators. Teaching in Higher Education 18(7): 709‒720.
Collier, M., S. Jobbins and R. Taylor. 2009. Student perceptions of graduate attributes in the Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience. Unpublished paper delivered at the Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (formerly UniServe Science Conference).
Costandius E. and E. M. Bitzer. 2017. Engaging higher education curricula. A critical citizenship education perspective. Stellenbosch: African Sun Media.
Crebert, G., M. Bates, B. Bell, C.-J. Patrick and V. Cragnolini. 2004. Developing generic skills at university, during work placement and in employment: Graduates perceptions. Higher Education Research and Development 23(2): 147–165.
Donleavy, G. 2012. Proclaimed graduate attributes of Australian universities: Patterns, problems and prospects. Quality Assurance in Education 20(4): 341‒356.
Green, W., S. Hammer and C. Star. 2009. Facing up to the challenge: Why is it so hard to develop graduate attributes? Higher Education Research and Development 28(1): 17‒29.
Griesel, H. and B. Parker. 2008. Graduate attributes: A baseline study on South African graduates from the perspective of employers. Pretoria: Higher Education South Africa (HESA) & South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
Haldenwang, B. (comp). 2015. A socio-demographic profile of South Africa’s youth. Strategy Insights Social 20(1): 1‒7.
Harper, D. 2002. Talking about pictures: A case for photo elicitation. Visual Studies 17(1): 13‒26.
Hay, D. and M. Monnapula-Mapesela. 2009. South African higher education before and after 1994: A policy analysis perspective. In Higher education in South Africa: A scholarly look behind the scenes, ed. E. Bitzer, 3–20. Stellenbosch: African Sun Media.
Jansen, E. P. W. A. and C. J. M. Suhre. 2015. Factors influencing students’ perceptions of graduate attribute acquisition in multidisciplinary honours track in a Dutch university. Higher Education Research and Development 34(6): 1‒14.
Joshi, K. M. 2016. Governance, growth and equity: Reflections from Indian Higher Education. Center for the Studies of Higher Education. http://www.cshe.nagoya-u.ac.jp/publications/journal/no16/ 12.pdf. (Accessed 19 July 2018).
Joshi, K. M. and K. V. Ahir. 2013. Indian higher education: Some reflections. Intellectual Economics 7(1): 42‒53.
Kavanagh, M. and L. Drennan. 2008. What skills and attributes does an accounting graduate need? Evidence from student perceptions and employer expectations. Accounting and Finance 48(2): 279‒300.
Kew, B. 2014. A study of the relationship between students’ participation in the commerce education development unit and their graduate attributes. Cape Town: University of Cape Town. Unpublished Master’s dissertation.
Koen, M. 2011. Exploring assessment for learning in one higher education classroom. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University. Unpublished Master’s thesis.
Kroeze, J. H., S. R. Ponelis, I. M. Venter, P. D. Pretorius and P. Prinsloo. 2012. Aligning African computing disciplines’ graduate attributes with international standards. International Multi-conference on Society, Cybernetics and Informatics. July.
Leggett, M., A. Kinnear, M. Boyce and I. Bennett. 2004. Student and staff perceptions of the importance of generic skills in science. Higher Education Research & Development 23(3): 295‒312.
Lewin, T. and M. Mawoyo. 2014. Student access and success: Issues and interventions in South African universities. Cape Town, Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Student Advancement.
Li, T. 2015. Required graduate attributes in Hong Kong and their relative importance. European Scientific Journal 11(34): 1857‒7881.
Mashiyi, F. N. 2015. Embedding graduate attributes into the foundation programme: Reflections on process and product. South African Journal of Higher Education 29(1): 181‒197.
McCabe, G. 2010. Graduate attributes and employability: Helping universities and students prepare for the changing landscape. Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment. The University of Edinburgh. http://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/ga-helping_uni_and_students_prepare_-march 2010.pdf (Accessed 9 March 2017).
