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Transferable skills

During your studies you will develop transferable skills. Leiden University has selected 13 transferable skills that it finds important for students to develop during their studies. These skills are important not only during your studies but also in later life once you begin working.

Skills are specific abilities that are required to perform a task or activity. We speak of transferable skills when a skill developed in a specific context can also be applied in a completely different one. This is in contrast to subject-specific skills that are linked to a certain context and are less applicable in other settings.

  • Examples of transferable skills are: collaborating, presenting.
  • Examples of subject-specific skills are: using a microscope, making a diagnosis,  archaeological fieldwork, translating a text into a specific language.

Modern society is developing rapidly as a result of new technologies, changing partnerships and increasing complexity. To be able to find your way in this changing environment and contribute to the developments that society needs, you require - in addition to sound knowledge - skills. Society and the labour market need academics who can critically research issues, collaborate, communicate, be socially aware, reflect on themselves and their surroundings, and generate solutions for the challenges they encounter.

Transferable skills can be divided into three categories:

  • (Meta) cognitive skills are skills that we use in relating to the world around us.
  • Interpersonal skills are skills that we use in relating to other people.
  • Intrapersonal skill are skills that we use in relating to ourselves.

During your studies you will develop transferable skills in a variety of ways. You can develop skills via both subject-specific assignments and training courses focused on specific skills. For example, you can develop a skill such as presenting via a training course and also during subject-specific education, for example when presenting your research to fellow students.

The ways in which you develop skills during your education varies per study programme. In the Prospectus you can see the type of skills you will develop for each course. If your study programme has additional information on this subject, you can find it by clicking on your faculty/study programme tab on this page.

Pictogram with Leiden University's 13 transferable skills
The 13 transferable skills at a glance

13 transferable skills

Here below you can find a brief explanation of each skill and how these can be used. 

Relating to the world around us ([meta] cognitive skills)

Researching the world around us in a scientific way is central to all university education. As such, the category Relating to the world around us encompasses skills such as Researching, Analysing, Generating Solutions, Project-Based Working and Digital Skills.

Researching skills icon

Academic research means systematic inquiry into a problem, situation or concept with the goal of generating new information, knowledge or opinions. The methods used can vary per discipline. You will reach a judgement on a topic or concept on the basis of critical thinking. In this respect, the norms that promote open academic exchange (such as honesty, diligence, transparency, independence and accountability) should be respected and disseminated.

The skill of Researching enables you to generate new insights in a variety of situations, tasks or contexts.

Analysing skills icon

Analysing is the systematic ‘dissection’ of a situation or problem. By distinguishing various relevant elements and identifying the relationships between those elements you can create a deeper understanding of the situation or problem.

The skill of Analysing enables you to identify the causes of situations or problems, discover connections and devise solutions.

Generating solutions skill icon

Generating solutions means using (complex) information to formulate new concepts, frameworks or models in response to complex issues. This requires you to combine information, recognise similarities and differences between similar situations, adopt perspectives and weigh strategies. Sometimes you also need the guts to create a solution from an entirely new angle.

The skill of Generating Solutions enables you to develop appropriate strategies when faced with a problem.

Project-based working skill icon

A project is an activity aimed at achieving a specific result within a set timeframe and with limited resources (for example the deployment of people, use of materials and available budget). To carry out a project successfully you must set accurate and achievable goals and effectively plan and organise the tasks to be performed to achieve these goals.

The skill of Project-Based Working enables you to work effectively and efficiently on both individual and collaborative goals.

Digital skills icon

Digital skills within Leiden University's study programmes means being able to use and understand digital resources, databases and algorithms as applied in academic disciplines. It can involve digital means of generating knowledge as well as sharing and merging knowledge. By digital skills, the university does not mean basic skills such as the use of e-mail and internet, as these are skills you should have already mastered before you started your studies.

Digital skills are a prerequisite for full participation in today's society in which digital communication, data and networking are essential.

Relating to other people (interpersonal skills)

In order to contribute to science and society as an academic professional and engaged citizen, you need to bring your knowledge, skills and experiences together with those of others. The category Relating to other people includes skills such as Collaboration, Oral Communication, Written Communication, Presentation and Societal Awareness.

Collaboration skills icon

Collaboration is the process by which multiple people contribute to a common outcome because their abilities, knowledge, skills and experience must be combined or exchanged to achieve a goal. Collaboration requires a common goal, shared planning and coordination between different individuals. In this process, the norms of open scientific exchange (for example honesty, diligence, transparency, independence, responsibility) must be respected and disseminated.

The skill of Collaboration allows you to work on a broader range of issues and topics by contributing to different teams.

Oral communication skills icon

Oral communication skills means exchanging ideas and information with others in understandable spoken language and understanding one another’s message. In addition to the spoken message, nonverbal cues are also very important.

When dealing with the people you live and work with, oral communication is an important way to exchange information and ideas. The skill of Oral Communication can contribute to effective, constructive and pleasant interaction between individuals.

Written communication skills icon

Written communication skills means being able to put ideas and information clearly in writing, whilst taking the target audience into account, so that the message is clearly understood. Written communication via digital media has become a regular part of our daily interaction with one another. Information must also be written down to distribute it to a wider audience (for example scientific publications) and also when making agreements that can be referred to later (for example regulations and contracts).

The skill of Written Communication enables you to write clear texts that suit both your purpose and your target audience.

Presenting skills icon

Presenting means conveying ideas and information clearly to an audience using appropriate supporting materials and platforms, whilst taking the target audience into account. This encompasses the content and structure of the story, the supporting materials used, and the style and enthusiasm of the speaker.

The skill of Presenting can help you convince people of your plans and engage them in activities.

Societal awareness skills icon

Societal awareness means that you are well informed about developments within society, a field of study, and the community you are part of. In doing so, you understand how these relate to your own background and activities. This allows you to place information and ideas in a broader context.

Societal awareness means you are familiar with current issues and how you might be able to contribute to solutions.

Relating to yourself (intrapersonal skills)

Regularly reflecting on your own behavior and that of others helps you to stay critical of developments and practices. The category Relating to yourself therefore includes the skills of Reflecting, Independent Learning and Resilience.

Reflecting skills icon

Reflecting is the evaluation of events, behaviours and mindsets. This can be about yourself (self-reflection) but also about another people, groups of people, fields or communities. Reflecting can help you to figure out whether strategies and ideas are effective or not. In this respect, it is important to be open to the personal feedback of others in relation to your own behaviour or thinking.

The skill of Reflecting is valuable not only in your academic research but also in your personal development, in that you can gain insight into your strengths and learn from your setbacks and failures.

Independent learning skills icon

Independent learning means directing your own processes of absorbing and applying new knowledge and information. Learning is the core of all education and means the absorption and processing of knowledge and information. It may require different strategies or methods depending on the assignment or topic in question. An important part of independent learning is the ability to recognise the required way of learning in specific contexts.

The skill of Independent Learning is not only relevant during your studies. It will also remain essential throughout your career as your work and life circumstances continue to change.

Resilience skills icon

Resilience is the ability to continue functioning effectively in the face of changing and challenging circumstances. It is a combination of flexibility and self-confidence and enables you to cope with and recover from change, unpredictability, stress and setbacks. It encompasses a balance between resilience in the face of change and undesirable outcomes, and resilience when monitoring personal boundaries.

The skill of Resilience helps you deal with and recover from setbacks without exhausting yourself.

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