‘To be generic or to be specific, that is the graduate attribute question’: exploring legal academics’, law graduates’ and legal employers’ perceptions of graduate attributes.

Ryan, Francine and Ashwin, Paul (2024) ‘To be generic or to be specific, that is the graduate attribute question’: exploring legal academics’, law graduates’ and legal employers’ perceptions of graduate attributes. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Abstract

This thesis explores graduate attributes, which are the qualities, skills, and competencies that higher education expects graduates to possess upon completion of their studies. Specifically, it investigates stakeholders’ perceptions of graduate attributes and offers a research-based synthesis of graduate attributes from the disciplinary perspective of law. Graduate attributes have predominately been constructed as generic, and thus separate from the disciplinary context, with universities positioning graduate attributes as evidence of graduateness. The concept of graduateness is connected to the marketisation of higher education. Policy drivers have impacted on universities, making them align more closely with the employability agenda and the labour market. The approach adopted by universities risks disregarding the significance of discipline-informed attributes. In this thesis, I examine graduate attributes as they are conceptualised within the discipline of law. Drawing on 43 interviews with legal academics, law firms and law graduates from across academic institutions and law firms, I argue that graduate attributes need to be conceptualised from a disciplinary perspective if they are to inform our understanding of graduateness and what it means to be a graduate in law. While other studies have explored graduate attributes, they have largely drawn on publicly available quantitative data to construct graduate attribute frameworks. In contrast to approaches that articulate graduate attributes as generic, this thesis contributes new knowledge to the field by conceptualising graduate attributes within the discipline of law and presenting the first empirically based constructs of the ideal law graduate. The findings focus on law students in that they identify experiences that support the development of discipline-informed graduate attributes, and on law schools in that they show how the integration of experiential learning pedagogies within legal education not only fosters graduate attributes, but also plays an important role in the development of professional identity. The findings also highlight the external forces influencing the evolution of graduate attributes and identify the implications for legal education and legal practice. Adopting a generic graduate attribute approach poses challenges for academics and students and for the inclusion of attributes within the curriculum. I argue that law schools should embed discipline-informed attributes by shifting away from traditional pedagogical approaches and exploring the adoption of experiential learning strategies.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
Subjects:
?? graduate attributesgraduate employmentlawlegal practicelegal education ??
ID Code:
221440
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
19 Jun 2024 12:40
Refereed?:
No
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 06:08