Masters Degree Review
The purpose of this guide is to assist faculties in their consideration of critical issues relating to master programs as part of their action plans to align all master programs with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) by December 2013.
A strengthened Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) came into effect from 1 July 2011. The AQF provides standards for Australian qualifications. The standards place all Australian qualifications into levels which are based on learning outcomes and typical volumes of learning (length of course).
At its meeting of 15 September 2011, the Academic Board approved the paper Learning Outcomes for Masters (Coursework) and Masters (Extended) programs which set out the principles for articulating the learning outcomes for the various mater degrees to ensure alignment with the AQF.
All coursework masters degrees must be reviewed and the relevant forms submitted to the Academic Programs Committee for approval prior to the end of 2013 (send all forms to email@example.com)
Any course found to require a major change must be submitted in accordance with the usual timelines for major changes, by 1 May 2013.
All courses that do not require major changes will need to submit their review documents by 1 September 2013 to allow adequate time for the APC to review the documents and resolve any changes that are required.
The AQF forms the basis of the Qualification Standards that the Tertiary Education Qualification Standards Agency (TEQSA) will regulate.
- From 30 January 2012 (commencement of regulatory functions of TEQSA), all new courses will need to be consistent with the AQF.
- From 1 Jan 2015, all new enrolments will need to be in courses which are consistent with the AQF.
The implementation of the strengthened AQF has academic and operational implications for all universities.
If you have any queries about the process please direct them to the
Academic Secretary, Penelope Pepperell, on 8344 7527
Secretary, Academic Programs Committee, Pete Morgan, on 9035 8956
Masters degrees (coursework)
Faculties are required to undertake a review of all their masters degrees (coursework) covering the following three key actions to ensure they meet the AQF requirements:
- entry requirements are consistent with AQF;
- meet Level 9 learning outcomes at course level;
- provide knowledge of research principles and methods applicable to a field of work and/or learning
- provide for application of knowledge and skills to plan and execute a substantial research-based project, capstone experience and/or piece of scholarship, as appropriate to the discipline
- where volume of learning varies from the typical volume for the award, a compelling justification for the variation can be given (usually, this will mean that the achievement of required learning outcomes can be clearly demonstrated).
It is a University of Melbourne requirement that masters degrees (coursework) provide for an optional 25 point research pathway (acceptable to RHDC) unless an exemption is made, on the basis of an argued case approved by Academic Board.
Masters degrees (extended)
Faculties are required to undertake a review of all their masters degrees (extended) covering the following three key actions to ensure they meet the AQF requirements:
- combination of entry requirements and volume of learning is consistent with AQF;
- meet Level 9 learning outcomes at course level;
- provide knowledge of research principles and methods applicable to the discipline and its field of practice
- provide for application of knowledge and skills to plan and execute a substantial research based project, capstone experience and/or professionally focussed project, as appropriate to the discipline
- a requirement to provide for “some independent research and a significant proportion of practice-related learning”
It is a University of Melbourne requirement that masters degrees (extended) provide a core research pathway (acceptable to RHDC) of at least 25 points
As part of this process faculties will complete the Masters Degree Review Form for submission to the Academic Programs Committee.
- Where the program requires no change to course structure, and no change to subjects, faculties need only complete the Masters Degree Review Form.
- Where the review initiates the development of any new subjects, or changes to current subjects, faculties will submit the relevant subject forms with the Masters Degree Review Form
- Where the review initiates a change to the course structure, faculties will submit a course change proposal and the related subject forms.
SECTION 1 - VOLUME OF LEARNING AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
The AQF established a typical volume of learning requirement for all qualifications. This is expressed in the length of the course in years and equates to the University’s system of credit points (100 credit points being one full time year’s load)
Masters degrees (coursework)
A masters degree (coursework) typically requires 1 to 2 years volume of learning, or 100 to 200 credit points. The volume of learning for completion depends on the qualification prior to learning.
