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Queen Mary Academy

Embedding graduate attributes and employability

Like most higher education institutions, QMUL has a statement of graduate attributes which seeks to articulate the specific employability and transferable skills that each QMUL graduate will develop during their time studying here.

Staff are encouraged to incorporate graduate attributes within the intended learning outcomes for each module at QMUL.

Incorporating employability into your practice

4 Step Approach- In order to embed Employability within the curriculum the 4 step HEA approach has been used. The benefit of this approach is that it is flexible and can be tailored to the needs of each school.


Effective Review: Embedding Employability supports the activity of Curriculum Review. It identifies existing good practice and sets out a roadmap for development.

Programme Coherence: Embedding Employability supports constructive alignment. Authentic and relevant learning objectives, teaching strategies and assessment. Helps identify and develop relevant and innovative pedagogic practice.

Definition and Engagement: Embedding Employability requires all stakeholders (Staff, Students & Employers) to inform the curriculum

Impact: Positive initiatives around employability could support TEF submission and be reflected in the NSS and provide more favourable graduate outcomes in the Destination of Higher Education Leavers (DHLE)



Defining Employability



There are often several definitions of Employability at play. The sector as a whole has a poor record of implementing policy based on the literature and its recommendations. This is certainly true for the important difference between Employment and Employability, which are complimentary terms but engender major distinctions in aim, approach, and measurement.


A graduate outcome. This provision is focussed solely on the preparation for employment and is measured by graduate destinations.


Relates to the teaching and learning of a wide range of skills and attributes to support continued learning and career development. This is achieved through the creation of a pedagogy for employability.

Graduate Attributes

Graduates should have the potential to outlast the knowledge and contexts in which they were originally acquired on their programme of study. As such these attributes transcend the disciplinary contexts in which they were originally acquired allowing them to be more adept at lifelong learning, better equipped at being more adaptive to reconfiguring their intellectual and practical skills set to changing environments.

Graduate Attributes Model

A Graduate Attributes model is an articulation of these higher level learning outcomes that a university community agrees are the hallmark of their students’ higher education experience. However, the cultural impact will vary according to disciplinary area studied, so needs to be considered at this level.

These categories are separate but complementary. However it is important to be clear whether your documentation will refer to Employability or Graduate Attributes specifically in relation to the core curriculum.



The differentiation between Employment and Employability is also supported in a key Metric: the Teaching Excellence Framework

Employment and Further Study (SO1)

Students Achieve their educational and professional goals, in particular progression to further study or highly skilled employment

Employability and Transferrable Skills (SO2)

Students acquire knowledge, skills and attributes that are valued by employers and that enhance their personal and/or professional lives

Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework Specification (2017) Department for Education pg 25 



 Yorke and Knight (2006) list 5 ways in which employability can be utilised. These provide examples of related activities in line with the distinction between Employment and Employability. When embedding employability you could explore combinations of all of these; curricular and co-curricular, if you don't already.

Employability (Embedded)

Employability in the core curriculum, and Employability embedded through the whole curriculum.

Employment (Co-Curricular)

Work-based or work related learning in parallel with the curriculum, Work-based or work related learning interspersed within the curriculum, and Employability-related modules within the curriculum.

Yorke M and Knight P (2006) Embedding employability into the curriculum: Learning & Employability: Series 1 The Higher Education Academy York pg 14  


Embedding employability

The Advance HE Employability Framework provides a template for getting started. There are 2 key things to remember when thinking about using the framework to embed employability in your department

  • Flexible and tailored- The framework is not a model but a flexible and collaborative approach to the integration of Employability. This can and should be adapted as appropriate
  • Ownership- Employability is a University-wide responsibility requiring a combined effort, working in partnership with institutional services and departments.  It should involve collaboration with partners and stakeholders: alumni/students/employers/professional bodies and all school staff

The toolkit is built around a four-stage process. This presents a basic and flexible project plan that can be adapted to the specific needs of certain schools.

  • The 4 stages do not have to be approached as a whole but can be taken as a 'pick n mix'
  • This approach can be further developed with the support of QM Academy

Embedding Employability Toolkit [PDF 125KB]


Advance HE Employability Model

Engaging Employers


Developing employability

Curriculum Alignment and Coherence

When considering how to develop employability into your module and programme it is vital to consider their place in relation to the entire product and process of your curriculum subject.

