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Students connect academic learning with learning with skills for the workplace: Dimension four

Are students developing a range of professional attributes relevant for a thriving career, such as leadership, project management, creativity, communication and problem-solving skills?

Students need to be able to connect academic learning explicitly with the areas of knowledge, skills and approaches needed both for professional work and for lifelong learning. 

Their programme of study, as a whole, should equip students for life and work in a world in which technological innovations are the norm, and in which social and organisational needs change rapidly. 

Students also need to become increasingly aware that they are developing a rich range of understandings, skills, values and attributes to take with them into their professional lives. They are developing abilities and dispositions for problem-solving and communication skills, relevant to the world of work, within modules (e.g. through group work, project management, enterprise and leadership).

Students should be able to articulate the depth and breadth of their knowledge, skills and attributes to different external audiences, including future employers. 

We want them to develop a disposition for lifelong learning and be highly confident in applying critical, enquiry-based and problem-solving approaches to conceptual and practical challenges in the workplace and in society at large. 

They will understand inclusive work practices and are aware of the different kinds of cultural capital that people bring both to academia and to the workplace.

They can also be empowered to engage in critical dialogue with others about the evidence-based application of knowledge to society.

Where to start: asking questions of your programme of study

  1. Are all students on the programme(s) able to analyse the ways in which their academic learning is relevant to the world of work?
  2. Do students have explicit opportunities to prepare for the workplace, for example through meeting alumni, shadowing, and work placements, and where appropriate through critiquing the notions of work and professionalism in society?
  3. Can students articulate effectively the skills and knowledge they have developed through their research-related activities and through their wider studies and experiences, and showcase these to future employers?
  4. Do students have opportunities to develop digital capabilities required for their future professional work?
  5. Will students have opportunities to articulate their distinctive abilities with confidence?

Don’t forget: It’s important to consider all dimensions of the Connected Curriculum across all years of study – a holistic view across a programme. 

Top tips for implementation

Chapter 6: Connecting academic learning with workplace learning in A Connected Curriculum for Higher Education (Dilly Fung 2017) gives an overview of implementing this dimension.

  • Invite employers in, or alumni back, to highlight how their learning on the programme prepared them for the world of work. Find ways to make implicit connections explicit, and foster opportunities for students to practice putting into words the skills and learning they’ve acquired, so they are prepared for job interviews.
  • Encourage students to conduct in-demand dissertation research projects that engage beyond the university, for example with the voluntary or employer sector. See the Science Shop model on the Living Knowledge website.  
  • Make sure your students know about the Student Opportunities available to them. Highlight opportunities such as Laidlaw Scholarships, Global Citizenship Programme, UCL Careers, Volunteering and Enterprise
  • Book a bespoke ABC curriculum design workshop to design/redesign programmes and modules that helps you plan to fully incorporate the dimensions.

Get advice and support by contacting the UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education at arenacentre@ucl.ac.uk.

Examples of this dimension in action

Below are case study highlights, with more coming soon.