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Using Graduate Attributes


The University of Adelaide provides a learning environment where students can develop a core set of transferable skills, called graduate attributes. When these are made specific to a discipline/program, they are called program graduate attributes.

There are three ways at least that graduate attributes may inform program and course design:

  1. Elaborated into a continuum of staged development
  2. Map the extent and degree that each graduate attribute is developed
  3. Gap identification

Elaborated into a continuum of staged development

If graduate attributes are used a priori to elaborate a continuum of staged development, then the resulting framework informs, to a large extent, the curriculum, including learning objectives, assessment and evaluation. Specific learning tasks and content serve this staged development, which is described in ways that are specific to the discipline* and in terms of some variable eg ‘degree of impact’, ‘degree of expertise as clinician’. Three examples of graduate attribute continua follow.

Graduate Certificate in Education (Higher Education)

Graduate Certificate in Online Learning (Higher Education)

Graduate Diploma in Nursing Science (Anaesthetic and Recovery Nursing)

Map the extent and degree that each graduate attribute is developed for gap identification

Program-specific Graduate Attributes

Lists of specific program graduate attributes may be used for auditing which graduate attributes are developed in each course of a program of study, for example in a tick-box checklist. This approach can identify which graduate attributes are being explicitly developed in a program, and any that are under-developed or not developed.

An example of Program Graduate Attributes

An example of Faculty-based Graduate Attributes

Mapping for Gap Identification

When existing courses are evaluated for the extent (how wide-spread) and/or degree (how deeply) each graduate attribute is developed, then this is called mapping. This can be done for all the courses in a program of study, to gain a sense of the extent of explicit development of graduate attributes in the program.

Educational Articles on Mapping Graduate Attributes

An example from the School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Adelaide:

Roberts, I., Shannon, S. and Radford, A. (2003). Mapping academic programs with ProgramMap. In G.Crisp, D.Thiele, I.Scholten, S.Barker and J.Baron (Eds), Interact, Integrate, Impact: Proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. Adelaide, 7-10 December 2003.

PDF Available from

An example from Macquarie University:

Sumsion, J., & Goodfellow, J. (2004). Identifying generic skills through curriculum mapping: A critical evaluation. Higher Education Research & Development, 23(3), pp.329–346.

PDF available from


* Graduate Attributes described in ways that are specific to the discipline are called Program Graduate Attributes at the University of Adelaide.


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