The contribution of Honours: Capturing and preparing undergraduate students to continue in research careers

Year: 2012

Author: Shaw, Kylie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Currently there is great interest in Australia in regards to Honours programs, in light of the changes to doctoral education pathways globally. Consequently a number of Australian institutions have redesigned their programs, with Masters degrees increasingly taking the place of the traditional Honours pathway. The Masters degree is currently being examined in terms of its contribution towards research training. The Australian Qualification Framework has also recently been reviewed with an emphasis on ensuring that the fourth year of an undergraduate Bachelors degree in Australia has a consistent approach in terms of research preparation across disciplines. This resulted in discussions around four-year Bachelor degrees, particularly those in professional areas, and questions of whether students are being adequately prepared to continue on to the doctorate and to ensure the mobility of the preparatory research degree internationally.

In light of this current debate, this paper presents research which highlights the contribution of Honours programs across a range of disciplines. Honours coordinators were interviewed in 19 different programs about the key outcomes for Honours students. This data further informs the debate about the value of Honours programs in Australian universities to both 'capture' and 'prepare' undergraduate students for further research. In addition, 195 students involved in Honours programs across a range of discipline areas undertook a journey plot as a component of the questionnaire, which mapped their research journey. In particular, the highs and lows experienced through their research project and whether students intended to continue to higher degree research degrees will be explored in this paper.