The Role of Peer Support Groups in the Development of Graduate Attributes in the Research Degree in a Globalized World

University of Canberra, Australia

University of Otago, New Zealand


Doctoral study is a learning process for graduates who are expected to meet outcome goals set out by universities. Many universities see the outcome goals being achieved through a mix of skills, attributes and knowledge. In this showcase we suggest that peer support groups (PSGs) can play a central role in realising graduate attributes in the research degree. The literature indicates that top-down embedding of graduate attributes has met with only limited success. PSGs offer a complementary, learner-centred opportunity to improve and enhance graduate attribute outcomes of universities.

By focusing on three particular PSGs we aim at bringing a more learner-centred perspective into the discussion around graduate attributes in a globalized world. In this showcase we present the experiences of research students in three PSGs in New Zealand, Australia, and Malaysia, and the results of an exploratory opinion survey that required past and present PSG members to share their learning experiences about the development of graduate attributes. The domestic and international participants favoured five attributes: communication, critical thinking, self-motivation, research organisation, and teamwork. By taking a bottom-up approach, this showcase shows that PSGs offer an opportunity to improve the graduate attribute outcomes of universities. Viewing the development of graduate attributes through the lens of the students adds to our understanding of how PSGs help them to develop graduate attributes in a globalized world and contribute to university efforts to instill these attributes by taking into account experiential learning.

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