In today's rapidly changing social and economic landscape, new skills and requirements have been identified by employers and academic experts alike, as important foundations for success in both educational and professional spheres. Chief amongst these are: the ability to think critically; a commitment to lifelong learning; an awareness of one's own learning styles; and an understanding of the issues, trends and requirements of one's chosen profession. The field of occupational therapy serves as a good backdrop for illustrating these principles.
The challenge of academic study and university life can be formidable and difficult for many students, therefore the ability to use critical thinking in university plays an integral role in a students' overall success. Academic demands require a higher level of thought processes, quite different from the formalised nature of secondary school thinking. The multi-faceted world of university calls students to become flexible thinkers, possess an ability to deal with ambiguity, identify biases, learn to become sceptical and not jump to obvious conclusions.
Within the framework of critical thinking, university students need to learn and be able to examine reality from many angles, and thus visualise new possibilities from pre-existing knowledge and information (Willsen 1993). Students with the ability to use abstract thought in the midst of today's barrage of information - and develop what is termed 'formal operational thought' are more likely to succeed at university, and subsequently in their professional lives (Smith, R 1995).
With the ever increasing globalisation of world markets and resultant industry competitiveness, young people are now expecting to face between four to seven career changes throughout their professional lives. Students face the issue of not knowing whether the careers they have chosen will be available in the long term - unlike past generations where a job was considered for life (Willsen 1993).