Glad you asked. The notion of T-shaped qualifications has been around since the early 90s, but you don’t hear it much in anthropology. It refers to the skillsets needed to actually apply a discipline. Think of the vertical bar of the T as the disciplinary core. The horizontal bar, then, includes the skills and competencies required to actually use the discipline for something. Here’s an example.

The application skills will vary a bit from one job to another, but many of them are fairly universal. A large part of the work of the Commission consists of exploring these upper-level skills – figuring out what they are, how they work, and how they might be usefully incorporated into the learning students do – before they enter the workplace.

We’re concentrating on functional skills, which could be used across a variety of practice domains. Skills which are highly specific to a single domain will, in all probability, be picked up on the job. But it seems clear that equipping graduates during their academic training with the tools to use what they learn will enhance learning and greatly increase their career success.

So, if you’re a student, figuring out how to acquire those skills will be most helpful to you on. If you’re an anthropology instructor, finding ways to incorporate application skills into your curriculum will make your program stronger and more effective. And if you are a practitioner – well, as we all know, you never stop learning.


About the Author: Riall Nolan

Riall Nolan
Riall Nolan is a British-trained social anthropologist with an interest in cross-cultural learning, international development, and the application of anthropology to issues and opportunities outside of the academy. His career has focused on development work, internationalizing higher education, and the training of practitioners, and his research and publications reflect this.