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Undergraduate Translation Modules and Student Employability


NB: This article was first published in 2020 on Casebook@Leeds.


This case study presents the findings of an action research project conducted in Autumn 2019 aiming to examine the extent to which employability-enhancing skills are signposted to students in final year translation modules at Leeds. Findings revealed some examples of best practice which can serve as models across the university.


Recently there has been a reappraisal of the contributions of programmes and modules to student employability, and institutionally graduate employability is enhanced through the Leeds Curriculum . Students are therefore expected to be able to articulate to prospective employers the transferable skills gained from their studies at Leeds. The purpose of the project was 1) to examine the extent to which employability-enhancing skills are signposted to students of final year translation modules, 2) identify the perspective of module tutors regarding the contributions their modules to student employability, and 3) disseminate examples of best practice in order to inspire greater engagement with this area more broadly.


The evidence gathered from this particular study constitutes a snapshot of the tutors’ perspectives. Qualitative data was gathered using the complimentary methods of documentary analysis, in particular of module handbooks within the context of the relevant QAA Benchmark Statement, and semi-structured interviews with tutors of all the final year translation modules in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies. Nine interviews were conducted which yielded not only valuable insight into tutor perspectives and practices, but also offered the author rich opportunities to engage with colleagues across the school which would not normally be possible. Skills explicitly signposted in module handbooks were triangulated with the 13 Leeds for Life skills and the views of tutors. The main findings have so far been externally disseminated at APTIS 2019 which was held at Newcastle University in November, 2019.

Reflections and lessons learnt

Amongst the module handbooks examined, only two appeared to explicitly cross-reference Leeds for Life itself, although most modules did reference specific skills included in the Leeds for Life framework. This suggests that the overall level of intentional engagement by tutors with the Leeds for Life could be higher, particularly considering that this framework explicitly articulates the institution’s ethos. The most common skills signposted by handbooks were, in order of frequency of appearance, research skills, critical thinking, analytical skills, team working and time management, whilst leadership was the only skill not supported by any module. The interviews provided valuable insights into the development of the various modules and the perceptions of the module tutors. In general the skills elucidated by tutors during the interviews focused on English writing abilities and working practices (time management, independence, team-work), and only those which had clearly referenced Leeds for Life in module handbooks appeared to explicitly reference skills from said framework during the interview. Leeds for Life exists for the long-term benefit of students and to foster an institution-wide ethos, and within the limited confines of the above study it would appear that more can be done to integrate it intentionally into final year translation modules at Leeds. The above findings have crystalized for me areas where I can further enhance my own practice in terms of the lengths to which I go to signpost to students the relevant skills gained through the final year translation modules I teach, as well as making students aware of their own need to be able to identify and articulate their skills to enhance their career prospects. Further research to ascertain students’ own perceptions of employability-enhancing skills gained through these modules would be helpful to identify any disconnect between tutors’ intentions and students ability to articulate their skills, as well as make recommendations for how to minimize this disconnect. Clearly, having a carefully formulated framework in Leeds for Life is helpful across the institution and more can be done to integrate it into modules across the university.

Learn more

  1. Finch, D., Hamilton, L., Baldwin, R., & Zehner, M. 2013. An exploratory study of factors affecting undergraduate employability. Education + Training, 55(7), 681–704.
  2. University of Leeds. 2019. About the Leeds Curriculum. [Online]. [Accessed 3 January 2020]. Available from:
  3. Available online at:
  4. Available online at:

Further reading

  1. Álvarez-Mayo, C., Gallagher-Brett, A., Michel, F., & Research-Publishing.Net. (2017). Innovative Language Teaching and Learning at University: Enhancing Employability (p. 161). Research-publishing.
  2. Martínez-Gómez Gómez, A. (2009). Kenny, Dorothy & Kyongjoo Ryou (eds.) (2007) Across Boundaries: International Perspectives on Translation Studies. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  3. Murata, M. (2016). The Professional Linguist: language skills for the real world. In E. Corradini,K. Borthwick and A. Gallagher-Brett (Eds), Employability for languages: a handbook (pp. 73-82). Dublin:
  4. Peverati, C. (2013). Translation in modern language degree courses: A focus on transferable generic skills. inTRAlinea, 15.


Casebook author

Dr Martin Ward FHEA PGCAP

Associate Professor of Chinese and Japanese Translation, School of Languages, Cultures, and Societies, Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Cultures

Interests: I teach, and supervise research into, Chinese and Japanese to English translation. My own research covers translation pedagogy, collaborative online international learning (COIL) and its application to translation pedagogy, the translation of Chinese political discourse, and the interplay of translation and history and politics in Sino-Japanese relations.


Visit Martin’s University profile page