Academic Skills

The ability to succeed in study at higher education, and in many careers is increasingly dependent on the development of a variety of intellectual and transferable competencies and skills.

Your study here will offer not only knowledge and intellectual development but also personal development. We start this journey here, where you are encouraged to consider your experiences and skills you have developed so far in your education and career to date.

Skills for Learning

Skills for Learning is a collection of resources to support the learning and teaching of academic skills. Academic skills include the use of IT, numeracy, academic literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, working with others and research skills to name just a few. Reading, links and activities are supplemented by a podcast series which explores a variety of topics such as essay writing, plagiarism and statistics.

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It is essential that you are comfortable with Academic Referencing to avoid being penalised or breaching our Academic integrity regulations.

Your course information module and the guidance for each assignment will provide details of the referencing style you are expected to use. For many of you, academic referencing will be a new skill, but you will be putting what you learn into practice in every module and your confidence will quickly grow!

All Module Tutors will be happy to assist you when you have specific questions on this as you work through your course.

However confident you are (or are not) with numbers, you may find it helpful to assess your skill level and work out where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If there are areas you wish to improve, you may find the following useful:

The ‘Reflective Practitioner’ approach (developed by Schön in 1983) aims to develop your ‘reflection-in-action’ capacities (thinking about what you are doing while you are doing it), as it is these capacities that skilful practitioners bring to situations of uncertainty.

Skills for Learning has a section on Reflective writing.

Another exciting possibility when starting a distance learning course, is that you will meet colleagues from very diverse backgrounds: some will be continuing directly from their undergraduate degrees, and others will be returning to study, or perhaps studying for the first time after working in industry! Whatever your background, you will have to use your academic writing skills at some point throughout your course.

The Skills for Learning website has a fantastic set of resources to support you, including Essay Writing, Referencing, and Postgraduate Study Skills. Remember: if you are ever stuck there is plenty of help available - just ask. 

We understand the importance of being able to thrive in a digital society, and want you to be equipped with the necessary digital skills.

These can include:

  • Using word processing and presentation softwares;
  • Using online communication tools and softwares; and
  • Conducting yourself online safely and securely.

To support the development of these capabilities, Skills for Learning offer interactive workshops, alongside self-study booklets.

Google for Education also offer a variety of free lessons on Applied Digital Skills.


Critical thinking skills are essential for your study. You will need to understand key questions from many angles and perspectives and be able to construct (and deconstruct) convincing arguments. Critical thinking is not only central to succeeding in your studies but also essential for the effective employee who needs to make good judgements based on evidence, arguments and experience.

Take a look at the Skills for Learning Critical Thinking section, in particular the Lines of Reasoning Animation. You may also find the Critical Thinking guidance and activities on the LearnHigher website useful.