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Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education (JIRE) Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree S Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Students of an
Australian Offshore Twinning Business Degree Programme
Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin
Abstract
The attainment of graduate qualities has been a constant focus of most institutions ofhigher learning around the world. Malaysia in recent years, with its vision of becoming ahub of educational excellence has also placed growing emphasis on the achievement ofgraduate qualities as the key ingredients for employability in the corporate sector. Thispaper seeks to ascertain the perception of students on the extent to which a Malaysianprivate institution was able to inculcate graduate qualities as strongly propounded andsystematically embedded in the franchised Australian business degree programme thatstudents are enrolled in. A questionnaire was administered on 84 final year students, 42from the Marketing major and another 42 from both Commerce and/Finance majorcombined. Interviews were conducted on 5 selected respondents from each major to gainfurther insights on their perception. The quantitative findings which are further supportedby the interview feedback established that the students from all the three majors perceivedthat they have acquired to some extent the graduate qualities of the Australian University.
Similarly, students acknowledged awareness of the existence of the graduate qualitiesbeing embedded in the courses but noted that not all instructors make a conscious effortto emphasise the relevance of the respective course content towards attaining the graduatequalities. In respect of the mode of learning, students have a low perception of theeffectiveness of lectures and tutorials. Instead they rate highly the value of assignments,be it individual or group assignments in enhancing their graduate qualities.
Key words: Employability, graduate qualities, university graduates
INTRODUCTION
The attainment of graduate qualities(GQ) or capabilities has been a constant focus of
most institutions of higher learning around the world. Australia, the USA and UK started
to explore and identify the qualities or skills that employers look for in fresh graduates in
the early 1990s and systematically incorporated those desired skills in the curriculum and
assessment at the tertiary level. In recent years, as Malaysia begins to experience the
same effects of mass education and faces the increasing problems of huge numbers of
* Correspondence authors: Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin Email: yokemoi.oh@taylors.edu.my; cheng.catherine@taylors.edu.my JIRE is a publication of the Centre for Research in Education & InstructionalTechnologies, School of Education, Taylor’s University Sdn Bhd Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin graduates being unemployed in the marketplace, the importance of equipping graduateswith the appropriate skills and qualities looms large in the government’s agenda.
Much has been done in Australia to research on this topic of graduate qualities identifiedand embedded in the courses of most Australian universities. It should however be pointedout that little effort has been done to ascertain whether the Australian universities whichoffer franchised degree courses in various Malaysian private institutions are able to alsoequip the local Malaysian students enrolled in those courses with the graduate qualitiesframework that they have incorporated in the courses.
This study seeks to find out the perception of students studying in an Australian franchised
business programme offered for the last six years at Taylor’s University on the extent to
which they have attained the graduate qualities as incorporated in their course. The
study wasconducted based on a questionnaire developed by Feast (2001)2000 in ref
list???
of the University of South Australia (UniSA). This study only considers two of
the four research questions in an earlier study conducted at UniSA.
Purpose of the Study
1.
To ascertain the perception of students on how well they perceive that their coursesat UniSA have equipped them to develop these graduate qualities.
To ascertain the extent to which the students perceive that they have attained thegraduate qualities.
To ascertain whether these students perceive that their achievement of the desiredgraduate qualities as embedded are attained from beyond the course curriculaactivities/ initiatives made available by the local partner University Research Hyphothesis
It is one of the objectives of this research to determine if students believe that the courses
offered by Taylor’s in general have helped them develop the required graduate qualities.
If the students believe that the graduate qualities had been embedded into the syllabus,
it is logical to assume that students have achieved the GQs throughout the three years
study at Taylor’s. So, we hypothesised that:
H1: There is a positive correlation between students’ perception on overall achievementfor each GQ and students’ belief that courses have embedded such GQs in the syllabus.
Limitations
This survey gives an overall view of their general perception and does not make any
specific reference to any specific subject. Such feedback, if required, can be obtained
through the individual subject evaluation conducted.
Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree Students LITERATURE REVIEW
Extensive discussion and preoccupation with graduate qualities or key employability
competencies started as early as in the 1990s in Australia and one significant outcome
was the key competencies framework identified and defined by the Mayer Committee in
1992 (Curtis, & McKenzie, 2001). Similarly, many OECD countries have also developed
their own frameworks of generic employability skills around the same time. It is hardly
surprising to note that employers or employer groups are the main stakeholders who
initiated and stimulated discussion in this area. Subsequently, Australian universities
started to make a conscious effort to embed key competencies framework into the curriculum
and student assessments.
