Graduate Attributes

computer screen on a desk with a mortar board graduate hat on top of a book

Graduate Attributes

Graduate Attributes are the qualities, skills and understandings a university community agrees its students should develop during their time with the institution (Bowden, 2000).

These generic graduate attributes outline the overarching capabilities that will be developed by students. This goes across all disciplines/areas of study. These qualities are intended to equip graduates to be global citizens, and effective members of society who can be agents of 'social good' (Barrie, 2004).

The SCU Graduate Attributes are listed below:


Intellectual rigour is defined as "a commitment to excellence in all scholarly and intellectual activities, including critical judgement."

Intellectual rigour is having clarity in thinking and an ability to think carefully, deeply and with rigour when faced with new knowledge and arguments. This capability involves engaging constructively and methodically when exploring ideas, theories and philosophies. It also relates to the ability to analyse and construct knowledge with depth, insight and intellectual maturity. A student develops this attribute as part of the challenge of ongoing and systematic study. Intellectual rigour is encouraged for example during an assessment exercise where a debate or discussion occurs about a challenging topic. The challenge for the student is to have the ability to consider other points of view and make a thoughtful argument.

Strategies and Approaches

An example of how intellectual rigour is integrated into teaching practice is found in the post graduate course, Master of Osteopathic Medicine. An assessment asks students to write a report on the historical basis of osteopathic practice. To do this task, they have to research the literature, old and new and exercise critical thinking and judgement about the reliability of their research. They must understand the nature of evidence based practice, within the context of a historical legacy. Students must construct a critical evaluation of different kinds of evidence, analyse concepts and make judgements about their relevance to the potential development of their osteopathic practice. The assessment calls upon their intellectual rigour and critical judgement.

The table below highlights how this Graduate Attribute relates to unit learning outcomes, and demonstrates relevant learning strategies.

Learning Outcome and Intellectual Rigour (GA1) Assessment Task Examples

Learning Outcome: employ critical judgement and critical thinking in creating new understanding

Critical reflection activity:

  • Interpret and analyse relevant industry standards for own professional context

Learning Outcome: demonstrate an ability to apply legal research results to solve legal problems.

Research paper:

  • You receive a memo from the principal solicitor at the firm at which you are employed. Using the information in the memo and your legal research skills address the issues and work towards a constructive solution.


Creativity is defined as "an ability to develop creative and effective responses to intellectual, professional and social challenges".

Creativity is a skill that underpins most activities, although this may be less obvious in some disciplines. A student is supported to develop creativity when they are required to apply imaginative and reflective thinking to their studies. Students are encouraged to look at the design or issue through differing and novel perspectives. Creativity allows the possibility of a powerful shift in outlook, and enables students to be open to thinking about different concepts and ideas.

Strategies and Approaches

An example of encouraging creativity is highlighted in the Bachelor of Business in Tourism and Hospitality Management course. Students engage with this Graduate Attribute in a first year unit as a topic, where they create a marketing plan designed to highlight their creativity in both thinking and application. To help students to develop a self-awareness of their creative process, reflective practice is embedded in the assessment. This requires students to write initial ideas pre-assessment, and then reflect on those ideas and how they may have changed at the end of the task. Students can then see how their creative problem solving skills have developed.

The table below highlights how this Graduate Attribute relates to unit learning outcomes, and demonstrates relevant learning strategies.

Learning Outcome and Creativity (GA2) Assessment Task Examples

Learning Outcome: employ critical judgement and critical thinking in creating new understanding

Oral presentation:

  • Apply critical thinking skills to develop a valid argument to convince the audience. You will need to demonstrate your understanding of marketing theoretical concepts to do so.

Learning Outcome: develop creative and effective responses to Human Resource problems in a broad range of contexts

Wiki case study:

  • Engage with key principles and theories of the unit to stimulate your thinking. Create realistic solutions for the case study situation.


Ethical practice is defined as "a commitment to sustainability and high ethical standards in social and professional practices."

Ethical practice is a key component of professionalism and needs to be instilled in curricula across courses. When operating ethically, graduates are aware that we live in a diverse society with many competing points of view. Ethical behaviour involves tolerance and responsibility. It includes being open-minded about cultural diversity, linguistic difference, and the complex nature of our world. It also means behaving appropriately towards colleagues and the community, and being sensitive to local and global social justice issues. One of the keys skills is to listen well and to be thoughtful and respectful in action.

