The Graduates for the 21st Century Theme combined the work of the earlier Enhancement Themes and consider two overarching questions.

  • What should be the attributes of a graduate from Scottish higher education in the 21st century?
  • How can we support the achievement of these attributes?

We carried out the work for this Theme in a variety of ways.

Institutional activity


We supported institutions to share and learn different enhancement approaches, through areas of shared interest. We looked at approaches both from within and outside the Scottish higher education sector.


Graduates for the 21st Century: Institutional activity 2008-2011

Publication Date: 21 Aug 2012

This report focuses on the achievements of the Graduates of the 21st Century Enhancement Theme as a whole and focuses on two aims; to synthesise what has been learnt from the work of the Theme and to consider how its outcomes could fruitfully be built upon and further pursued under the aegis of the new Theme, Developing and Supporting the Curriculum. It also reports on the institutional activities strand complete as part of this Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 426 KB

Graduate attributes needed for the 21st Century


The Scottish higher education sector collectively considered the graduate attributes needed for the 21st century. We also looked at the likely needs of an increasingly diverse range of learners and how best to support students to achieve these attributes. We published an overview paper on the topic.  


The foundation for graduate attributes developing self regulation through self-assessment

Publication Date: 22 Aug 2011

This paper focuses on how Scottish higher education institutions might design courses and programmes of study in ways that will nurture and develop desirable attributes in their graduates. This work was complete as part of the Graduates of the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Commissioned projects


Each institution set up a team to consider graduate attributes and to support the work of the previous Themes with their own institutional priorities and strategies. Commissioned project facilitators worked on updating the work from selected areas of the previous Themes.


Responding to Student Needs strand


Responding to student needs: Emerging and continuing issues

Publication Date: 12 May 2011

This paper focuses on the work done between January and June 2010, examining how higher education institutions (HEIs) in Scotland are responding to student needs, in particular with regard to the current Enhancement Theme, Graduates for the 21st Century.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 251 KB

Co-responsibility between students and institutions

Publication Date: 15 May 2011

This paper considers whether students should be developing autonomy as an attribute before and during their time at university or college and how this might be done. This work was complete as part of the "Responding to Student Needs" strand of the Graduates of the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 233 KB

Classroom-based response to student needs

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

This paper outlines the background of the previous Responding to Student Needs Enhancement Theme and how this forms an element within the new Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 313 KB

Research-Teaching Linkages strand


Maintaining research-mindedness in Scotland's universities

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

The publication reflects on the core messages from the work originally undertaken as part of the Research-Teaching Linkages Enhancement Theme. It examines the changes within the sector that influence the diverse approaches to the concept of research-teaching linkages. This work was complete as part of the Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 217 KB

What is topical/emergent in Research-Teaching Linkages?

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

This paper provides a brief introduction to emergent trends related to the Research-Teaching Linkages. It focuses on three core areas including; integrating research-teaching linkages into other Enhancement Themes; addressing inclusivity through enhanced research-teaching linkages and exploring comparisons between research-teaching linkages and student experience. This work was complete as part of the Graduates of the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 201 KB

The First Year strand


First and foremost: Learner autonomy in first year

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

The aim of this paper is to consider the challenges in building learner autonomy through the first-year curriculum such that students can begin to relate their personal relationship with knowledge to that of wider public criteria. This work was complete as part of The First Year strand of the Graduates of the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 207 KB

The First year: Back to the future

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

This paper builds on the earlier discussion in the Enhancement Themes, which sets out how the Graduates for the 21st Century Theme is leading to a re-evaluation of the First Year and its purpose. This paper returns to The First Year Enhancement Theme, but this time with a focus on the distinctive nature of Scottish higher education in a global context, and considers some of the ways in which this may play out.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 195 KB

First things first: First year in Scottish higher education

Publication Date: 17 May 2011

The publication looks at current issues in higher education that impact on the first year, looks at the challenges for first year learners then looks at engaging and empowering students in the first year through personal development planning. This work was complete as part of The First Year strand of the Graduates of the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 436 KB

Employability strand


Employability and the austerity decade

Publication Date: 24 May 2011

This paper from the Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme builds on the previous work in the Employability Enhancement Theme in response to the immediate austerity faced by both staff and students.

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Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 221 KB

What is topical/emergent in Employability?

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

This provides a brief introduction to emergent trends related to Employability. As employment is effected by the UK's fiscal situation, the role of the university in enabling students' employability is thrown into stark relief. In many ways, the changing economic and employment context has given a real sense of urgency to the Employability strand of the Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 196 KB

Thinking strategically about employability and graduate attributes

Publication Date: 25 May 2011

"This discussion paper sets the background for the relationship between employability and graduate attributes and discusses challenges to the employability agenda. This work is part of the Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme. The paper sets the background for the relationship between employability and graduate attributes and discusses challenges to the employability agenda. It then considers a number of conceptual models for mapping employability attributes. It itemises the key decisions which need to be made at programme design level and lists current projects and their outcomes which help in making these decisions"

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 308 KB

Enhancing research-teaching linkages to improve the development of employability attributes

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

This discussion paper provides an overview of the ways in which research-teaching linkages could be enhanced to improve the development of employability attributes. It looks at the background and past practices in the area and highlights the academics' ambivalent relationship with employability. This work was complete as part of the Graduates of the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 325 KB

Assessment and feedback strand


Assessment and feedback with implications for practice

Publication Date: 23 May 2011

This paper draws attention to some fresh perspectives on assessment and feedback. It summarises four recent papers that raise important issues and that challenge current thinking and practice. This work was complete as part of the Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme.

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Author: QAA Scotland
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Size: 284 KB

Developing students' ability to construct feedback

Publication Date: 26 May 2011

This paper, written for the Graduates for the 21st Century Enhancement Theme looks at the case for improving feedback in higher education by enhancing opportunities for peer feedback, inlcuding students evaluating and giving feedback on each other's work. It also looks at a number of examples where peer feedback has been implemented.

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Author: QAA Scotland
Format: PDF
Size: 216 KB