Definitions of Graduate Qualities
Graduate qualities or graduate attributes as defined by Bowden et al. (2000, para 1) are
“the qualities, skills and understanding a university community agrees its studentsshould develop during their time with the institution. These attributes includebut go beyond the disciplinary expertise or technical knowledge that hastraditionally formed the core of most university courses. They are qualities thatalso prepare graduates as agents of social good in an unknown future” Feast (2001)2000 in ref list??? defined graduate qualities as skills which are useful in a
range of work and life situations, and they include intellectual, aptitudinal or interpersonal
skills rather than attitudinal skills, generally known as competencies and abilities.
Curtis & McKenzie (2001: p. 62) in their report to the Australian Council for educationalResearch (ACER) used the phrase generic employability skills to describe essentially thesame thing. As defined in the report, “generic employability refers to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that arerequired by people to enable them to enter and progress in the world of work.
The term generic implies that what is learned in one context can be applied inothers. Employability signals a connection to the world of work that is dynamicand long-term in nature.” It is also pointed out by Curtis & McKenzie (2001) that the focus should be on a frameworkrather than on the development of a prescriptive list of skills since the set of skills maydiffer in terms of emphasis across industries. Clearly different stakeholders would havedifferent views of the attributes that should be included and the extent of the importanceof each of the attributes.
In Australia, based on findings and research from 1985 to 1992, the Mayer Committeerecommended seven employment-related key competencies. The key structural element Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin of the framework is that it recognises that basic skills, intellectual abilities, and personalattributes are all components of a comprehensive set of generic employability skills. Thishas been modified, fine-tuned and improved upon. Considerable work has been undertakenover the past decade to embed the Mayer Key Competencies into Australia’s educationand training systems.
Graduate Qualities Framework
Between1995-1997, the University of South Australia (UniSA) developed a framework of
seven Graduate Qualities and these were gradually embedded into the teaching of subjects
and courses from 1997 onwards. The seven graduate qualities identified by UniSA are as
follows:
1.
Ability to work autonomously and collaboratively, Committed to ethical action and social responsibility, Since then, the universities have been constantly investigating and monitoring theimplementation and effectiveness of the graduate capabilities framework developed andembedded into the courses offered at the university. Clearly what is of paramount concernfor most of the universities is whether the graduate qualities exposed are actually practisedin reality.
This is all the more interesting in particular, when the university conducts the coursesinternationally in another country such as Malaysia where the teaching and learningculture may significantly differ from Australia.
METHODOLOGY
Measurement and Research Instrument
The questionnaire was sectioned into A, B and C. Section A contained questions about
students’ perception on their achievement for each of the Graduate Qualities whereas
Section B contained statements regarding how well students believed their course/s in
general have helped them in developing the Graduate Qualities. Section C contained
questions regarding the different learning modes that may have equipped students with
Graduate Qualities. Responses to the questions in the last section will indicate if the
desired graduate qualities as embedded are attained from beyond the course curricula
activities/ initiatives made available by the local partner University.
Appendex A shows the research instrument employed in this study For sections A and B,the responses to each item have been measured using a 5-point Likert scale with 1 being Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree Students “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree”. For Section C, students were asked tostate the type of learning mode they believe has equipped them with Graduate Qualities.
Sampling and Data Collection Method
Convenience sampling method was used to draw a sample of 84 students of mainly final-
year students undergoing the UniSA Bachelors Degree Programme at Taylor’s University
doing either a degree in Finance, Accounting or Marketing. Self-administered
questionnaires were distributed to the respondents during tutorials. All the respondents
returned the questionnaires.
Data Analysis Method
Descriptive analysis was carried out to determine the frequency and percentage of students
in each degree pursued. Means were calculated to determine the number of students who
perceived that they had achieved the overall GQs and agreed that GQs had been embedded
into the syllabus. Frequency and percentages were used to determine the different learning
modes that may have equipped students with Graduate Qualities. Correlation analysis
was carried out to determine the existence of a positive correlation between students’
perception on the overall achievement of GQs and students’ perception that GQs had
been embedded into the syllabus.
FINDINGS
Of the 84 respondents, 50% were Marketing students while the remaining 50% comprised
25% Commerce and 25% Finance students (Table 1).
