To gain broad perspectives, practices and views about the issue of graduate communication skills the project team conducted a series of state-based institutional workshops in 2015 and conducted over twenty semi-structured interviews with senior academic staff around the country including Deputy-Vice-Chancellors Academic or equivalent, Heads of School, Accreditation Managers, and Teaching and Learning Specialists.
A number of themes emerged from the workshops and interviews that identified a shared understanding of significant issues impacting on graduate communication skills in higher education:
- Student entry pathways into higher education are diverse
- Admission is no longer a standard bearer in higher education
- Oral and written communication skills are not the same as English proficiency
- Different understanding (or interpretation) exists of what constitutes graduate level communicative ability
- Exit thresholds for the communication skills of graduates are problematic
- A lack of clarity about what evidence is required
- Usually evidence is an accumulation of processes, proxies and milestones
- Work Integrate Learning (WIL) and capstone experiences are important for developing communication skills.
While a shared understanding of the key challenges and contexts relevant to the development and evidencing of graduate communication skills was identified, a less clear understanding of what practices worked best to achieve this emerged. To some degree, differences in admission practices, student cohort and program offerings may influence the need for diverse practice across the sector. Moreover, the variability of practices and initiatives across the sector represents an energised effort towards addressing the issue of oral and written communication skills in higher education without clear evidence of which practice will be most effective and resource friendly.
The following section is a distillation of differentiated practices and identified priorities towards achieving best practice collected during the workshops and through interviews. Practices have been organised under broad headings indicating a particular policy area.