Strategies and Approaches

An example of incorporating ethical practice into teaching is found in a first year unit in the Bachelor of Education (Primary) degree. A math assignment is designed to remind student teachers that everyone learns in different ways and there is likely to be a mixed cohort of learners in the primary classroom. The student teacher must identify and cater for the mathematical needs of diverse students in an informed and ethical way. To achieve this objective, the student teacher is asked to identify three student groups in their class that constitute diversity and then consider teaching strategies to promote their engagement. For this assignment the student teacher must produce a discussion paper which is then shared with their peers. The assessment activity promotes engagement, an awareness of diversity, shared learning, and promotion of ethical practice.

The table below highlights how this Graduate Attribute relates to unit learning outcomes, and demonstrates relevant learning strategies.

Learning Outcome and Ethical Practice (GA3) Assessment Task Examples

Learning Outcome: examine the principles, methods, standards, values and boundaries of marketing and demonstrate a capacity to question these

Marketing plan presented as a group Wiki:

  • Demonstrate commitment to sustainability throughout plan

Learning Outcome: analyse clinical diagnostic and laboratory results with which to form diagnostic and care plans in clinical settings

Closed book exam:

  • The exam will be divided between case study based short-answer questions and multiple choice questions.


Knowledge of a discipline is defined as "command of a discipline to enable a smooth transition and contribution to professional and community settings."

This Graduate Attribute describes the capability of demonstrating comprehensive and considered knowledge of a discipline. It enables students to evaluate and utilise information and apply their disciplinary knowledge and their professional skills in the workplace.

Strategies and Approaches

Examples of how knowledge of a discipline is integrated into the curriculum can be found in the clinical assessments of Health & Human Sciences School units, and school based practicums in the Education School units.

These supervised assessments are learning places where students are given the opportunity to act as neophyte professionals and to sharpen their knowledge and workplace understandings. The role of the supervisor in providing feedback and guidance is critical. It helps develop the confidence and awareness of the importance of solid knowledge of a discipline.

A further example is the exercise of Grand Rounds found in senior Health & Human Sciences based units where students present case studies to peers and supervisors. Students describe the case, the diagnosis, the challenges, the treatment, the conclusions and the learnings they drew from their experience. Questions from peers and supervisors require students to be secure and confident in their knowledge of the discipline.

A Bachelor of Nursing assessment requires students to achieve 100% in a numeracy exam. Building upon tutorial and laboratory activities students must demonstrate their ability to accurately interpret and correctly calculate intravenous medication orders. This assessment is a critical indicator of their development of knowledge of a discipline.

The table below highlights how this Graduate Attribute relates to unit learning outcomes, and demonstrates relevant learning strategies.

Learning Outcome and Knowledge of a Discipline (GA 4) Assessment Task Examples

Learning Outcome- develop creative and effective responses to Human Resource problems in a broad range of contexts.

Case study:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the core unit concepts and processes that relate to the design of an appropriate behavioural intervention

Learning Outcome- explain economic, legal, social and cultural issues in the use of information.

Short written response:

  • To answer this scenario question, explain the terms used, why this scenario is important, and include evidence of correct legal examples


Lifelong learning is defined as "the ability to be responsive to change, to be inquiring and reflective in practice, through information literacy and autonomous, self-managed learning."

The skill of being a lifelong learner means a graduate is open, curious, willing to investigate, and consider new knowledge and ways of thinking. This flexibility of mind means they are always amenable to new ideas and actively seek out new ways of learning or understanding the world. Lifelong learning can mean ongoing professional development, as well as personal growth and enhancement.

Strategies and Approaches

An example of how lifelong learning is embedded in teaching practice is found in two units of a progressive post graduate course, Master of Osteopathic Medicine. The units cover a double weighted research project (6000 words). The focus of the project varies according the nature of the study where students are required to develop the ability to devise a topic, understand ethics, to develop a proposal and carry out the research. Students are encouraged to aim for publication in a relevant scholarly journal. The units require students to be able to search, read the literature and develop the discernment of quality and validity, along with critical judgement. All of these skills are features of the lifelong learner.


Communication and social skills is defined as "the ability to communicate and collaborate with individuals, and within teams, in professional and community settings."

The ability to communicate clearly and to work well in a team setting is critical to sustained and successful employment. Good communication and social skills involve the ability to listen to, as well as clearly express, information back to others in a variety of ways - oral, written, and visual - using a range of technologies. It involves the ability to be respectful with precision of thought and clarity of expression.

A student demonstrates well-developed communication and social skills when they listen, understand and convey their ideas and issues in a way that is comprehensible and appropriate. Teamwork hinges on effective communication skills that are equally about listening, as well as expression.

Strategies and Approaches

An example of how communication skills are embedded in teaching practice is found in an online third year unit from the Bachelor of Business course. A number of smaller assessments build upon one another towards a final Blackboard Collaborate presentation. Communication skills of the students are developed in various stages and involve the use of different technologies.