In order to embed employability the curriculum must be coherent across the whole programme, and it might be initially useful to focus on core modules. This requires a clear framework of programme leadership and collaboration. Programme Directors and other staff involved in leading and managing curriculum change need to lead their teams to design and deliver programmes which achieve constructive alignment across all modules on a programme.


Graduate attributes

(What are the overarching attitudes, skills and dispositions for my cohort of QMUL students?)

Learning Outcomes

(What do I want my students to be able to do at the end of this module?)

Assessment Criteria

What do I need to see to know they can do it?

Teaching and Learning Activities

(What will they be able to do, to know, how will their thinking and behaviour change as a result of the teaching/learning experience?)

Authentic Assessment Tasks

(How can I get them to show me those things on Authentic Assessment Tasks that have real world relevance?)

Assessment Strategy

(How can all my tasks be ‘combined’ to fit the time and cover all outcomes?)


(What do I need to do to improve student learning?)


Create Authentic Assessments

What is Authentic Assessment?

– is challenging

– has performance or product as outcome

– design should ensure transfer of knowledge

metacognition is a component of authentic assessment

– has a requirement for accuracy

– has formal opportunity for discussion and feedback

– values collaboration


For example: 

Conferences with a purpose

Observe a (simulated) variable star and interpret - too much data for each group to carry out the whole project alone. Presentations are required to exchange information

Presentations in context

Act as an expert witness on a piece of forensic evidence

Reports for an audience

Insurance company; Advertising standards authority; Book chapter

Research in media

Lecture, Podcasts, Video, Website 


Consider the global context

You may find it beneficial to consider:

  • What are the learning aims, objectives and rationale of this course/program that are relevant to achieving the graduate outcome of ‘competence in culturally diverse and international environments’?
  • What are the key knowledge, skills and attitudes (i.e., graduate attributes) that students from this course should develop?
  • What learning and teaching practices and activities are utilised to assist student to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to competence in culturally diverse and international environments?
  • What tools, resources and support materials are available for students to achieve the knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to competence in culturally diverse and international environments?
  • How effectively do the assessment tasks assist students to demonstrate the global, international and/or intercultural capabilities they are expected to learn?


Ideally employability skills will develop year on year in line with the difficulty spike of module content. The QAA's Frameworks for Higher Education Qualifications of UK Degree-Awarding Bodies characterise progression by prioritising skills along a spectrum of increasing complexity. Work needs to be undertaken (the definition phase of the 4 step process) to identify the Employability skills that graduates should be developing on any programme. Once this has been achieved they need to be integrated in to the curriculum, and scaffolded across all parts. This staged development will progressively build students' capability with all desired attributes



Employability may become so deeply embedded that it is no longer visible to the students, and so needs to be drawn out of the 'hidden' curriculum by:

  • Making employability explicit in learning outcomes;
  • Choosing pedagogies that elicit skills through embedded learning
  • Presenting employability as an integral and legitimate part of the curriculum; and
  • Providing students with opportunities to reflect on and articulate what they have learnt.

The aim is to enable students to make meaningful connections between the knowledge and the skills from different modules, integrate these into a coherent whole, and apply these to the real world.

Developing Employability Curriculum:

Programme-module employability audit [DOC 21KB]

Employability skills student audit [DOC 19KB]

Employability skills lecturer activity [DOC 16KB]



Integrating Co- and Curricular Activities

While Employment focussed activities are considered distinct from those focused on Embedding Employability within the Curriculum, they are complimentary; particularly when constructive alignment has been achieved on a programme.

Once alignment has happened, approaches such as work based learning become alternate pedagogical techniques but are still rooted on the structure of programme objectives and assessment


Work-based learning (WBL) provides experience that is vital to a student's personal development and employment prospects. All undergraduate programmes should ensure their students to gain work experience, and ensure students graduate with ideally two different pieces of work experience.

Work-related learning (WRL) is learning based as closely as possible on real work situations (e.g. case studies, research projects, simulations and enquiry-based learning). 'Authentic' activities and assessments provide students with opportunities to develop an understanding of how their knowledge and skills can be applied in real-world contexts.