Table 1. Breakdown of number of respondents according to
different majors
In relation to students’ perceptions of achievement of GQ, most indicated slightly above
“3” on the 5-point Likert scale for sections A & B. The mean scores for both sections were
between 3.34 and 3.71 (Table2). There was no significant difference between the two
sections. In other words, students who perceived they have achieved the overall GQs
also agreed that GQs had been embedded into the syllabus. (Author: repetition in Table
2 - please check)

This result is confirmed by the correlation analysis which shows a correlation betweenthe two sections as indicated by the values of 0.453 and 1.00 (Table 3). Students believed Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin Table 2. Mean score of perceived achievement of GQs and embedded GQs in the syllabus.
a. Committed to ethical action & social responsibility b. Committed to ethical action & social responsibility a. Demonstrate an international perspective b. Demonstrate an international perspective that 5 GQs of the of 7 GQs were embedded in the syllabus and that they had achievedsuch GQs. It is interesting to note that almost all students believed that GQ5 (Committedto ethical action and social responsibility) and GQ6 (Communicate effectively) had beenembedded in the syllabus and that they had acquired these GQs. Both of these GQsachieved a correlation value of 1.00. GQ7 (Demonstrate an international perspective) alsohad a good correlation with a value of 0.559. This is followed by GQ4 (Ability to workautonomously and collaboratively) and GQ1 (Body of knowledge) which had correlationvalues of 0.526 and 0.522 respectively. In the students’ opinion, they had not masteredGQ2 (Lifelong learning) and GQ3 (Effective problem solver) as well as other GQsthough embedded in the syllabus.
The overall correlation between students’ perception of overall achievement for each GQand students’ belief that GQs are embedded in the syllabus is 0.66. Therefore it can beconcluded that there is a positive correlation between students’ perception on overallachievement for each GQ and students’ belief that GQs are embedded in the syllabus ofthe courses.
Frequency and percentages were used to determine the different learning modes that mayhave inculcated students with Graduate Qualities (Tables 4 to 7). Correlation analysis was Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree Students Table 3. Positive correlation between students’ perceptions on overall achievement for each GQ
and students’ belief that GQs are embedded in the syllabus.
carried out to determine the existence of a positive correlation between students’ belief onthe overall achievement of GQs and students’ belief that GQs have been embedded intothe syllabus.
A closer scrutiny on the acquisition of the seven GQs in the respective courses seems tooffer less encouraging results. The response appears rather random and no clearpredictable pattern emerged to form conclusive findings.
Students’ perception of the learning methods/mode that may have helped them developthe 7 GQs appears to be confined mainly to group and individual work. A real concern isthat very low numbers of students were of the view that lectures and tutorials are usefulin developing most of their GQs other than for developing the first two GQs (body ofknowledge and lifelong learning).
The majority of students from all three disciplines perceived individual and group work tobe the most effective mode of assessment in developing graduate qualities, in particular Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Table 4. Different learning modes and achievement of GQs (Marketing)
Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education V 4 Ability to work autonomously & collaboratively 5 Committed to ethical action & social responsibility 7 Demonstrate an international perspective Table 5. Different learning modes and achievement of GQs (Commerce)
Ability to work autonomously & collaboratively Committed to ethical action & social responsibility Table 6. Different learning modes and achievement of GQs (Finance)
Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education V Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree S Ability to work autonomously & collaboratively Committed to ethical action & social responsibility Table 7. Different learning modes and achievement of GQs (across all majors)
4 Ability to work autonomously & collaboratively 5 Committed to ethical action & social responsibility 7 Demonstrate an international perspective Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin problem solving. What is surprising to note is the low number of students who perceivedtutorial sessions to be useful in developing the GQs other than for the GQs relating tobody of knowledge and lifelong learning.
A comparison across the three disciplines shows that Finance students have the leastpositive perception on the usefulness of the different modes of teaching and assessmentin inculcating the desired GQ. Further investigation is suggested on this finding.
An interesting observation is the fact that students from the Marketing degree viewedcase studies as a mode of learning in developing the necessary body of knowledge whileCommerce students perceive case studies as useful in developing their internationalperspective. One would have expected students to appreciate case studies as a method oflearning which enhances their communication and problem solving skills. The zeroresponse from finance students is either attributed to their lack of appreciation of thevalue of case studies or that their course does not use case studies in the teachingprocess.
