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May 4, 2014 | by  | in News |
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“Objection: Your Honours”

The University may cease to offer Honours in an attempt to “open up the benefits of a fourth year of study” to more students.

The future of Honours was discussed at an Academic Board meeting on 17 April. The University is considering discontinuing Honours and introducing a one-year Master’s programme.

The shorter Master’s would be a 180-point degree, rather than the usual 240 points required.

Different faculties would implement different types of qualifications to replace the current Honours programme. Any Master’s degree completed without a thesis will be suffixed with ‘Taught’, while a degree with a thesis will instead say ‘Research’.

Professor Penny Boumelha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), said that Honours is not internationally recognised, as the year-long add-on form it takes at Victoria is only found in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

“End-on Honours carries little value internationally and does not always provide those of our graduates who wish to work or study overseas with an internationally portable qualification of a clearly postgraduate kind.”

She also said that Honours “ is not greatly valued by employers, because it is not well-focussed on… professional attributes and practical experience.”

Dean of Education, Associate Professor David Crabbe, last year said that one-year Master’s degrees have been common for “quite some time” in other universities.

VUWSA’s Academic Vice President, Rāwinia Thompson, said there was “no straightforward answer” as to whether the University should continue to offer Honours.

“We are concerned with the implications a move away from Honours to the 180-point Master’s will have on students financially, considering Honours students are eligible for the postgrad allowance, and Master’s students are not.”

“Some students are worried that the 180-point Master’s, which can be completed in one full academic year, will not prepare them sufficiently for PhD study. Graduates who have gone on to work in the public sector have told us a Bachelor’s degree is not enough, and that many entry-level jobs now require Honours.”

However, she added that: “Honours degrees are not well understood internationally. Students who want to pursue academia overseas struggle to have their degrees recognised by some foreign institutions. Numbers are low in Honours courses. 20 per cent of the courses offered at Victoria are Honours courses, while Honours students only make up three per cent of the total students at Vic.”

Any decision made will involve student discussion and consultation over forthcoming months.

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