J. Mc Cauley

Dublin Institute of Technology (IRELAND)
Recent years have seen a growing recognition and a general acceptance among myriad stakeholders from industry bodies, state bodies and in the sphere of academia that skills other than the specific ‘technical’ or ‘course-specific’ competencies are required among the Higher Education (HE) graduate cohort. (Drew, 1999), Forfas, (2006) Dearing (1997) Kenny et al (2007). Notwithstanding this recognition, there are still many barriers within the academic sphere that act to inhibit the integration of such transferrable skills (TS) into Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s).

The scope of this paper is to address the distinct facet of ‘Transferable skills’ and specifically the ‘integration’ of same into Degree programmes in an Irish HEI. It provides an initial overview of the three influences on such an integration approach namely: influence at an institutional level, the individual academics level and finally the student factors. In addressing these three factors, each one will be approached from a dyadic perspective dealing principally with how they can inhibit or facilitate such integration. The transition from higher education to employment necessitates that graduates ‘hit the ground running’. (Fallon and Stephen, 2000). In their view, the proportion of new graduates who will be given the chance to spend perhaps months ‘learning the ropes’ as graduate trainees is already much reduced and this proportion will decline further.

Education budget cutbacks in Higher Education (HE) in Ireland are now increasingly demanding that HE must be accountable and justify its value to the country from a purely economic perspective. Writers like Chada (2006) observe that HE institutions are currently under tremendous pressure to develop abilities in their students that are in some way transferable to contexts outside their field of study and posit that: “if the provision of skills development is to incorporate knowledge and understanding, analysis, creativity and evaluation, then integration of skills is the only viable option”. (Chada, 2006, p.21). From a DIT programme perspective, the integration of such skills can only be achieved by integrating the requisite skills-set list into the module and across all modules on a consistent basis. The issues involved in making this happen in a HEI are explored.

This working paper signposts a research process presently being utilised to explore the influences of the aforementioned key pillars in the learning of transferable skills in an Irish HEI. As such, the reader is presented with emergent work and is invited to contribute to this early stage of my research process.