Graduate Attributes and Generic Skills

Graduate Attributes are central to the design, delivery and assessment of student learning in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Students are encouraged to acquire attributes in scholarship, global citizenship and lifelong learning. In the context of their learning in a range of disciplines and subjects, students will develop key generic skills in:

  • research and inquiry
  • information literacy
  • personal and intellectual autonomy
  • ethical, social and professional understanding
  • communication

Statement of Graduate Attributes

The University of Sydney has revised its Generic Graduate Attributes policy based on research within the university and benchmarking similar initiatives at international universities, such as Oxford. This research provides a conceptual basis for the University’s statement of graduate attributes. You can read about the four levels of the framework or read more detail in the publications below.

The revised policy specifies two levels of attributes. There are three overarching graduate attributes – Scholarship, Lifelong Learning, and Global Citizenship – which reflect the research intensive nature of the University, its scholarly values in relation to research-led teaching, and the place of its graduates in a global society.

These overarching attributes represent combinations of five clusters of more specific attributes, which can be interpreted or contextualised differently in different disciplinary domains. These are in turn supported by generic foundation skills and abilities underpinned by basic competencies.

The University policy has been interpreted by each Faculty in a Faculty Statement. These statements have been developed in consultation with internal and external stakeholders.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences: Contextualised Graduate Attributes

14/10/2004: This draft statement has been ratified for use by the faculty.

Research and Inquiry. Graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will be able to create new knowledge and understanding through the process of research and inquiry.

  • possess a body of knowledge relevant to their fields of study, and a firm grasp of the principles, practices, and boundaries of their discipline;
  • be able to acquire and evaluate new knowledge through independent research;
  • be able to identify, define, investigate, and solve problems;
  • think independently, analytically and creatively; and
  • exercise critical judgement and critical thinking to create new modes of understanding.

Information Literacy. Graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will be able to use information effectively in a range of contexts.

  • recognise pertinent information needs;
  • use appropriate media, tools and methodologies to locate, access and use information;
  • critically evaluate the sources, values, validity and currency of information; and
  • use information in critical and creative thinking.

Personal and Intellectual Autonomy. Graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will be able to work independently and sustainably, in a way that is informed by openness, curiosity and a desire to meet new challenges.

  • be independent learners who take responsibility for their own learning;
  • set appropriate goals for ongoing intellectual and professional development, and evaluate their own performance effectively;
  • be intellectually curious, open to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking, and able to sustain intellectual interest;
  • respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts; and
  • work effectively in teams and other collaborative contexts.

Ethical, Social and Professional Understanding. Graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will hold personal values and beliefs consistent with their role as responsible members of local, national, international and professional communities.

  • understand and practise the highest standards of ethical behaviour associated with their discipline or profession;
  • be informed and open-minded about social, cultural and linguistic diversity in Australia and the world;
  • appreciate their ethical responsibilities towards colleagues, research subjects, the wider community, and the environment;
  • be aware that knowledge is not value-free.

Communication. Graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will recognise and value communication as a tool for negotiating and creating new understanding, interacting with others, and furthering their own learning.

  • possess a high standard of oral, visual and written communication skills relevant to their fields of study, including where applicable the possession of these skills in languages other than English;
  • recognise the importance of continuing to develop their oral, visual, and written communication skills;
  • be able to use appropriate communication technologies.


For further information on Graduate Attributes visit the ITL's Graduate Attributes Project website.