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Graduate Attributes

A guide to share information and research about Graduate Attributes

USC Curriculum Design Principles

The USC curriculum design principles have been developed to support our strategic vision and student success. We recognise that the design of curriculum must embody a philosophy of learning and teaching, articulate a clear set of learning outcomes and describe how the planned learning processes and environment will support students to achieve those learning outcomes. Each of our programs is informed by the scholarship of learning and teaching; discipline knowledge and practice; University goals and values; and learner needs.

Benefits of curriculum design principles and Graduate Attributes 

Starting with the end in mind, USC curriculum design principles together with the USC Graduate Attributes are a curriculum framework to support student success and employability. The principles and the attributes together position scholarly, evidenced based design that aligns USC curriculum with sector-based expectations and standards including the embedding of employability attributes.


To enhance our students’ experience and to increase student retention.

Research (Wilcoxson et al., 2011) shows that one of the reasons students leave university is because they can not see where their degree is taking them. The graduate attributes align with authentic employable and valuable thinking and doing skills (21st Century skills for a disrupted economy). Courses can profile which attributes in particular they are teaching and how they specifically contribute towards students building a repertoire of valuable skills and competencies for the future.

Constructively aligned

To develop a USC language for graduate outcomes.

When our graduates are seeking work in a very competitive environment, they need a language to talk about the qualities and skills they have developed during their university study. Our graduate attributes align with selection criteria for jobs in many fields and give students an opportunity to evidence their success in these attributes in a very concrete way.

Standards based

To ensure our curriculum meets the sector benchmarks.

The higher education sector is rapidly changing, with an emphasis on broadening participation to a more diverse student cohort and an increased focus on teaching and learning standards to ensure that universities produce quality graduates. The Graduate Attributes have been developed to ensure that USC standards meet national and international quality benchmarks. They need to be explicitly described, mirroring both future employer expectations, the qualities and skills needed to successfully pursue higher levels of education as well as overall productivity in the community and society.

Career and future focussed

Students demonstrating employability.

Students can use graduate attributes as a point of reference for their own development by keeping records of how they have developed mastery in each attribute. These records can be used when applying for work or further study.

Assessment Standards

An assessment standard is a defined level of quality. Assessment standards describe how well the students’ task submission has addressed the criteria. At USC, in a course with standard grading there are four passing standards (HD, DN, CR and PS) and one failing standard (FL). Descriptors of each standard written into the Grades and Grade Point Average (GPA) – Academic Policy. Each passing grade incorporates the characteristics of all lower passing grades plus an additional level of achievement.

High Distinction (HD)

Where a student’s assessment demonstrates understanding of key knowledge at an extended theoretical level, characterised by originality, application of learning in new domains and mastery of all course learning outcomes.

Distinction (DN)

Where a student’s assessment demonstrates evidence of integration and evaluation of significant ideas, the application of knowledge in flexible combinations within the field and principles and theories in relation to course learning outcomes.

Credit (CR)

Where a student’s assessment demonstrates understanding of important facts and ideas, awareness of their relevance, and applicability of key ideas in accepted ways within the field in relation to the course learning outcomes.

Pass (PS)

Where a student’s assessment demonstrates knowledge of fundamental concepts and essential skills sufficient to meet the course learning outcomes.

Fail (FL)

Where a student’s assessment demonstrates limited evidence of relevant learning in relation to course learning outcomes and they have not satisfied the minimum requirements of the course.

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