Credit mobility has been acknowledged not only to broaden personal and intellectual horizons but also to have positive effects on the skills development and employability of undergraduate students. Academics, policymakers and organizations representing the labour market have presented a broad number of skills-related explorations proposing different frameworks to help develop students' skills. However, the identification of explicit skills is still a difficult endeavour. This study aims to revise main conceptual skills frameworks applicable in the European higher education area (EHEA), determine the skills relevant in European credit mobility and categorize skills among the examined schemes in order to create a normative model of the skills students should obtain in exchange programmes.
The approach used to identify related literature was a search in three main databases such as Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar for scientific and relevant articles after 1990 using the following combination of keywords: “skill frameworks” AND “higher education” OR “skill frameworks” AND “mobility exchange programs”. It produced 391 articles but only 32 deal with skill frameworks in European higher education. After the review of these existing literature (summaries, tables and conclusions), we found out that most articles focused on specific skills (transferable, employable, etc.) in the EHEA, but merely 16 academic publications offered a complete depiction of skills frameworks applicable in credit mobility programs. Most current accounts about skills outlines, specifically the ones related to employability, come from grey literature, namely comprehensive records and reports.
Data seem to confirm that there is scarce agreement on a common taxonomy of skills. However, considering the results, which summarize relevant educational, institutional and occupational perspectives, it can be noticed that there is consensus on the classification of only four skills: ICT, literacy and numeracy, which are considered basic, key or core skills in most researched papers together with problem solving, which is generally regarded as a cognitive skill. The general tendency is that policymakers and academia focus on some particular domains: basic/key, core/global foundation/fundamental skills, transferable, transversal and other skills. Studies analysing the workforce skill requirements have projected mainly cognitive and learning skills, whereas mobility programmes concede relevance to employability, management, career and life skills.
Measuring skills involves limitations as records vary depending on continuous emerging data from institutions, occupations and education. The key frameworks surveyed have provided a representative classification and depiction of the current skills from specific perspectives which are also believed to have their shortcomings. In combination, however, it is believed that the results presented can help provide a theoretical basis for assessing skills in credit mobility and Erasmus programmes within the EHEA. The resulting framework presents a founded basis for skills appraisal which expects to be meaningful for various stakeholders and helps determine how mobility policies can help improve the attainment of skills in the EHEA.
Research has suggested that education systems will have to adapt to the changing needs of the labour markets' reshaping roles to balance technology and human intellect. The workforce seems to realize that cognitive skills such as problem solving, organization and decision-making are needed in today's society; advanced basic learning skills such as numeracy and literacy are essential. Findings appoint to new areas for exploration in skills development in order to prepare European higher education students for current trends in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the fusion between digital, physical and biological spheres.
Data seem to confirm that a sole degree does not guarantee success, but the maturity of certain skills and the commitment to lifelong learning. This can be strengthened by taking part in EHEA credit student mobility that has proved to improve not only basic and linguistic skills but also self-development and respect for several aspects such as diversity and (inter)cultural awareness. Taking into account the perceptive and interpersonal abilities mentioned in reports on future skills, it seems that education will need further support for updated teaching practices and assessment of the skills that are expected to have greater demand, namely STEM. Institutions will need to update and promote the teaching of new skills based on a new collective and moral consciousness as recently indicated in OECD's (2018) Global Competence in order to make future citizens understand and act on issues of universal significance in today's interconnected world.
For several decades, government, education and industry have proposed different outlines for what graduates should know and be able to do. Limited academic studies have been found, however, with updated concrete data on which skills should preferably be developed or whether and how students can further improve these skills as part of EHEA credit student mobility. This study has synthesized works and identified domains which featured the importance of generic core, cognitive and employability skills. The revision of skill frameworks has underscored existing literature and reports on future skills which anticipate that, in order to confront the expanding and prevalent role of technology, graduates will need to focus on developing unique human skills such as effective communication and creative innovation, critical thinking and collective ethical values.
This research was funded by Universidad de Alcalá [ID.429650].
Garcia-Esteban, S. and Jahnke, S. (2020), "Skills in European higher education mobility programmes: outlining a conceptual framework", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/HESWBL-09-2019-0111Download as .RIS
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