Saturday, September 15, 2012

Policy and Procedures for Higher Degrees

The University of Canberra has a well laid out set of Policy and Procedures for Higher Degrees. However, there are separate policies for postgraduate coursework degrees and Higher degrees by research.

The course-work policy is from 2003 and is currently under review. The document are somewhat confusing in being overlapping, with the professional doctorate being covered in both the coursework and research documents. It would be preferable if the university had a set of policies and procedures which covered postgraduate degrees in general and then covered any specifics of coursework and research. In terms of ease of administration and pedagogy it would be preferable to minimize such differences. All postgraduate students could be expected to undertake both course-work and research, so one set of procedures could apply. Procedures could allow for different mixes of coursework and research and also for different lengths of masters and doctoral degrees.

The higher degrees procedures (called the "Gold Book") has:

  1. The national policy context
  2. The policy framework at UC
  3. Distinctive features of the research degrees and programs
  4. Supervision of Higher Degrees by Research Candidates Policy
  5. Admission to Higher Degree by Research Courses Policy
  6. Milestones Policy
  7. Academic Progress Policy
  8. Examination of Higher Degree by Research Theses Policy
  9. Doctor of Philosophy (by Publication) Policy
  10. Higher Degree by Research Scholarships Policy


The Milestones Policy sets down:
  1. Introductory seminar one sixth of the way into the program,

  2. Confirmation of Candidature seminar: and research proposal: within the first year for doctoral programs and 7 months for Masters,

  3. Work-in-Progress (WIP) seminar: For doctoral candidates in the first two-thirds of the program,

  4. Target date for thesis submission : Three years for doctoral candidates, 54 months for clinical PhD and two years for masters.

  5. Final seminar: on submission of the thesis.

  6. Annual Progress Report: September each year,

  7. Progress Update Report: March each year.

So the first year for a full time PHD student starting at the beginning of a calendar year would have a milestone about every three months.

Thesis Incorporating Creative Production
The Examination of Higher Degree by Research Theses Policy allows for "creative work", which cannot be reproduced in a document, such as a performance.

Generic Skills

In addition there is the Generic Skills and Attributes of UC Graduates from Higher Degree by Research Programs (2002). This is a relatively short and readable two pages. Like other such statements by universities, this suffers from making vague, unsubstantiated claims, which have little practical value:

In addition to meeting academic requirements for the relevant degree, candidates are expected to acquire a range of generic skills and attributes through the research program. ...

Knowledge: To be able to conceptualise, acquire, apply, integrate, grow and contextualise knowledge.

Inquiry: To be able to develop advanced approaches and techniques for defining, investigating and resolving research questions.

Communication: To be able to identify, analyse, evaluate and communicate information and knowledge, using appropriate oral, visual and written mediums.

Organisation: To be able to develop advanced strategies to lead the planning, management and implementation of a project.

Creativity: To use original approaches to produce works that critique and extend current forms of knowledge and understanding.

Ethical practice:To respect, understand and apply ethical practices personally and professionally. ...

Unless the university has a systematic process to teach and test these skills, all such claims will do is lower the credibility of the programs.

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