Research Shows Modern Language Graduates Have Skills Employers Need

Posted on: 24 November 2004

A report, “The hidden value of higher education learning: transferable skills and their importance for graduates of modern language programmes”, published today by Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University and Waterford Institute of Technology shows that the study of “non-vocational” programmes, such as modern languages, naturally leads to the development of a wide range of more general “transferable” skills that many employers consider essential for effective performance in their workforce today. Research for the report was conducted with four key groups in higher education – students, academic staff, graduates and employers. The findings show that oral communication is considered one of the most important transferable skills for a graduate to possess, followed by time management, team work and presentation skills. It also shows that oral communication is the transferable skill which is most highly developed by language programmes. Other skills well developed include research skills, written communication and presentation skills. Transferable skills should form an integral part of the teaching and learning strategies of all higher education institutions and the development of such skills should be embedded into all higher education programmes, according to the report’s recommendations. Additionally, in the opinion of both employers and academic staff, there are a substantial number of students who are not aware of the importance of such skills to their careers after third-level. A recent OECD Report on Higher Education in Ireland speaks of the “critical importance” to the Irish economy of producing a qualified workforce. “The hidden value of higher education learning” shows that transferable skills are given a higher importance rating for graduates seeking employment than are either a good academic record or specialist subject knowledge. This being the case then programmes such as modern languages are well positioned to meet the needs of a range of employers. The project, for which the research was conducted, is being funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) under the Strategic Initiatives Scheme and is being jointly carried out by the Careers Services in the three institutions involved. Based on the research, a pilot programme is now underway in the current academic term in modern language courses in each of the institutions. The pilot is investigating ways of raising the students’ awareness of, and competence in, a range of transferable skills, through the courses’ regular teaching content. Results of the pilot will be reported in 2005. The report, which was launched by Olwyn Enright, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Education and Science, can be found at