Measuring the impact of research and employability skills training for HDR students: What is the best way?

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Skills development for research students is highlighted in the key findings of the Review of Australia’s Training System (the ACOLA Review). HDR graduates are often perceived to be overly specialised and unable to adapt to non-academic, multi-disciplinary settings (Jaeger & Rudra, 2003). It is thus important for research skills training to include research and discipline knowledge necessary to complete the degree as well as transferrable skills that graduates can apply to their workplace across the whole spectrum of society. In the ACOLA Review, it is argued that in order for research students to gain the transferrable skills necessary to prepare them for the workplace, flexibility in training is necessary. HDR students come from a range of backgrounds, have a diverse range of existing skills and experience they bring into their learning, and will go out into a diverse range of workplaces. A suggested way of delivering transferrable skills flexibly is to tailor the training according to the students’ needs through a skills development framework, such as the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF). In this way, the students can identify where their needs lie, what training is available to them, and in turn have control of their skills training throughout their candidature. This would also allow the students, as the users, to map which skills they have gained, where they need improvement and how they can apply the skills in a range of settings (ACOLA, 2016). But how do we best apply such a framework? And how do we measure the impact of the training? These are questions Flinders University is currently asking themselves, while implementing a new compulsory Research and Employability Skills Training (REST) program. While other universities have implemented a point-based system, where students are expected to complete a number of hours of training in each domain, Flinders is considering implementing a competency-based approach. In such an approach, it does not matter how many hours or which training the students complete, but how well they articulate the skills they have acquired in each domain. Rather than recording the attendance at workshops, students will be asked to complete a set of self-reflective activities to map the skills they have gained during that workshop against the framework. These activities will form their self-assessment report at each milestone, and contribute to the final certificate at completion of candidature. It is our hope that with such an approach, students will take an active role in their skills development, and learn to identify, articulate and apply the skills they have gained throughout their candidature, and in turn, provide us with a way to measure the impact of the skills training program.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventQuality in Postgraduate Research, 2018 - Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 17 Apr 201819 Apr 2018


ConferenceQuality in Postgraduate Research, 2018
Abbreviated titleQPR 2018


  • transferrable skills
  • employability
  • skills development
  • researcher development
  • PhD students


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