Another interesting and perhaps helpful feedback is that consistently across the threedisciplines, no student felt that seminars/workshops and fieldwork were instrumental indeveloping the GQs. This could be attributed to the fact that these modes of learning wereeither not introduced or at a very negligible rate. Hence, they had very little impact onstudents’ overall perception.
In view of the inconsistencies in the responses, an interview was conducted to investigate
as to how they perceive GQ is inculcated in their courses. Where are the results?????
DIRECTION FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
A comparative study should be conducted between UniSA students studying in the same
business degree onshore and offshore to ascertain differences in perception. An indepth
study can be further conducted to ascertain whether there are any significant differences
in the learning environment and the mode of delivery between onshore and offshore
which may affect perceptions.
CONCLUSION
It would appear from the findings that students studying in the Australian franchised
degree programmes at Taylor’s University have a positive perception that the courses
that they enrolled in have allowed them to attain the necessary graduate qualities
Overall, after completing at least 2 years of their respective courses, the students have apositive perception that they have acquired to some extent those graduate qualities as setout in their courses.
Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree Students An attempt to ascertain the mode of learning/assessment deemed most useful indeveloping their GQs gave very mixed and inconclusive findings. Nevertheless, someinteresting observations were noticed: a low perception of the effectiveness of lecturesand tutorials on the one hand, and on the other a favourable perception of assignments,be it individual or group assignments in enhancing their GQ. It is further recommendedthat more field work, seminars and workshop be introduced and incorporated in place ofsome lectures to provide different dimensions to learning and ultimately the acquisitionof the necessary GQs.
In the course of interviewing a select number of students representing the three disciplines,findings confirmed that students generally perceive that they have acquired the graduatequalities to a certain extent. Similarly, they have some appreciation of the existence of theGQs being embedded although they may not necessarily be emphasised in a consistentmanner by the different instructors teaching in the different courses.
REFERENCES
Bowden, J., Hart, G., King, B., Trigwell, K., & Watts, O. (2000). Generic Capabilities of
ATN University Graduates. Canberra: Australian Government Department ofEducation, Training and Youth Affairs.
Curtis, D. & McKenzie, P. (2001). Employability Skills for Australian Industry: Literature Review and Framework Development. Australian Council for EducationalResearch.
Feast, V. (2000). Student perceptions of the importance and value of a graduate quality framework in a tertiary environment. Unpublished Doctor of EducationDissertation. Adelaide: Flinders University.
University of South Australia. (December, 2000). Graduate qualities. University of South Australia. Available: http://www.unisanet.unisa.edu.au/gradquals/StaffIndex.htm[Assessed 21 March 2001].
Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin APPENDIX A
Questionnaire associated with Recording of Graduate Qualities Achievement Programme (Major): ________________ Semester: ____ Rate your own achievement levels at the present time for each of the Graduate Qualities.
(Please rate your overall perception for each quality first and then rate each of theindicators in the same way).
Demonstrate an understanding in broad outline of a wholediscipline or professional area (concepts, theories, proponents)including a knowledge of the boundaries (b) Apply knowledge (demonstrate application of theory to practice in real situations, appreciate limitations of theory, usematerials, devices, safety codes and practices, specificequipment and techniques appropriately) Locate, evaluate, manage, and use information in a range ofcontexts – i.e. be information literate (b) Understand and accept personal weaknesses, strengths and preferred learning styles, have knowledge of a range oflearning strategies, and take responsibility for your learningand development Sustain intellectual interest and critical thinking as a matureprofessional Gather, evaluate and deploy relevant information to assistproblem solving – i.e. analyse and synthesise (b) Apply strategies to conceptualise problems and formulate Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree Students Work collaboratively with different groups, identify theneeds of others and build positive relationships Be able to provide leadership within a team context byunderstanding responsibilities for organisation, planning,influencing and negotiation Demonstrate a commitment to personal ethical actions withinprofessional contexts Recognise the potential social and economic impact ofenterprise activities upon particular social groups Demonstrate oral, written, mathematical and visual literaciesas appropriate to the discipline or professional area Communicate appropriately with professional colleaguesand the public Display an ability to think globally and consider issuesfrom a variety of perspectives (b) Demonstrate awareness of the implications of local decisions and actions for international communities and of internationaldecisions and actions for local communities Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin Rate the Graduate Qualities in relation to how well you believe your Course/s ingeneral have helped you develop these skills/qualities. (Please rate your perceptionoverall for each quality first and then rate each of the indicators in the same way).
