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Perspectives of Businesses and Employers on Graduate Attributes and Skill Development

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With this essence, this emphasis on the needs of businesses and the labour market leads to the existence and development of higher education policy that has been made to articulate employability skills (Chan, Brown and Ludlow, 2014). Particularly, in Australia, the requirements for university graduates that demonstrate a “generally accepted” set of attributes have been introduced and widely implemented in the education environment (Barnett, 2004). Those requirements are typical within courses in each university, but in general, the requirements appreciate lifelong learning, technical training, oral, written and interpersonal skills as well as generic skills along with organizational skills (Hill and Walkington, 2016). This is also viewed as university-wide policy that embraces the desires and endeavours of universities in promoting the ability and values of their graduates. Apparently, put it in business viewpoints, those could be considered as strategic initiatives that promote the brand image and brand values, thus sustainable development in the long-term. The past two decades also witnessed well-established graduate attributes in Australia since the policy makers and universities try their best to develop the requirements set in Achieving Quality (Higher Education Council Australia, 1992). This requires all universities to consider graduate attributes “as a part of institution’s educational profiles” (Australian Qualification Framework Council, 2010). This also appreciates graduate attributes that are distinctive in each university to meet the needs of increased diversity since there is no formal adoption of attributes in universities (Kalfa & Taksa, 2015). Moreover, the emphasis on Australian higher education also leads to an urgent need for international competitiveness through increasing its capacity in terms of clarifying and specifying standards and systematic processes for the development of both institutional and individual discipline level (Australian Qualification Framework Council, 2010). That is believed to fulfil the needs of ensuring the quality of academic and organizational standards under the era of globalization and integration. According to this, the new quality assurance arrangements have been implemented, for example, the creation of the Advancing Quality in Higher Education initiative that promotes accountable measures in learning and teaching. Those are done based on surveys, for instance, the Employer Satisfaction Survey, a Graduate Outcomes Survey or University Experience Survey (Hill and Walkington, 2016).

However, a number of those initiatives have not been met within the Australian higher education system. One of the most important things is that “the responses of universities to the specification of learning outcomes are idiosyncratic” (Barrie et al, 2014). It means that the responses are put outside the sector wide view to gain the best performance. Understandably, Hill and Walkington (2016) also discussed that the graduate attributes are appreciate in Australian universities; however, they rarely specify those at discipline level. Additionally, there is the lack of differences between different outcomes of different discipline to lead to the highest measurement. In details, the extent of the development of indicators, sets of requirements and comparison of learning outcomes has been performed based on “the measurement of student and graduate experience and opinions” (Barrie et al, 2014). This criterion-based assessment seems to be effective in making “an impression comparability of results”, but within the subject only (Wilkinson et al, 2013). This reflects the gaps between the expectations of wide market in terms of linking graduates through subjects and course and between fields to the practical implementation of Australian higher education environment. Also, the commitment to the improvement of student outcomes and quality of the graduate labour market with performance funding has not performed. This demonstrates the have-not-been-established articulation and connection of graduate attributes at national level (Kalfa & Taksa, 2015).

- Implications for changes and practices

First and foremost, the changes and opportunities for further development of higher education must start from the institutional level. According to this, Coates and Mahat (2013) suggests that institutions must change and improve the perspectives of students and academic staffs in performing better in the contemporary society. it is important to specify the role of academic staffs in “integrating graduate attributes across curricula” (Wilkinson et al, 2013). Understandably, academics that hold idealized conception about the significance of graduate attributes should be changed considerably. For more details, the conception must be transferred into a working environment with a working conception to fulfil the requirement of knowledge and work-related issues (Kalfa & Taksa, 2015). The tasks of institutions and universities are to make clear between idealized and realized conceptions as well as increase the willingness and readiness of their academic staffs and students in adopting those conceptions in different contexts (Oliver et al, 2011). Those also imply for the significance of institutional policy towards staff recruitment, rewards and motivation to strengthen their relationship between policy makers and implementers and practitioners.

Understandably, Astin (2012) argued that the assessment of the learning outcomes or graduate attributes are performed through two ways including “individual-subject learning outcomes and university-level learning outcomes” should be changed. It means that the Australian higher education environment needs to change its assessment and performance measurement system at a discipline level through which the attributes could be assessed and improved under a national standard (Australian Qualification Framework Council, 2010). On another hand, it also refers to the importance of removing a-narrow-baseline of experience in Australian universities in terms of establishing successful and meaningful course-based learning outcomes (Bradley et al, 2008). It means that the universities and institutions could minimize the wide usage and adoption of classroom-based assessment as an initiative for the outcomes of the courses and finally institutional performance measurement (Tymon, 2013).

Lastly, there is a need to engage students within universities with the improvement of their own understanding, awareness, identities, progresses and graduate attributes (Haigh & Clifford, 2011). As mentioned in the previous part, the importance of graduate perspectives on developing attributes that meet the needs of businesses and the industry environment is undeniable. Co-curricular


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