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Deakin's Higher Education Courses operational policy (Deakin University, 2010) includes a schedule of graduate attributes for all programs:
All Deakin programs will encourage students to develop attitudes of intellectual curiosity and motivation for independent thinking, autonomous learning and reflective professional and personal practice, and a commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. Appropriate to its level of study and discipline composition, each program will be designed to ensure that students develop their knowledge and understanding as well as a range of generic skills. These are described below.
and where research is undertaken:
- ability to initiate and formulate viable and relevant research questions
- contribution to new knowledge, or an original interpretation and application of existing knowledge
- understanding of the social, economic and cultural impact and application of their research, and its academic relevance and value
The policy also addresses the requirements for the incorporation of graduate attributes into Deakin programs:
Graduate Attributes must be incorporated at all stages of every program from its original design to the assessment of its performance. To effectively manage this process, the following list identifies where and how the Graduate Attributes might be employed at various stages of course design and evaluation.
In December 2004 and January 2005, the Deakin Planning Unit undertook a survey of a range of employers of Deakin graduates to, "... determine whether Deakin's graduates are seen by employers to possess the skills expected by those employers and the graduate attributes identified by the University"(Deakin University Planning Unit, 2005). While the survey was based on a previous set of Deakin graduate attributes, and while the number of respondents to the survey was comparatively small (45) and skewed to employers from a relatively small number of professions, the survey provided some general information about which attributes employers want, which attributes they think are important and how they assess the performance of Deakin's graduates with respect to those attributes. Attributes that were ranked as important by employers and for which they rated Deakin graduates highly included interpersonal skills, capacity to work in teams and work collaboratively, information and communication technology literacy, and an appreciation of the need to keep up to date in their field of education. Attributes which were ranked as important by employers and for which they rated Deakin graduates as not performing highly included oral communication skills, written communication skills and conflict management skills. These results, while interesting, were based on a small sample that did not represent the full range of programs at Deakin. Individual programs would be wise to conduct their own research to determine what attributes are considered valuable by potential employers of graduates, and how their graduates are rated by their employers.
The 2005 Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) audit of Deakin made the recommendation, "...that Deakin University communicate to students more effectively the nature and aims of the Deakin Advantage [the then current name of the suite of Deakin's graduate attributes] and assist them to document the discipline-specific and generic skills they are developing throughout their course" (Australian Universities Quality Agency, 2005, p. 19). A 2006 survey of completing engineering students at Deakin found that, although more than half (52.1 percent) of respondents were aware that Engineers Australia specified required graduate attributes, only one third were aware that Deakin University did the same (Palmer & Hall, 2006). This information suggests that we can do more in communicating the existence and relevance of graduate attributes to students.
What methods (at the program level and at the unit level) does your School use to communicate the existence and importance of graduate attributes to current students in the program(s) that you contribute to? If you are unsure, what methods could your School use?