Generic Skills, Academic Achievement, and Means of Improving the Former


generic skills
academic achievement
skill development
Canadian undergraduates

How to Cite

Grayson, J. P. (2021). Generic Skills, Academic Achievement, and Means of Improving the Former. GILE Journal of Skills Development, 1(2), 7–28.


In Canada, in general – and in the Province of Ontario in particular – academics, employers, and government agencies are concerned with the low generic skill levels of university students and graduates. The assumption is that such deficiencies detract from academic and job success. Despite this concern, in Canada, research has not focused on potential links between objectively measured generic skills and grades recorded in administrative records. In view of this lacuna, the current research has two objectives. First, to assess the net effect of objectively measured generic skills on academic achievement as recorded in administrative records. Second, to determine the efficacy of an online course dedicated to the development of generic skills. Overall, I found that generic skills were better predictors of students’ achievement than high school grades used in admission processes; the relationship between high school grades and generic skill levels was weak; students’ generic skill levels did not improve over time; and an online course devoted to increasing students’ generic skills was effective in boosting skills to an acceptable level. Accordingly, if they are concerned with academic achievement, universities in Ontario and in other jurisdictions in which students are admitted to university primarily based on their secondary school grades might make the development of generic skills a priority; however, unless such skills are demanded across the curriculum, they will atrophy.


Arum, R. & Roska, J. (2011). Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bradshaw, J. (09.05.2011). When a university degree just isn't enough. Source:

Brock, D. et al. (2017). Results of Focus Groups on Introductory Sociology. Canada: York University.

Brown, L. (22.02.2016). Young grads need to brush up on 3 Rs, employers say. Source:

Côté, J. E. & Allahar, A. L. (2007). Ivory Tower Blues: A University System in Crisis. Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Côté, J. E. & Allahar, A. L. (2011). Lowering Higher Education: The Rise of Corporate Universities and the Fall of Liberal Education. Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Côté, J. E. et al. (2020). Beyond HEQCO’s skills assessments: Validation of a measure of students’ academic capital and evidence of grade inflation in Ontario’s high schools and universities. Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, 194, 16-38.

Dion, N. & Maldonado, V. (04.12.2013). We need to assess student literacy skills. Source:

Finnie, R. et al. (2018). Measuring Critical-thinking Skills of Postsecondary Students. Source:

Fournier, M. et al. (2007). Use of univariate clustering to identify transport modalities in karst aquifers. Comptes Rendus Geoscience, 339(9), 622-631.

Authour, J. P. (2004). The relationship between grades and academic program satisfaction over four years of study. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 34(2), 1-34.

Authour, J. P. (2008). The experiences and outcomes of domestic and international students at four Canadian universities. Higher Education Research and Development, 27(3), 215-230.

Authour, J. P. (2011). Cultural capital and academic achievement of first generation domestic and international students in Canadian universities. British Educational Research Journal, 37(4), 605-630.

Authour, J. P. (2017). A Preliminary Report on the Magnitude of Generic Skill Deficiencies Among Students Enrolled in Introductory Sociology. Canada: York University.

Authour, J. P. et al. (04.2019). A Call to Action: Academic Skill Deficiencies in Four Ontario Universities. Source:

Hutchins, A. (17.04.2017). Which universities prepare students for employment? Source:

Mahboui, P. (14.11.2017). Talkin’ Bout My Generation: More Education Less Skilled Canadians. C. D. Howe Institute. Source:

Mancuso, M. (15.01.2014). Which skills do our graduates lack? Source:

Ministry of Education. (2010). Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation, and Reporting in Ontario Schools. Source:

Munro, D. (05.2014). Skills and higher education in Canada - Towards Excellence and Equity. Source:

Shtaltovna, Y. (2021). Can a skill be measured or assessed? 6-level skills development approach to skill assessment. GiLE Journal of Skills Development, 1(1), 12-24.

Sriwanna, K., Boongoen, T., & Iam-On, N. (2016). An Enhanced Univariate Discretization Based on Cluster Ensembles. In K. Lavangnananda, Intelligent and Evolutionary Systems. Proceedings in Adaptation, Learning and Optimization (pp. 85-98). Denmark: Springer Cham

Statistics Canada. (2016, September 14, 2016). Overqualification, skills and job satisfaction. Source:

Tsui, L. (2002). Fostering critical thinking through effective pedagogy: Evidence from four institutional case studies. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(6), 740-763.

Weingarten, H. P., & Hicks, M. (23.11.2018). On Test: Skills, Summary of Findings from HECQO’s Skills Assessment Pilot Studies. Source:

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2021 J Paul Grayson


Metrics Loading ...