The student first uses a wiki to record the research for their chosen topic. Other students then provide comment and contribute to the research, developing a collegial approach to learning.

The student then prepares for a 30 minute presentation using Blackboard Collaborate. The first stage involves an opportunity for practice where the student self-critiques their own presentation recording. The final Blackboard Collaborate live presentation before teacher and peers, involves a 20 minute presentation followed by a 10 minute Q&A.

The last assessment involves the student to watch and self-reflect on their live presentation by typing into an online learning journal. After watching their live recording students are able to identify their communication strengths and weaknesses as the assessment requires a high level of student-to-student interaction.

Self-reflection is critical to help deepen the student's understanding of the importance and value of good communication skills. These communication strategies and the incorporation of a range of tools are purposefully designed to encourage students to learn that communication happens in different ways and through different media. Familiarity with different communication strategies is an important graduate skill.

The table below highlights how this Graduate Attribute relates to unit learning outcomes, and demonstrates relevant learning strategies.

Learning Outcome and Communication and Social Skills (GA6) Assessment Task Examples

Learning Outcome- effectively communicate (written and oral) with medical specialists and non-specialist in cross-cultural contexts

Laboratory manual questions and laboratory session:

  • Research and respond to weekly questions in the manual. Read the scenario, analyse the patient problems and prepare for your assigned role. Engage in the laboratory session activities with your group. Give yourself and peers a score relating to the marking criteria. Your tutor will do the same.

Learning Outcome- discuss the range of coastal management problems in Australia and the agencies involved in decision making for the coastal zone

Blog post and reflection, followed by peer review:

  • Post your activity and include a 100-word reflection to your blog after watching the podcast and completing the related activity. Your peers in your assignment group will review and post to your blog.


Strategies and Approaches

Key steps in embedding Cultural Competency and Indigenous Cultural Competency

Differentiating Cultural Competency, Indigenous Cultural Competency and related concepts

Embedding Cultural Competency in a first year Health Studies Units



Cultural Competency (CC) is defined as "an ability to engage with diverse cultural and Indigenous perspectives in both global and local settings". While CC is not a learning strategy or a curriculum design approach, there are a range of resources (outlined below) that can help students and staff develop this capability.

Embedding CC in teaching can be a challenge for teachers as it can prove tricky to really understand and integrate, on a personal and professional level. It involves getting to grips with four key domains: These are:

  • Being aware of one's own culturally bound perspective and of the ways that it shapes your attitudes, biases, preferences, knowledge's and practices
  • Knowledge of cultural perspectives and practices that differ to your own
  • Valuing cultural differences and diversity per se, rather than specific cultures
  • Effective cross-cultural communication skills.

GA7 specifically references Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC). At SCU, this translates to:

  • Informed understanding of Indigenous Australian cultures, histories and current realities;
  • Awareness of Indigenous protocols and preferences;
  • An ability to engage with and work effectively in Indigenous contexts, in line with the expectations of Indigenous Australian peoples.

Cultural Competence can be understood as a staged process, moving along a continuum from culturally damaging ways of being, toward cultural competence (or even transcultural competence). It can be helpful to reflect on the history of your discipline in relation to marginalised cultural groups, especially Indigenous Australian Peoples. This can inform learning design in units or courses, day to day teaching, and assist students to become culturally competent professionals and practitioners.

Strategies and Approaches

This content describes a range of strategies and approaches currently used at SCU to support Cultural Competency (CC) and Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC).

Institutional support for CC & ICC at SCU

The Australian ICC framework works to support staff and students in developing and embedding ICC in the curriculum. This intention is reflected in various SCU initiatives. For example, offers a range of resources to support ICC institutionally, including working with schools to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into curricula.

HR Services has developed a corporate training program (staff only) in CC that remains particularly sensitised to the importance of ICC. You can access the program through the SCU Professional Learning Resource Centre (staff only).

The Equity and Diversity Office has implemented the Courageous Conversations about Race (CCAR) Program. The CCAR Program moves beyond cultural awareness to a cultural competency model. The interactive workshops aim to move participants beyond consciousness to action. The workshops develop capacity through an active and sustained engagement with race at both an intellectual and emotional level.

SCU acknowledges nationally significant Indigenous events - Anniversary of the Apology To The Stolen Generations, Close The Gap, Sorry Day and NAIDOC Week at each campus. These events are organised by the Southern Cross University Indigenous Events Coordinating Committee (SCUIECC) which is a coalition of academic and professional staff, students and community members. Staff and students can increase their ICC by participating in the committee and / or attending these events. They are included in the University's Staff Year Planner and academics (in particular) are invited to encourage their students to attend / contribute.

