Ireland s knowledge society and transferable skills provision for postgraduate researchers
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Ireland’s ‘Knowledge Society’ and Transferable Skills Provision for Postgraduate Researchers. Dr Gerard Downes & Dr Jessica Kindler, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland. Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. a College of Education and Liberal Arts

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Ireland’s ‘Knowledge Society’ and Transferable Skills Provision for Postgraduate Researchers

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Ireland s knowledge society and transferable skills provision for postgraduate researchers

Ireland’s ‘Knowledge Society’ and Transferable Skills Provision for Postgraduate Researchers

Dr Gerard Downes & Dr Jessica Kindler,Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland


Mary immaculate college limerick

Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

  • a College of Education and Liberal Arts

  • founded in 1898 by the sisters of mercy as a training college for primary teachers

  • first admitted men in 1969

  • linked to the University of Limerick since 1991

  • approx. 3,500 students, over 100 PhD researchers and 250 Masters students and 300 staff

  • three structured PhD programmes - in Education, in Psychology, and in Philosophy of Art and Culture


Outline of presentation

Outline of Presentation

1) MIC Graduate School – September 2013

2) Brief history of postgrad policy around knowledge economy and skills training agenda

3) What is the effect of  growing the numbers of PhDs?

4) Transferable skills training in AHSS in Irish HEIs

5) How effective is this approach?

6) Examples of good practice and future directions


Ireland s knowledge economy and skills training agenda

Ireland’s knowledge economy and skills training agenda

From export-led to knowledge-based economy: indigenous, research-intensive, market leaders (Bruce, 2006).

  • Lisbon Strategy (March 2000): European Council: Knowledge Economy; Lifelong learning

  • National Development Plan (NDP) 2000-2006

  • Forfas Expert Group on Skills Need (2003)

  • Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation (SSTI) 2006-2013


Ireland s knowledge economy and skills training agenda1

Ireland’s knowledge economy and skills training agenda

‘‘The new graduate must not only have specialist knowledge in their field, but also have a range of generic competencies (managerial and technological) required to participate in a workplace subject to constant change, the skills to continue learning throughout a professional lifetime, and sufficient breadth of knowledge and understanding to reach to entirely new challenges and to place their work in a broader social and cultural context” (IUA, 2005: 11).


Graduate skills statement 2008

Graduate Skills Statement (2008)

  • Research skills and awareness

  • Ethics and social understanding

  • Communication skills

  • Personal effectiveness/development

  • Career management

  • Team-working and leadership

  • Entrepreneurship and innovation


What is the effect of growing the numbers of phds

What is the effect of growing the numbers of PhDs?

Number of Enrolled PhDs

PhD Graduations


Effects of growth in phd recruitment

Effects of growth in PhD recruitment

-There is a need for more research into career destinations of Irish PhDs

‘What Do Graduates Do? The Class of 2012’ An Analysis of the Universities First Destination of Graduates Survey, 2013, A report by the Higher Education Authority

-Significant numbers of AHSS PhDs do not aspire to an academic career

“Three quarters of respondents from the arts and humanities, and over half in social sciences or education, sought a higher education career” ‘What do Researchers Want to do, CRAC, 2012)

-Academia is the primary destination of AHSS PhDs, but not the main destination


Career destinations of arts humanities and social science phds

Career Destinations of

Arts, Humanities and Social Science PhDs

“Teaching and lecturing in HE throughout the survey period accounted for over one quarter (28%) of all arts and humanitiesdoctoral graduate respondents.”

“Teaching and lecturing in HE throughout the survey period accounted for almost a third (31%) of all social sciences respondents.”

4% of all A&H respondents went from research to teaching and lecturing and 2 % were employed in research throughout the survey period.

5% of all SS respondents were in HE research throughout survey period

“58 different career paths were described by over 250 arts and humanities doctoral graduate respondents.”

“58 different career paths were described by 255 social sciences respondents.”

Source: ‘What do researchers do? Career paths of doctoral graduates’, CRAC, 2011


Ireland s knowledge society and transferable skills provision for postgraduate researchers

What Does Transferable Skills Training Look Like in Irish HEIs?


Transferable skills training in irish heis

Transferable Skills Training in Irish HEIs

More pronounced in institutes of technology and STEM areas, e.g. ‘DIT...characterised by a close alliance with and responsiveness to industry’ (Lawless et al, 2004)

‘Most employers who had difficulty highlighted problems with the engineering-related disciplines’ (IBEC Survey, 2010)

No similar vision or provision to identify or address skills gap in AHSS


What does transferable skills training look like in irish heis

What Does Transferable Skills Training Look Like in Irish HEIs

  • Predominantly workshop-based

  • Means of assessment? No coordinated national form of assessment of transferable skills

  • Little formal provision on structured PhDs, e.g. 18 ECTS out of 360 (can be a minimum of 10!); some skills training not credit-based.

