Facing up to the challenge: why is so hard to develop graduate attributes?
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Debate continues regarding the nature and desirability of graduate attributes, driven partly by stakeholder expectations that universities will prepare employees for the knowledge economy and partly by higher education academics and learning specialists. While universities appear to have accepted their new vocational role, there is considerable confusion over how these things – graduate skills, attributes or capabilities – should be defined and implemented. Conceptual confusion combined with a range of external pressures and internal management issues have the potential to derail this important project. To date, stakeholders such as government and business, as well as universities have seriously underestimated the kind of cultural, institutional and policy changes required to implement the graduate skills agenda. This paper outlines the issues that will need to be addressed by the higher education sector if universities are to play a proactive rather than reactive role in shaping this agenda.