Nell, I. A. and J. P. Bosman. 2017. Integrating graduate attributes into a master of divinity programme at a South African university. South African Journal of Higher Education 31(1): 175‒190
Oliver, B. 2013. Graduate attributes as a focus for institution-wide curriculum renewal: Innovations and challenges. Higher Education Research and Development 32(3): 450‒463.
Oliver, R., J. Herrington and C. McLoughlin. 2000. Exploring the development of students’ generic skills development in higher education using a web-based learning environment. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications, ed. J. Bourdeau and R. Heller, 848‒854. Chesapeake: VA: AACE.
Rigby, B. 2009. Review of graduate skills: Critical thinking, teamwork, ethical practice and sustainability. Australian Learning and Teaching Council. http://www.graduateskills.edu.au/ wpcontent/uploads/2010/08/GraduateSkills_LiteratureReview.pdf (Accessed 9 March 2017).
Saldaña, J. 2009. The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: Sage Publications Inc.
Schulze, S. 2007. The usefulness of reflexive photography for qualitative research: A case study in higher education. South African Journal of Higher Education 21(5): 536‒553.
Schwartzman, S., R. Pinheiro and P. Pillay. 2015. The rise of the BRICS and higher education dynamics. In Higher education in the BRICS countries investigating the pact between higher education and society, ed. S. Schwartzman, P. Pillay and P. Pinheiro, 44: 1‒10.
Su, Y. 2014. Self-directed, genuine graduate attributes: The person-based approach. Higher Education Research and Development 33(6): 1208‒1220.
Timm, A. 2013. What is it like to study for an undergraduate degree in India? Some potential implications for the transition into taught postgraduate programmes abroad. Transnational Higher Education in the Asian Context, 161‒182. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Teaching and Learning Unit UWC. 2009. UWC charter of graduates’ attributes and strategic plan for teaching and learning. file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/Final%20Integrated%20Graduate%20 Attributes%20and%20TnL%20Strat%20Plan%20Documen%20(3).pdf (Accessed 12 December 2016).
Treleaven, L. and R. Voola. 2008. Integrating the development of graduate attributes through constructive alignment. Journal of Marketing Education 30(2): 160–173.
University of the Western Cape Graduate Attributes Charter. 2009. file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/ Graduate%20Attributes%20Charter%20(1).pdf. (Accessed 23 February 2017).
University of the Western Cape. 2009. IOP 2010‒2014 Goal 1‒8 CSSS alignment slide 9 20/11/2009. PowerPoint Presentation.
University of the Western Cape. 2013. Prospectus: Admissions Requirements General Criteria for Admission to the University 2017. http://prospectus.uwc.ac.za/educate/admissions-requirements/ (Accessed 30 May 2018).
Winberg, C., A. Staak, M. Bester, S. Sabata, D. Scholtz, R. Sebolao, M. Monnapula-Mapesela, N. Ronald, M. Makua, J. Snyman and P. Machika. 2018. In search of graduate attributes: A survey of six flagship programmes. South African Journal of Higher Education 32(1): 233‒251.
This journal is an open access journal, and the authorsÂ and journal should be properly acknowledged, when works are cited.
Authors, copyright holders, may use the publishers version for teaching purposes, in books, theses, dissertations, conferences and conference papers.Â
A copy of the authors' publishers version may also be hosted on the following websites:
- Non-commercial personal homepage or blog.
- Institutional webpage.
- Authors Institutional Repository.
The following notice should accompany such a posting on the website: This is an electronic version of an article published in SAJHE, Volume XXX, number XXX, pages XXX “XXX", DOI. Authors should also supply a hyperlink to the original paper or indicate where the original paper (http://www.journals.ac.za/index.php/SAJHE) may be found.
Authors publishers version, affiliated with the Stellenbosch University will be automatically deposited in the University Institutional Repository SUNScholar.
Articles as a whole, may not be re-published with another journal.
The following license applies:
Attribution CC BY-NC-ND 4.0