  • Professional doctorates in Ireland: transferable skills implicit in the learning outcomes of a programme.


How effective is this approach feedback from nfetl workshops

How Effective is this Approach? –Feedback from NFETL workshops

  • ‘Like a tsunami’

  • ‘Lots of colleges not ready for Level 9 and 10 courses in Skills’

  • ‘Massive logistical challenge’

  • ‘We’re deficient in this type of training’

  • ‘Some supervisors sending students away to study a MOOC’

  • ‘Very difficult to track and to build into the system’

  • ‘Issue hasn’t been addressed by many institutions’

  • ‘Enhances a CV but not assessed correctly’


Resistance to skills agenda

Resistance to Skills Agenda

  • Resistance to integrating transferable skills because they are ill-defined, lack consistency, clarity and a recognisable theoretical base (Bennett et al, 1999).

  • Implications for core research, degree lengths and costs if more training is incorporated into PhD studies (OECD, 2012: 10)


Should transferable skills be assessed and how

Should transferable skills be assessed and how?

Yorkeet al(2006: 32): ‘In order to reduce clutter and “task overload”, it is a good idea to design modules to have a few 'target' outcomes that naturally call upon understanding and skilful practices that will not be directly assessed in that module.’


Differentiated approach to assessment required

Differentiated approach to assessment required ?

High levels of assessment leading to certificates and statements of competence complemented with low levels of assessment throughout the programme of study that creates feedback and leads to claims of competence (Yorkeet al, 2006: 35)


Ul certificate in generic transferable research skills

UL: Certificate in Generic & Transferable Research Skills

Summer School/Residential Week : Completion of on-line assignments and e-tivities during the rest of the summer

  • Digital Research Management; Academic Writing

  • Research Ethics; Research Planning & Publication

  • Communication/ Networking/ Presentation; Research Integrity

    Fulfils requirements for Generic & Transferable Skills Element of Structured PhD (18 ECTS)

    Career Focus?

    Funding opportunities enhanced for PGRs?


6 examples of good practice

6) Examples of good practice

The workshop model is useful when used to:

  • introduce a topic

  • manage researcher’s expectations

  • encourage the researcher’s next steps

  • opportunity for discussion

  • tips and guidance

  • opportunity for the development of peer support networks

    However, in the ideal world, the classroom based approach needs to be integrated with:

  • PDP

  • cohesive packages of workshops involving collaborative problem-based learning

  • real-world experiences

  • mentoring

  • personal reflection on the skills acquisition process.


Ireland s knowledge society and transferable skills provision for postgraduate researchers

An example from University College Cork

PhD Internship (for the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences) 5 ECTS

Module Overview:

To enhance students' employability and transferable skills through work experience and critical reflection

Learning Outcomes:

  • Broaden their understanding of possible range of employment opportunities to aid career choice

  • Reflect on the experiential learning and personal development experienced on the placement and summarise in a Reflective Final Report

  • Demonstrate how critical learning on the work placement/internship can inform their identification of further areas for skill development

  • Articulate a deepened knowledge of transferable skills and their applicability in both academic and workplace settings.


An example from trinity college dublin creative thinking innovation 10 ects

An example from Trinity College Dublin

Creative Thinking & Innovation (10 ECTS)

Module Overview:

  • an intensive two week programme

  • workshops, seminars, design thinking challenges and innovative projects

  • aims to help students to understand the key attributes associated with creative thought and innovation and how they might be applied to research in any discipline.

    Learning Outcomes:

  • Apply their creative potential, problem-solving abilities and lateral thinking skills to the generation of ideas and actionable recommendations in relation to a market opportunity or a technological challenge.

  • Work effectively in multi-disciplinary teams and understand team roles.

  • Communicate and interact with multiple stakeholders through a range of mechanisms, including a team report, presentation, poster and reflective essay.


Future direction

Future Direction?

‘Techniques, technologies and mindset of world of arts and digital entertainment now being brought into service across whole swathes of the economy, from hi-tech manufacturing to systems analysis, digital humanities and healthcare’ (Newbigin, 2014: 12).

  • Continuous Learning

  • Individual Responsibility

  • Ability to Collaborate

  • Communication Skills

  • Emotional Intelligence (Donohoe, 2014)


Thank you

Thank you

[email protected]

[email protected]


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