Job requirements for transferable personal skills: implications for business studies degree courses

Smith, Lesley Jayne (1995) Job requirements for transferable personal skills: implications for business studies degree courses. (MPhil thesis), Kingston University, .


Employers and governments expect graduates to have acquired certain personal skills and qualities during their higher education, in addition to the academic knowledge and skills associated with their degree. During the 1980s three government initiatives encouraged links between higher education and industry to enhance the development of such skills in undergraduates. Higher Education itself responded by offering an increased range of vocationally orientated courses. Subsequently, the extent and success of personal skills development programmes were investigated in a number of research projects. These revealed certain unresolved issues which were considered worthy of further study, and which formed the basis of this research. Firstly, an apparent lack of consensus between employers and academia concerning definition of the required personal skills. Secondly, an assumption that development of these skills was the responsibility of higher education, but no dear indication of how they were acquired from degree courses. Finally, the implications for course structure and for teaching and learning methods. This research was based on the hypothesis that since Business Studies graduates typically enter employment in a wide range of organisations, they should be able to demonstrate possession of the skills and qualities apparently so highly valued by employers. The study focused on the Business Studies degree at Kingston University - a course typical of those which developed during the 1970s and 1980s. Survey questionnaires and a review of recruitment literature were used to examine the perceptions of Kingston Business Studies graduates, their employers and the academic staff concerning the importance of transferable personal skills and qualities for graduate jobs; how these were acquired during higher education; and the implications for teaching and learning methods. The research concluded that the three parties concerned were largely in agreement about the importance of a given range of skills. Moreover, the Kingston Business Studies degree was successful in the preparation of its students for working life in the types of employment which they typically entered. Since the Business Studies degree was among the activities rated Excellent by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), it is suggested that these conclusions may be applicable to other degree courses of this kind. Thus it is recommended that higher education should continue to acknowledge the importance of transferable personal skills and qualities in employment and the role of degree courses in their development. This may be facilitated through liaison with appropriate graduate employers, and developed in a variety of experiential and traditional teaching and learning methods, supported by associated staff development. In particular, government, employers and universities should continue to recognise the major contribution made by the industrial placement to students' acquisition of personal skills and qualities, and the need to integrate their work experience with the degree course as a whole. Throughout the period of this research and beyond, the increasing importance of personal skills and qualities in employment continues to be emphasised. Thus it is anticipated that these findings will contribute to on-going debate and course development in higher education.

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