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If you are part of academia in the UK, either as a teacher, postdoc or PhD student, you might have had to fulfill some departmental requirement for transferable skills.

For those who have never came into contact with such a scheme, it singles out a set of skills that one does or should gain while in academia and can be ported. Here's a fairly tipical list from Cambridge.

While commendable in theory, for what I have witnessed in my university this programs are mostly useless (I still have to find a single colleague saying otherwise), which in turn means that they represent a huge waste of resources. Non trivial amount of money are spent to pay "teachers" and admin to make these courses run. Indirectly, time that could be devoted to research is instead spent to do something else, up to the ridiculous extreme of people being administered Myers Briggs personality test (this being an example of the activities in courses where you learn teamwork ).

Where does the provision for such programs stem from? Is it a law, a document by some ministry suggesting to adopt this programs, is it just some buzzword that made its way into academia and survives thanks to the money it funnels into the pocket of those who take part in it?

Secondly, as there is no feedback to be given on the program as a whole (I have no trouble imagining why) which would be the typical person or office to bring complaints? I know this is a lost battle, as these programs are carefully designed to appear useful that have to implement them (but don't experience them first hand) , but just out of curiosity.

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    Are you sure these programs are/were common. I spent 6 years in the UK as a lecturer and never heard of one. – StrongBad Dec 2 '16 at 21:34
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    How long ago was that? I don't know about elsewhere but they are ubiquitous in my Russel group university. A Google search I did a while ago convinced me that transferable skills are "hot" right now in UK academia – Three Diag Dec 2 '16 at 21:40
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    18 months ago at a Russel group university in a STEM field. – StrongBad Dec 2 '16 at 21:43
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    Of course, it could be that your university has realised that most PhD students don't go on to academic careers and that actually being employable in the real world may be a good thing? I think the concept of teaching transferable skills is long overdue, although it's possible that your institution is doing it badly. – Flyto Dec 4 '16 at 0:15
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    Anyway, I'm not sure what the question is here... Do you actually want answers to anything, or is it just a rant? – Flyto Dec 4 '16 at 0:16
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The book How To Get A PhD, E Phillips and D Pugh (6th edition) refers to the 'Robert's Report' as introducing the idea that students should also have skills that are useful outside of academia. Also material at https://www.vitae.ac.uk might help (search for 'transferable skills').

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