Graduate attributes and the knowledge society: developments in Scottish higher education
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Higher education is in a state of transformation across the world. The 2009 synthesis report from the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI) entitled ‘Higher Education at a time of Transformation: New Dynamics for Social Responsibility’ draws attention to the many challenges that confront the sector that stem from those of wider society. It argues that we must move beyond the ‘ivory tower’ or market‐oriented university’ towards one that innovatively adds value to the process of social transformation. However, there are emerging tensions that bear upon this question and coalesce around such issues as reactive versus proactive approaches with respect to knowledge paradigms; a focus on the knowledge economy versus the knowledge society; and knowledge relevance versus competitively driven knowledge. One approach to higher education that attempts to grapple in with these issues is 'The Graduates in the 21st Century Enhancement Theme' within the Scottish higher education system. This goes some way to recognising that graduate attributes rest, not simply on the ability to aster knowledge content, but perhaps more importantly on the personal qualities that graduates acquire during the course of their learning. These qualities are now regarded as key aspects of being able to contribute to the evolving globalised knowledge society and economy. This paper offers a sympathetic and yet critical appraisal of this approach as it attempts to inculcate and develop in students a range of abilities to deal with complexity, uncertainty and multi or transdisciplinarity. The demands made upon such attributes are ones that are not only concerned with employability but also an increasing concern with global issues and the development of civic awareness and responsibility. It is argued that these pressures, in effect, lead to a concern with how graduates develop their sense of identity as something that is engineered and re‐engineered to meet these demands.