Body of knowledgeDemonstrate an understanding in broad outline of a wholediscipline or professional area (concepts, theories, proponents)including a knowledge of the boundariesApply knowledge (demonstrate application of theory topractice in real situations, appreciate limitations of theory,use materials, devices, safety codes and practices, specificequipment and techniques appropriately) Lifelong learningLocate, evaluate, manage, and use information in a range ofcontexts – ie be information literateUnderstand and accept personal weaknesses, strengths andpreferred learning styles, have knowledge of a range of learningstrategies, and take responsibility for your learning anddevelopmentSustain intellectual interest and critical thinking as a matureprofessional Effective problem solverGather, evaluate and deploy relevant information to assistproblem solving – i.e. analyse and synthesiseApply strategies to conceptualise problems and formulate arange of solutions Work collaboratively with different groups, identify the needsof others and build positive relationshipsBe able to provide leadership within a team context byunderstanding responsibilities for organisation, planning,influencing and negotiation Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree Students Demonstrate a commitment to personal ethical actions withinprofessional contexts Recognise the potential social and economic impact ofenterprise activities upon particular social groups Communicates effectivelyDemonstrate oral, written, mathematical and visual literaciesas appropriate to the discipline or professional areaCommunicate appropriately with professional colleagues andthe public Demonstrate an International perspectiveDisplay an ability to think globally and consider issues froma variety of perspectivesDemonstrate awareness of the implications of local decisionsand actions for international communities and of internationaldecisions and actions for local communities I learned the following skills/qualities through…. (you may tick more than one teachingmethod) Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin The confidentiality of your responses is assured. Data will only be used in aggregateand individual students will not be identified.
A final copy of the results of this survey will be made available to students uponrequest.
There will be no consequences to any individual students’ progress in their studiesbecause of their completion or non-completion of this questionnaire.
Kindly complete the following information if you are willing to be involved in alongitudinal research study regarding the Recording of Achievement project.
Thank you
Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Perception of Achievement of Graduate Qualities by Degree Students APPENDIX B
How effective has the UniSA been in embedding graduate qualities in the subjectsfor your 3-year degree course? How effective has the course been in transferring graduate qualities through thecourse content and delivery of the course or are they merely paying lips service? Do you feel there is a vast difference in the opportunities made available betweenTaylor’s students and those who went to UniSA in acquiring graduate qualities? Did you acquire the graduate qualities from other experiences outside the classroom,i.e. through extra curricula activities? Please elaborate your own personal experienceand examples.
Which benefited you more in terms of acquisition of your graduate qualities: theUniSA business degree course or your involvement in extra curricula activities? APPENDIX C
Graduate Qualities listed in UniSA Course Information Booklets1.
Ability to work autonomously and collaboratively Commitment to ethical action and social responsibility QuestionsKindly write a few lines to express your views pertaining to the graduate qualities. Thankyou.
Are you aware of the graduate qualities (GQs) in the UniSA course? Do you think the GQs are clearly embedded in the subjects that you have donethroughout the three years? Do you think you have acquired some or all of the GQs after completing your degree? Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013 Oh Yoke Moi & Catherine Cheng Mei Sin Do you subscribe to the GQs listed by UniSA? Which of the GQs , in your opinion, are NOT useful or relevant to your future career? Are there any other GQs that you have acquired which are NOT listed by UniSAwhich you think would be invaluable in preparing you for the workforce? Do you think UniSA degree prepares you adequately with the necessary GQs for theworkforce? Are the GQs and the breakdown of emphasis listed in the CIB for all subjects achievedat the end of each course? Are the GQs emphasised throughout the semester by your lecturers? 10. If you feel that you have acquired most of the GQs, do you acquire that solely from the course content of all subjects you have learnt in your degree programme? 11. Do you think you could have acquired the GQs from other sources? For example, exposure to activities organised by Taylor’s.
12. Do you know the assignments or class activities for the different courses have been designed to help students achieve the respective GQs? 13. Have the lecturers been emphasising GQs in the respective subjects they teach?14. Which aspects of learning mode are GQs most effectively displayed? For example, through lectures, seminars, guest speakers, tutorial etc.
Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education Volume 3, Issue 1, 2013

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