Also, the University celebrates cultural diversity at each campus on Harmony Day and at Diversity Week (which includes the Fusion Festival). These events, led by the Equity & Diversity Office, are also organised by a coalition of academic and professional staff, students and community members. Staff and students can increase their CC by participating in the committee and / or attending these events. They are included in the University's Staff Year Planner and academics (in particular) are invited to encourage their students to attend / contribute.

Key steps in embedding Cultural Competency & Indigenous Cultural Competency

Cultural Competency is a layered skill set, and as such requires scaffolding. It's helpful to think of the following strategies:

  • Include foundational content in learning activities in compulsory first year units.
  • Incorporate reflective activities to promote understanding of students own cultural position, and to think about concepts of whiteness and privilege.
  • Revisit and extend on this material in later years of the course.
  • Involve community based organisations, groups and staff members, in curriculum development and renewal processes as they can bring valuable insights.


Cultural Competency, Indigenous Cultural Competency & related concepts

Definition Resources
Cultural Competency (CC):
Knowledge and acceptance of difference, respect and recognition of other cultures, knowing your own 'lens' and valuing difference in society

HR corporate training program in CC

(Please note the link above is to Blackboard so you require staff login)

Indigenous Cultural Competency (ICC): 
Using your CC awareness with specific reference to  Australian Indigenous Peoples

HR corporate training program in CC

(Please note the link above is to Blackboard so you require staff login)

Community Engaged Learning (CEL):  
Taking learning into the workplace, this may be practical or through focussed activities. Integrating CC and ICC into workplace learning through directed activities and practical experiences.
CEL policy
Our TT page on CEL
Cultural Inclusiveness: 
Using CC and ICC skills in all aspects of teaching and learning. Encouraging students to develop their cultural awareness through activities that make and encourage respect for diversity and mindfulness of bias (conscious and unconscious)
Internationalisation of Curriculum (IOC): 
Working with sensitivity, respect and awareness of global international and multicultural needs to incorporate CC and ICC, as required, in teaching design and practice.
Page on   
IoC sub clause in SCU Learning, Teaching and Curriculum Policy

Want to know more about Cultural Competency?
Choose from the left hand menu to access additional content and resources.

Embedding Cultural Competency in a first year Health Studies Units

At SCU, Graduate Attribute 7 must be explicitly reflected in course and unit structure, content and assessment of learning activities. All units should be culturally safe for participants. That means, for example, not expecting or allowing any student to 'speak' for an entire culture.

Here are some strategies applied by first year health units which encourage students to learn to work in ways that are culturally appropriate for diverse groups and effective in differing contexts:

  • The units offer activities that helped learners identify their cultural background and to reflect on biases and perspectives. An example is sharing family histories and viewpoints on topical issues.
  • Student learning can be extended by researching and/or role playing differing cultural group's experiences as patients in the health care system.
  • Learners review how alternate cultural frameworks have offered effective new solutions to discipline based problems ( e.g. thinking about different models of healthcare in the world).
  • Students can bring these new skills in activities that build and test their cross cultural communication skills. An example is via a simulation where they must decide how to repackage health advice for a range of patients from differing cultural groups.
  • Include learning activities that canvass a variety of approaches to healing and health.

To deepen ICC in students, the activities listed above could be focused on Indigenous Australian stories, health practices, knowledge, history and current lives.

Internationalisation of the Curriculum could be embedded if the focus was the 'culturally inclusive' aspect of internationalising, rather than just a more international flavour. For example, simply using case studies from a broader range of countries would not be enough. Better to ask a diverse group of learners to explain to each other the how case studies drawn from cultures can bring insight and new ways of 'seeing'.


Good Practice Report: Assuring Graduate Outcomes: Australian Learning and Teaching Council
Provides useful outcomes and good practices from ALTC projects and fellowships on assuring graduate outcomes.

What is Indigenous Cultural Competency: Edith Cowan University
A brief but useful overview of Indigenous Cultural Competence.

Indigenous Cultural Competency: Curtin University
A library guide that offers access to a wealth of Australian research on embedding Indigenous Cultural Competency.


Barrie, S.C. (2004). A research-based approach to generic graduate attributes policy. Higher Education Research and Development, 23(23), 261-75.

Bowden, J., Hart, G., King, B., Trigwell, K. & Watts, O. (2000). Generic Capabilities of ATN University Graduates. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

Grote, E. 2008 Principles and Practices of Cultural Competency: A Review of the Literature, prepared for the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council.

National Best Practice Framework for Indigenous Cultural Competency in Australian Universities. Universities Australia, 2011.