Following a level 7 qualification (bachelors degree)
- 1 ½ years (same discipline)
- 2 years (different discipline)
Following a level 8 qualification (bachelor honours degree or graduate certificate/graduate diploma)
- 1 year (same discipline)
- 1 ½ years (different discipline)
Masters degrees (extended)
A masters degree (extended) typically requires 3 to 4 years volume of learning, or 300 to 400 credit points. The entry qualification for a masters degree (extended) is defined as a 3-year level 7 qualification (bachelors degree) as a minimum.
Masters degrees with the title Doctor, including ‘Juris Doctor’ for legal practice and for five professions; medical practice; physiotherapy; dentistry; optometry and veterinary practice fall into this category.
Note: Alternative entry pathways – entry without formal qualifications
The University currently allows entry to graduate programs from a number of entry pathways including some where formal qualifications are not required and the entry requirements can be met through demonstration of relevant professional experience equivalents. TEQSA’s Qualifications Standards - Section 3 - Articulation, recognition of prior learning and credit arrangements meet the appropriate criteria – states the following:
The higher education provider ensures that it maintains processes to provide for the recognition of prior learning, credit transfer and articulation of awards. These processes are designed to maximise the credit students may gain for learning already undertaken, subject to preserving the integrity of learning outcomes and/or discipline requirements of the award to which it applies.
3.1 The higher education provider has clear, accessible and transparent policies and processes to provide award pathways and credit arrangements for students.
3.2 The higher education provider can demonstrate that its decision to give credit into or towards an award is information based, equitable, transparent, timely and academically defensible.
3.3 The higher education provider can give credit in the form of block, specified or unspecified credit.
3.4 The higher education provider ensures that where it formalises credit agreements with other providers for any award, it maximises the credit available to eligible students for both entry into and credit towards the award, subject to preserving the integrity of learning outcomes and/or discipline requirements of the award to which credit applies.
3.5 In determining credit towards awards, the higher education provider ensures it takes into account the comparability and equivalence of the learning outcomes, volume of learning, program of study including content, and learning and assessment approaches.
3.6 The higher education provider ensures it maintains publicly available registers of their formalised agreements and common credit transfer articulation arrangements.
SECTION 2 – LEARNING OUTCOMES
The AQF defines learning outcomes as the expression of the set of knowledge and skills and the application of the knowledge and skills a person has acquired and is able to demonstrate as a result of learning.
As part of this review faculties will
- specify a set of learning outcomes for each masters degree at the course level;
- incorporate the AQF learning outcomes relevant to the qualification type
- where possible and appropriate reflect the University’s general graduate attributes in the learning outcomes
- explicitly link the course-level learning outcomes to subject-level outcomes;
- ensure subject assessment tasks are designed such that students demonstrate the subject-level learning outcomes
- where relevant, course and subject level learning outcomes should articulate intended connections among theory, research and practice;
- methods for advancing scholarship in the relevant field of study should be included among course-level learning outcomes for all masters courses
- learning outcomes will include a demonstrated capacity to undertake research training where a research pathway is included as a compulsory requirement for the course.
- all masters (extended) programs should include as learning outcomes the capacity to plan and execute a research project or piece of independent scholarship;
- all masters (coursework) programs should offer an optional RHD pathway unless an exemption is approved by the Academic Board;
- all masters (coursework) and masters (extended) programs must include a capstone component (described further below) that is designed to meet the AQF learning outcome to “demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills to plan and execute a substantial research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship, as appropriate to the discipline
Completion of section 2
The AQF learning outcomes for the masters (coursework) (section 2a) and the masters (extended) (section 2b) are listed in the Masters Degree Review Form. Faculties will
- indicate the proposed learning outcomes for the course;
- compare the learning outcomes for the course against the AQF learning outcomes; and
- identify any gaps.
Faculties will list all core and compulsory subjects included in the course,
- identifying the subject-level learning outcomes and
- assessment requirements and
- indicate how the assessment tasks demonstrate subject-level learning outcomes; and
- indicate which course-level learning outcomes are addressed by the subject
SECTION 3 - CAPSTONE AND RESEARCH PATHWAYS REQUIREMENT
Section 3a – Capstone
The revised AQF requires that masters degrees are designed such that graduates can demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills "to plan and execute a substantial research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship".
