The last decade has seen radical changes in higher education. Long held assumptions about university and academic autonomy have been shattered as public and political interest in quality, standards, and accountability have intensified efforts for reform. The increased influence of the state and employers in the curriculum of higher education is exemplified by the increasing emphasis on so-called core or transferable skills; an emphasis supported by the Dearing Report which identified what is called "key" skills as necessary outcomes of all higher education programmes. However, there is little research evidence to support such assertions, or to underpin the identificaiton of good practice in skill development in higher education or employment settings. Further, prescription has outrun the conceptualisation of such skills; little attention has been paid to their theoretical underpinning and definitions, or to assumptions concerning their transfer. Thus the study reported in this book sets out to gain enhanced understanding of skill acquisition in higher education and employment settings with the aim of informing and improving provision.
The findings and analyses provide a clear conceptualisation of core and generic skills, and models of good practice in their delivery, derived from initiatives by employers and staff in higher education. Student and graduate employee perspectives on skill delivery and acquisition are presented, together with a clearer understanding of the influence of contexts in skill definition and use in workplace settings. Finally important questions are raise about institutional influences and constraints on effective innovation, and the role that generic or key skills play in traditional academic study, and in workplace effectiveness.