Towards an appropriate model for graduate attributes for use across a comprehensive university

  • Emna Belkhiria

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


The thesis investigated “graduate attributes” as an emergent topic in contemporary higher education in relation to rapid developments in the world of work alongside increased demand from governments and employers for a highly skilled workforce. The term graduate attributes refers to a set of skills generally beyond the limits of the subject field. With the massification of higher education and the increasing diversity of students, institutions, and programs, it is expected that higher education institutions should demonstrate that they are providing competent, capable, and informed citizens ready to face the coming challenges of 21st century life.

Using a pragmatist perspective, the thesis investigated the perceptions of graduate attributes acquired by students through higher education, how they differ among communities, and proposed a model to implement them. It commenced with an extensive review of the literature to identify the main graduate attributes currently prevailing and the existing assessment practices used to assess them, followed by a documentary analysis that serves to design a survey instrument. The survey was undertaken to explore different perceptions among teaching and non-teaching staff and their current assessment practices. Validation against existing data sources was realized using existing surveys. It provided additional insights on graduate attributes among employers, students and alumni.

Among teaching and non-teaching staff, two distinct conceptions of the nature of graduate attributes emerged: problem-dependent and context-dependent. Also, the assessment of graduate attributes was identified as most important at program level. The validation against existing data sources revealed that different stakeholders emphasized different types of graduate attributes. These findings were used to design a model to set graduate attributes at an institutional level, to enhance the design of more authentic approaches to curriculum and assessment and to serve as a benchmark instrument. This study is expected to be of particular interest to leaders in higher education institutions, governmental agencies, policymakers, and scholars.
Date of Award16 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRobin Shields (Supervisor) & John Brennan (Supervisor)


  • insituional theory
  • graduate attributes
  • employability
  • assessment

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