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Graduate attributes


Graduate attributes are the qualities, skills and understandings a university community agrees its students should develop during their time with the institution. These attributes include but go beyond the disciplinary expertise or technical knowledge that has traditionally formed the core of most university courses. They are qualities that also prepare graduates as agents of social good in an unknown future.

Bowden, Hart, King, Trigwell & Watts (2000)


the skills, knowledge and abilities of university graduates, beyond disciplinary content knowledge, which are applicable to a range of contexts

Barrie (2004)


Graduate attributes in context

The development of student attributes is a constant thread throughout the University’s Strategic Plan, whether referring to learning, teaching or research.  Apply these attributes to different contexts and we see how they shape our students and graduates…

Employability therefore reflects the outcome of applying graduate attributes in one context: work and career.  Graduate attributes in their fullest sense are much broader than just employability – graduate attributes have relevance to all aspects of the student experience.


Development and value

Through cross-institutional consultation the Employability Strategy Group explored what it means to be a University of Edinburgh graduate.  The findings were turned into a statement of graduate attributes that represent characteristics all students of the University have opportunity to develop while studying here.  To read the full statement, see Graduate Attributes Framework and the subsequent sections.

Having the Graduate Attributes Framework in place should help us:

The Scottish HE sector Enhancement Themes ‘Graduates for the 21st Century’ (2009-2011) and 'Developing and Supporting the Curriculum' (2011-2014) have a key focus on graduate attributes.  The Employability Consultancy works with the Institutional Team for the current Enhancement Theme to support the University in embedding the graduate attributes.


Aspirational and tailored

The Graduate Attributes Framework is aspirational in nature, rather than being purely a statement of current practice.

The structure of the Graduate Attributes Framework allows interpretations of the statements to differ between academic domains, yet retaining an overall cohesion.  This tailoring is designed to ensure the graduate attributes are relevant to all levels within the University.



If you would like to discuss any of this further, including its relevance within your area of the University, please feel free to get in touch.


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