Research into the acquisition of generic competences was carried out with the undergraduate social science programmes offered by the Ramon Llull University, Barcelona (Spain). For these programmes an innovative methodology called ‘cross-course seminars’ has been developed. Its focus is, amongst others, on developing generic competences. In the first place, generic competences are assessed in terms of whether or not they are perceived as important by final year students, and what the main context of acquisition was. The ‘cross-course seminar’ methodology, characterised in the present study, correlates more closely with the perception of the importance of competences in the professional world than in other contexts – even regular courses or competences acquired outside the university. The research aims to help achieve a better understanding of the best contexts for the acquisition of generic competences in higher education and of their importance in the professional world. A methodology for the study of competence acquisition and for the characterisation of a competence-focused educational model is thus implicitly developed. The aim of the article is to contribute to current reflections on generic competences in higher education.