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June 3, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Students Invited to Take a Year Off

Students hoping to get degrees quicker are in luck, with one-year Master’s programmes set to become a fixture soon.

Currently, a Master’s programme is generally 240 points. The new proposal would allow 180-point Master’s, or Master’s degrees consisting of an Honours programme plus 60, or 120 points.

The proposal was passed last year by Universities New Zealand (UNZ), and approved by NZQA. UNZ, through its Committee on University Academic Programmes (CUAP) sub-committee, “strongly encouraged” universities to develop shorter Master’s programmes. It is hoped that shorter Master’s degrees will allow New Zealand to remain competitive with other parts of the world, where one-year Master’s programmes have been common for “quite some time”, according to Victoria Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) David Crabbe.

Master’s programmes will be decided by each Faculty; each different Faculties are at differing stages of discussions around what form a shortened Master’s will take, and there is no timeline for when University-wide programmes will be implemented. Crabbe told Salient that not all Master’s degrees would be affected by the introduction of one-year Master’s, and that each discipline would differ in their approach to the shorter programmes.

“There is a trend to allow for Master’s degrees which represent a professional specialisation in a particular area, building on general critical thinking and communication skills gained from undergraduate study. These Master’s programmes can often accomplish their purpose through 180 points’ worth of study rather than 240 points.”

Concerns were raised by students’ associations as to the quality of shorter degrees when the proposal was first announced, with then President of NZUSA Max Hardy describing the proposal as “completely inappropriate”.

“[It would] undermine the quality of our qualifi cations to get a quick buck from overseas students wanting a quick degree,” he said in 2011.

Crabbe stated that degree quality is dependent on “a number of factors”, not solely based on the length of the degree programme, while current VUWSA Vice-President (Academic) Sonya Clark believes it’s “hard to say whether [one-year Master’s] are a good thing or a bad thing”.

Though each Faculty will have the power to decide what constitutes a Master’s degree, quality will be ensured by several University committees, including the Academic Committee and the Academic Board. The New Zealand-wide CUAP must also approve the qualification.

“While each faculty can decide what kinds of Master’s degrees are useful, they must all meet an internal and national standard,” said Crabbe.

“This ensures reasonable consistency in the quality of the Master’s degrees.”

It is likely that shorter Master’s degrees completed without a thesis will be suffixed with ‘Taught’, while thesis-based Masters will be defined as ‘Research’. Crabbe admits they serve different purposes, but stated each degree is “of equal academic weight”.

As Honours degrees are often not recognised overseas, it is thought the introduction of one-year Master’s programmes will mean the end of Honours qualifications.

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