Types of work experience: work experience can be credit and non-credit bearing. At Reading credit-bearing work experience is called a "placement"; non-credit bearing work experience usually an "internship".

When to gain work experience? It is recommended work experience to be build up progressively starting as early as feasible. Careers are facilitating a number of work opportunities such as for example credit bearing placements, the Queen Mary Internships SchemeQMUL Work experience (academic and professional services work experience), QM Student Union jobs (on Campus work experience) and can advise academics and students on the full range of extracurricular work experience opportunities students could pursue (for a short overview of open market opportunities have a look at


The new policy on careers learning moves away from a requirement to have 5-credits of career management skills at Part 2, and instead moves to align with current best practice, which is to embed employability throughout every undergraduate programme.

There are numerous examples at the Queen Mary Careers Learning modules, where career management has been integrated within a larger, enquiry-based learning module. These encompass stand-alone study/research, and careers modules which encompass 5 credits of career management skills. A clear advantage of this approach is that the value placed on skills development is very visible to the students.


Careers Learning modules such as these provide excellent opportunities for students to:

  • Integrate and reflect on discipline-specific knowledge and skills from other modules
  • Reflect on and articulate what they have learned

This makes them useful 'capstone' modules. Embedding Employability does not mean that modules such as these should not exist. On the contrary, introducing similar 'capstone' modules at one or more levels of the programme is one way in which Employability could be more fully explored across a programme.


Co-Curricular options must be considered as part of a whole, and integrated with the Employability developments suggested for the programme level. Careers Learning modules may not be timely for all students. Students may also miss the relevance of what they are learning if skills development is perceived to be divorced from the discipline. This can lead to a lack of student engagement and skills development being compartmentalised. Students may struggle to apply what they have learnt to the rest of their programme, let alone their future career.

Stand-alone modules also do little to accommodate the 'slow' learning required for the development of the wider range of employability skills, and in particular those under the Curriculum Framework category of Personal Effectiveness and self awareness: self-efficacy, adaptability and resilience.



QM Academy support for engagement with employability

The Careers and Employability team and the Queen Mary Academy are well placed to support schools in their engagement with Employability. While your Curriculum Review needs to be School-led, both the Careers and Employability Service and Queen Mary Academy can provide ideas, advice and guidance on all aspects of teaching and learning throughout the process: from asking guiding questions at the outset; to supporting the sharing and dissemination of good practice arising from your review in later stages.

This can be done in a number of ways:

  • Advice and Consultation- Advice to schools can be in the shape of informal ad hoc conversations, or formalised meeting attendance
  • Facilitation- Careers and Employability & Queen Mary Academy can facilitate workshops and meetings
  • Subject Matter Expertise- Up to date knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in Employability. This knowledge is drawn from subject literature as well as an awareness of the approaches taken at other HEI's
  • Liaison- Queen Mary Academy can provide a point of contact between aspects of the Curriculum Framework and affiliated functions
  • Pedagogy- The Queen Mary Academy are available to discuss the development and review of pedagogical approaches
  • Measures of Impact- The Queen Mary Academy can support the measurement of initiatives and the development of valid metrics


QMUL Careers support 


We provide academics with:

  • A named Careers Consultant as your key point of contact with our services
  • A structure for senior leadership to monitor employability: School Employability Team meetings
  • Insight data: including on destinations, service usage and career readiness from annual student enrolment
  • Bespoke advice to enhance student employability
  • Teaching around employability which we can deliver within modules and tailored to your needs
  • Support setting up and delivering placement modules
  • Information on recruitment trends and brokered conversations and round tables with industry
  • Qualitative feedback on student employability needs based on our work with your students
  • Training and support for staff at away days and similar

We provide students with a wide range of extra-curricular services including:

  • A wide range of extra-curricular services for your students including: Individual one to one guidance appointments
  • Central workshop programme for application training, job search strategy and skills development
  • (Undergraduate Research Opportunities), mentoring
  • Online and email careers information
  • Central and department based Career Fairs and opportunities to meet employers
  • Career self-assessments and psychometric support tools



Embedding graduate attributes within the curriculum: a colleague shares an example of how they have integrated QMUL graduate attributes into their course design


Video: What are we educating students for?  An employer’s perspective, Anne Morrison.  QMUL Drapers' Lecture 2015.