Professionalising the Higher Degree Research Curriculum

Year: 2008

Author: Barnacle, Robyn, Dall'Alba, Gloria

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Some university programs have a relatively long history of being perceived as professional degrees by virtue of their discipline, such as medicine, architecture and law. Increasingly, however, graduates of all university degrees are seen as possessing a professional skill set when compared with others, such as those in trades. This trend is also evident in higher degrees by research (HDR). The increasing favour of a professional skills set in large part reflects growing interest around the world in the role of research degrees in labour markets and economic prosperity (Chambaz, 2008; DEST, 2003; Roberts, 2002). So-called generic skills, such as communication, teamwork, problem solving, lifelong learning, intercultural understanding, entrepreneurship and leadership, are often deemed necessary to professionals and are considered favourable to the needs of a globalised knowledge-based economy. Scholars such as Margot Pearson have seen this shift as an opportunity to resituate HDR as a form of professional education in the practices of research and scholarship, with the aim of assisting candidates to become “…autonomous professional practitioners for the future” (1996: 304). This raises a number of important issues for research education, which we aim to identify in this paper. While a range of scholars has previously noted several of these issues, as we acknowledge below, we aim to draw together key issues for interrogating the notion of research degrees as a form of professional education.