University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences

Course Review Information

Broad Curriculum Issues

Employers, as cited in numerous studies, want graduates to know 'something about something'. That subject specific curriculum material is what most academics are comfortable about developing.

Employers in those same studies demand that graduates possess a range of more generic, rather than knowledge based, skills. This has also been discussed in a report by the University of Alberta Senate. This is an area where most academics feel uncomfortable when developing curricula. Students also need to know the skills they have been developing as they develop their own 'profiles'.

In addition, a group of universities around the world has also committed themselves, in the Talloires Declaration, to placing a degree of environmental awareness in all subjects in university degree programs.

The following links and references review the importance of generic skills in curricula and university education in general.

  1. Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research. A report from the US National Academy of Sciences that argues that undergraduates should have the opportunity to seek out interdisciplinary experiences spanning more than one traditional discipline.

  2. Greater Expectations: A New Vision for Learning as a Nation Goes to College. A report from the Association of American Universities and Colleges emphasizing the importance of liberal education.

  3. Your First College Year: Findings from a survey instrument designed to measure studentsí curricular and co-curricular experiences in their first year of post-secondary study.

  4. Educating Future Scientists. An editorial in Nature 414:673(2001) inviting scientists to consider the trade offs between providing a less challenging curriculum and increasing participation in science.

  6. SUCCESS by Degrees: a report by the University of Alberta Senate that includes Rod Fraser's skill sets for all graduates.

  8. The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada in discussing the quality of postsecondary education identifies five important learner outcomes for individual students at graduation:
  9. The Dearing Report, of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education in the UK, says in its Recommendations 18 and 21:
  10. The Association of Graduate Recruiters. 1995. Skills for Graduates of the 21st Century. A study led by Dr Peter Hawkins and written with Jonathan Winter, Whiteway Research, Cambridge, UK: The Association of Graduate Recruiters [Trotman, Australia], 49 pp., ISBN 0 9520999 1 8, $60.00

  11. This report examines the qualities needed by UK university graduates. It includes a discussion of the challenges faced by higher education in providing graduates with the required skills.
  12. The Talloires Declaration, in its Article 4, calls upon institutions of higher education to:
  13. Create programs to develop the capability of university faculty to teach environmental literacy to all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.
  14. Generic Skills. This site was originally prepared for the University of New South Wales and it gives more information, including material on student 'profiling'.

  16. Australian Technology Network. This site review the Graduate Capabilities Project at five Australian universities.

  18. Hertfordshire Integrated Learning Project. Follow links through 'Progress' to read their 'Graduate Skills Menu' material.

Click here to return to the Home Page

Further information on this topic can be obtained by contacting John Hoddinott.

© University of Alberta, 20050118.