The Academic Board has agreed that all masters degrees (coursework) and masters degrees (extended) will include a capstone component to meet the AQF requirement. What constitutes the capstone component will depend on the purpose of the coursework award, including its broad focus as a professional entry (or ‘first professional’), professional development or research-track coursework degree.
- All Masters (Extended) programs should include as learning outcomes the capacity to plan and execute a research project or piece of independent scholarship;
- All Masters (Coursework) programs should offer an optional RHD pathway unless an exemption is approved by the Academic Board;
- All Masters (Coursework) and Masters (Extended) programs must include a capstone component (described further below) that is designed to meet the AQF learning outcome to “demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills to plan and execute a substantial research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship”,as appropriate to the discipline
The following was approved by the Board in July 2011 in the paper from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) titled ‘Learning outcomes for Masters (Coursework) and Masters (Extended) programs’
Table 1 sets out some possible forms and purposes of the capstone component and hence of the required "project, work, research or capstone experience" for masters degrees; others can be added as a result of further discussion on the nature of a suitable "research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship" within a particular context. It is implicit in the table that the capstone component is 25 points or more, though it is recognised that 12.5 points of the overall capstone component may be preparatory for another subject in which the "research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship" is primarily embedded. Thus, it is quite acceptable for the 25 points or more to be spread across multiple subjects. In some cases, one or more subjects may serve as required preparation (and hence as pre-requisite(s)) for others and subjects need not be offered in consecutive semesters; indeed, one or more might be offered early in the course; and one or more towards the end. It is also not required that all students complete the same capstone subjects; rather, a course may have multiple capstone streams, with each student being required to complete one or more such streams. In the case of some specialised professional development Masters programs, such as the Master of Laws, a number of elective subjects may require a "research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship" and hence a large number of subject combinations can serve as a capstone component of 25 points or more.
The advantage of construing the capstone component as 25 points rather than as a single 12.5 point subject is that the overall component then ensures both: (a) a sound level of preparation and skill development for the “research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship” that constitutes a core AQF learning outcome; and (b) a “research-based project, capstone experience or piece of scholarship” that is substantial, being of 12.5 points or more.
Section 3b - Research pathways
All masters coursework courses should contain a possible pathway to the PhD, that is, an optional or core research component of at least 25 points (or other alternative pathway approved by RHDC).
Applicants are normally required to have completed a research project/component that accounts for at least 25% of their year's work at fourth-year or at masters level. Graduates of certain professional degrees at the University of Melbourne, including MBBS, BVSc, LLB, BPhysio and BEng, BDentSc are deemed to have met this requirement. In the absence of the final year research component, other evidence may be provided as to a student's ability to undertake research.
Form of project, work, research or capstone experience
25 point research project (may be accompanied by separate subject(s) in research methods)
An opportunity to integrate knowledge and research skills to address a research question;
12.5 point research methods subject;
An opportunity to acquire research methods skills and integrate knowledge and research skills to address a research question
25 points or more of internship, work experience, placement or practicum
An opportunity to apply knowledge and skills to solve problems that arise in practical settings and professional contexts and develop an integrated understanding of knowledge and practice
12.5 points of applied research methods plus 12.5 points or more of practicum
An opportunity to develop an understanding of the development of evidence-based practice and to apply evidence-based methods in practical settings
12.5 points of domain-specific research skills plus 12.5 points or more of scholarship or applied research
An opportunity to acquire advanced research skills and to apply those skills through a sustained piece of scholarship.
Two or more 12.5 point subjects requiring scholarship or applied research
Multiple opportunities to develop knowledge and skills through sustained pieces of scholarship
25 point subject on an applied problem or research topic, in the form of a team project
An opportunity to acquire the skills to lead and/or work in a team to address practical or research problems and hence to integrate knowledge and skills with more generic communication, interpersonal and leadership skills
25 point individual design project
An opportunity to apply knowledge and skills to a practical design problem
25 point subject for the production of creative works and/or creative or skilled performance
An opportunity to integrate knowledge and production skills in creation of a work or performance
12.5 point practical skills subject; 12.5 point subject for the production of creative works and/or creative or skilled performance
An opportunity to develop specific practical skills and integrate them with other knowledge and skills in the creation of a work or performance