Graduate Attributes – Spin or Education?

Simon Walker is the head of the Education Development Unit (EDU) at the University of Greenwich and he had just showed us a room that looked to me like I have always imagined how the Sistine chapel would look in Rome, but we were in London and it was raining. Nothing new about that but Simon then took us through a tunnel no less, connecting the buildings of the Naval Museum and the university.  I will never forget the surreal experience of standing in a tunnel which in the late 1600’s housed doctors operating on wounded sailors. Then seeing the worn stones where these doctors sharpened the available technology (their scalpels) on the stone surfaces. Now here we were on the way to the EDU, the learning and teaching with technology hub of a 21st century university.

In this podcast episode Simon talks about the University of Greenwich Graduate Attributes long term initiative which started in 2009 to develop academic skills and framework and to push this into a pedagogical framework.  A great deal of research and a couple of years later the university believes their graduates are about good scholarship and independent thinking they are about confident and distinctive students always learning and always developing with creativity at it’s core.

They have identified three dimension of attributes :

  1. Scholarship and Autonomy
  2. Creativity and Enterprise
  3. Cross cultural and international awareness

Simon shares that right from the start they decided to do this much more holistically and not to get bogged down with the ticked box mentality so they now have broad university overarching attributes and they expect their programs to interpret those attributes. Teachers/curriculum developers are then expected to make course activities that reflect the program outcomes.  The tricky thing is to develop a pedagogy to reach those outcomes.

When asked Simon explained that the academics are buying in. He has found a lot do this anyway but it is not explicit. One big “ah aha” their research has found is it gives graduates a framework to answer the question from employers  “What did you learn at university?”   He then goes on to talk about the big question “Does a graduate attributes framework and mapping course outcomes increase employability?”

The EDU is developing and using a “Taught, Practiced, Assessed and Experienced” (TPAE) tool designed to map the Greenwich Graduate Attributes through a course, over a programme and display a threshold value when a program team feel a student has had successful opportunity to attain each graduate attribute. Some resources are below.

Finally we discussed how they involve the students in a separate framework and are having them contribute to the “Student Guide to the Greenwich Graduate”  Simon explained that it is not about what students know on graduation but what they can do …. it’s all about application.

I encourage you to listen to the audiboo episode “What does the Greenwich graduate look like?” browse the resources and if you have any further questions, ideas or collaborative possibilities  please contact Simon by email.

Further online resources:

  • Outline of the University wide attributes webpage
  • Graduate attribute statements with outcomes – PDF Document
  • TPAE Tool discussion document
  • TPAE Mapping Grid
  • Feedback from a Student Forum on the Students’ Greenwich Graduate Guide to help raise more awareness of the Greenwich Graduate Attributes.
  • Graduate Attributes – Spin or Education” a vimeo video (33 mins)  of a lecture given  at Greenwich by Dr Anna Jones who is a Reader in Education in the Centre for Research in  Lifelong Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University. Before that she worked at King’s College London and at the University of Melbourne.


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