Honours is complex for a variety of reasons. Conventional undergraduate learning involves students actively constructing knowledge within the established boundaries of a known field. Postgraduate studies aim to have students challenge and extend the boundaries of what is known, making an original contribution to the field of endeavor. Honours is a transition between the two. It provides a supported introduction for a student to planning, conducting and reporting on an independent piece of research. Honours study does a number of things, it:
- explores a known field through a small, guided research project
- challenges the boundaries of one's own knowledge
- evaluates the appropriateness and value of what is known and what is constructed.
According to Flinders University policy, one purpose of an honours program is to provide students with research training, honours programs nearly always have a strong research component. Honours Supervision differs from other supervision work because
- The project is limited by time and size
- It is often the first experience a student has of working independently on a large project
- It can in some cases lead to a bigger project like a PhD or be part of a bigger research project.
- It is also about developing deeper understandings; challenging one's own potential and using evidence to support arguments
- There are different models of honours programs and the supervision requirements associated with these may not be the same. Two of the models offered at Flinders university are:
- direct-entry 4 year Honours degrees
- Bachelor entry honours (additional Honours year)
More information on Honours can be found from the Office of Graduate Research Honours page.
In 2009 the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Project: The Role of Honours in Contemporary Australian Higher Education released its final report which is available from the Honours in Australian Higher Education website.
The report states that the "Project identified and responded to key concerns about Australian Honours Degrees" (Kiley, et al., p. 6). The concerns included:
- Whether Honours is an adequate benchmark for PhD scholarship allocation, and whether it should continue to be a benchmark for PhD entry and scholarship;
- Whether Honours programs should include a set of core features;
- How is Honours positioned in the academy?
- What graduate attributes and destinations are enabled by Honours? and
- What place does Honours have in a global environment? (ibid)
Support for Honours supervision is currently provided by most schools to help staff new to supervising Honours gain an understanding of the complexity of the programs. Contact the researchm anager in your area for more information.