What are graduate attributes?

Graduate attributes are the academic abilities, personal qualities and transferable skills which all students will have the opportunity to develop as part of their University of Glasgow experience.

‌University life offers up opportunities to try new things wherever you go: lectures, labs, the library, the sports field, the theatre and the unions - it’s almost impossible not to get involved.

But thousands of students graduate from Glasgow each year – what will make your time here unique? What will you have to show for your time here other than some great memories?

If someone were to ask you what you did at university, you’d probably name the subjects you study. But you’re actually learning to do all sorts of other things as well. For example:

  • Writing essays develops critical thinking and research skills
  • Posters and presentations are great practice in public speaking and communicating your ideas
  • Playing for a sports team improves your ability to communicate and work within a team
  • Running a club or society requires leadership and motivation

With a little thought, you can see that almost everything you can do at university is designed to help you develop useful skills, qualities and abilities – elements of yourself that you might never have discovered had you not come to Glasgow. We refer to these collectively as our graduate attributes.

Why are they important?

Well developed graduate attributes won't just help you to be a better student - they'll prepare you for whatever comes next. Whether you join a company or start your own, travel the world or study at home, your graduate attributes will help you along the way.

You can explore the key reasons for focusing on your developing graduate attributes in the tabs below.


Embrace the unexpected

Knowledge is vital. It’s the absolute bedrock of every discipline we offer at Glasgow, and we pride ourselves on the breadth and depth of knowledge developed through our programmes of study.

But the boundaries of human understanding are expanding all the time. Today’s cutting-edge discoveries can all too quickly turn into tomorrow’s outdated ideas. We know that better than most: the University of Glasgow community is making new contributions to knowledge almost every day.

And it’s not just on our campus. The world is changing rapidly: new industries are emerging every year in our society, bringing with them new jobs, challenges and opportunities. Whether you follow your current degree with further study or a graduate job, you’ll need to be able to adapt what you’ve learnt to succeed - not only to the next step in your career, but the step beyond that as well.

We believe that our students represent the researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The graduate attributes you will develop at Glasgow ensure that you will have the knowledge, skills, abilities and personal confidence to thrive wherever life takes you.

Stand out from the crowd

More people are choosing to study at university than ever before. Whether you stay with us for a PhD or jump in to the jobs market after you graduate, you are certain to face stiff competition from other well-qualified candidates. A good degree classification will get your application read, but you’ll need more than that to stand out from the crowd.

A long list of extra-curricular activities on your CV can be useful in that respect, but there’s no need to panic if you spent all your time in lectures, labs and the library - it’s far more important that you are able to identify how the experiences you did have at university made you a stronger, wiser and more capable individual.

All of the major graduate employers look for very similar qualities in prospective employees: they want proof that you can solve problems, adapt to new situations, think independently, work well in a team and communicate your ideas effectively. But it can be hard at first to make connections between the day-to-day experience of being a student and the tasks you’ll be expected to perform in a workplace.

Our graduate attributes matrix is specifically designed to draw your attention to how the same core attributes are valued and developed across academic, social and professional settings. With a little thought, you’ll see that almost everything you’ve done at University has helped you to become not only a stronger student, but a more desirable graduate employee as well.

Spend a little time thinking about the different ways in which you’ve developed your own graduate attributes during your time here – you might be surprised to find how much you have to talk about in applications and interviews.

Get more out of your degree

University offers much more than just lectures and laboratories: it’s a time to learn more about yourself as a person – your likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, motivations and goals.

There’s never been a better time to try something new. Tread the boards, learn to fence, climb a mountain or volunteer overseas – Glasgow has literally hundreds of clubs and societies, sports teams and volunteering opportunities to choose from.

As you explore this website, you’ll see that certain extra-curricular activities are highlighted as examples of ways you might improve your graduate attributes. But this doesn’t mean that other opportunities on offer can’t be just as valuable to you: almost everything you can do at University will benefit your graduate attributes if you take an active role and focus on the skills you’re developing.

The University’s e-portfolio software Mahara can help you to get into the habit of reflecting on what you have learnt and recording your experiences. Try creating a portfolio that showcases your strengths with real world examples of where you’ve demonstrated each of the attributes.

Developing your graduate attributes is important, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun as well. Look around this website for inspiration and give something different a go this year: the more you put into university life, the more you’ll get out.