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The Development of New Skills from the Students ’ Perspective

Several studies have sought to analyse the perceptions of students in higher education regarding the acquisition of transferable skills during their academic path, as well as when they begin their professional lives [12, 13, 41, 43, 44]. The study carried out by Nabi and Bagley [13] evaluated graduates’ perceptions in relation to the importance and quality of the transferable skills acquired during their academic path. It focused on students’ satisfaction with the course itself, their university experience, as well as preparation for their future career. This study revealed that graduates tend to rate the importance of skills highly than their own ability in those. The results also presented employers’ views as to the quality of transferable skills, indicating that these should be improved and adjusted to the needs of the labour market. Identical conclusions were reached by other studies, which reveal dissatisfaction in relation to the skills acquired by students in the academic context [40].

The study by Rosenberg et al. [46], in the North American context, examined the transferable skills required for job performance, the way in which these are developed during the course of an academic career, and the need for additional training after concluding a degree. This study was grounded on the perceptions of three distinct groups: recent graduates, the faculty that taught them, as well as the human resource managers who recruit them. More specifically, the participants in this study responded to a survey that included 47 items measuring eight dimensions of transferable skills: basic literacy and numeracy, critical thinking, management, leadership, interpersonal, information and communication technologies (ICTs), systems thinking, and work ethic disposition. This study confirmed the importance of transferable skills and of the communication across students, the university, and employers in the development of these skills.

The study conducted by Whittle and Eaton [45] analysed the introduction of a transferable skills development module in the first year of a degree in medicine at a British university, as well as its repercussion throughout the course. Students perceived that it has enhanced their self-confidence during the educational process and contributed to develop their skills in most areas, particularly with regard to self-learning skills. The results suggest that students feel they are better prepared to succeed in a learning system that grants them greater responsibility and independence for their own development of skills.

Despite the fact that most studies attribute great importance to transferable skills, there are studies which tend to mitigate it. For example, the study developed by Laughton and Montanheiro [43], which sought to assess the perceptions of recent graduates who were integrated in professional life, concluded that the latter gave little importance to transferable skills when applying for a first job.

In the Portuguese university context, the research conducted by Cabral-Cardoso et al. [47] sought to determine the extent of the importance of transferable skills to the graduates’ competent job performance, as well as the contribution of higher education institutions and employment entities to their acquisition and development. The study started with a list of 40 transferable skills which were identified by the authors as being dominant in literature. These are indicated in Table 2.

The study by Cabral-Cardoso et al. [47] concluded that there is a consensus between students and employers as to the transferable skills which are considered to be the most important in the labour market. Both groups attributed great value to instrumental skills, such as work planning and organization, problem-solving, information and communication technologies, personal relationships, and continuous learning. However, it is the employers who tend to evaluate more favourably the importance of transferable skills in everyday work, while students tend to underestimate them and consider technical skills to be essential. In addition, it is the employers who tend to attribute greater relevance to the following transferable skills: numeracy, foreign languages, business sensitivity, capacity for teamwork, and conflict management.

Table 2 List of the most common transferable skills found in the literature



General knowledge





Continuous learning




Information collection and processing

Attention to detail



Planning and organization





Intercultural competence

Questioning skills

Motivation/ personal drive


Critical thinking

Listening skills










Business sensitivity

Action planning



Stress tolerance






Developing others

Source Based on Cabral-Cardoso et al. [47]

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