The innovative Australian university: the role of 3rd generation postgraduate research programmes

van der Laan, Luke ORCID: and Ostini, Jenny and Fergusson, Lee and Allred, Timothy (2017) The innovative Australian university: the role of 3rd generation postgraduate research programmes. In: 2017 International Science of Learning Conference: Research to Reality, 18-20 Sept 2017, Brisbane, Australia.


There is overwhelming consensus that the time is right to reimagine higher education especially in the postgraduate research domain. Yet, universities are very slow to change with many exhibiting a monolithic group-think, defensiveness and resistance to change. This limits their ability to re-define the mission of their institutions through the awards they offer thus missing out on opportunities to optimise their value in times that demand greater higher education engagement. Postgraduate education has always been important to universities primarily in the area of research and / or contributing to professional practice. The emergence of professional postgraduate awards presented universities with a unique challenge: how to translate the advanced practice needs of professionals in the modern era, into postgraduate programs. The result to date has mostly focused on deepening (often dated) theoretical knowledge within a discipline area and applying this in a minor research component as a smaller proportion of the full award.

Universities should recognise that the governmental and workforce demands for higher education collaboration has doubled domestically. Yet governments and industry are increasingly frustrated by the lack of alignment with universities. As recently as 2015 the ‘rise of professional doctorates’ seems to indicate an increased need for postgraduate professional awards but little has changed in terms of the format, delivery and outcomes of the majority of these awards. This is a highly relevant issue that a) indicates the limited extent to which Australian higher education has responded to the shift and b) illustrates how higher education can contribute to the increasing demand for university / private sector collaboration and the generation of relevant original knowledge in professional practice. Universities should recognise the enormous potential of research undertaken by professionals that are in their mid- to senior-career. Driven by increasing lifelong learning aspirations, self- directed career development and a credential-driven employment environment, non-academic professionals are increasingly turning to higher education a) to validate and contribute knowledge informally gained in practice; and b) engage in contemporary non-traditional academic offerings that contribute to their professional development.

Traditional offerings, while still critical, fail to formally recognise the significant levels of multi-disciplinary professional knowledge of practicing professionals wishing to engage in higher education. Within current university offerings, the notion of more contemporary forms of multi-disciplinary postgraduate research aimed at recognising this unique need and opportunity, is limited and rare. A key premise of this paper is that current postgraduate research offerings in Australia are generally still embedded in traditional paradigms related to disciplinary knowledge acquisition (rather than professional practice research impact) and that their host institutions have been slow to adjust to rapid change and the priorities typifying the 21st century. A response to this ‘lack of fit’ between practice, further professional educational needs and the higher education sector, may lie in what are being termed ‘3rd generation’ postgraduate programmes.

This paper explores the notion of ‘3rd generation’ postgraduate studies and how they may address these issues. It describes an evidenced form of such a program and defines its underlying principles, delivery, community, assessment and rationale. The paper also outlines what tensions may emerge in universities in adopting such programmes.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Abstract only published in Conference Handbook.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education (1 Jul 2013 - 30 Jun 2019)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education (1 Jul 2013 - 30 Jun 2019)
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2018 05:35
Last Modified: 03 Jun 2021 23:27
Uncontrolled Keywords: professional studies, university, postgraduate research, innovation
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1301 Education Systems > 130103 Higher Education
13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130202 Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390308 Technical, further and workplace education
39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390115 Work integrated learning (incl. internships)
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390305 Professional education and training
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education
C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9305 Education and Training Systems > 930599 Education and Training Systems not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1601 Learner and learning > 160102 Higher education
16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1601 Learner and learning > 160104 Professional development and adult education

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