A stepping stone for postgraduate research? Assessing the place of the honours degree in the Health Science curriculum

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Bridget Kool Samuel Haysom David Newcombe Susan Carter


Research honours degrees provide potential pathways into Masters and Doctorate degrees. Essential to their success is that they provide a sound grounding for novice researchers without taxing supervisors unduly. Our case study is a Bachelor Health Science (BHSc) (Hons) degree at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, a postgraduate degree aimed at attracting high-achieving BHSc graduates to study at an advanced level. This particular programme is not practice focused, but is a training ground for research. Therefore assessing whether the honours programme is a good investment for students meeting their needs and in preparing them for future study, and is a viable undertaking for often already over-committed supervisors is important. The overarching aim of this case study is to explore how to evaluate whether an honours programme provides a sound grounding for further research based postgraduate study. Graduates of the BHSc (Hons) programme (completed 2010 – 2014) and academics at the University of Auckland were invited to take part in online anonymous cross-sectional surveys. A total of 26 graduates and 23 academics completed the surveys. Overall graduates reported they were satisfied with the quality of the honours programme (73%; 19/26), found the programme to be intellectually stimulating (92%; 24/26), motivating (73%; 19/26) and overall worthwhile (85%; 22/26). Academics agreed that the programme was worthwhile (78%; 18/23), and that the programme adequately prepared graduates for future postgraduate study (65%; 15/23). This case study has found that the BHSc (Hons) programme is an effective launching pad for future postgraduate study; however, the findings have highlighted directions for future improvement in curriculum design. The study gave insights into the challenges, benefits and limitations perceived by academics involved in supervision and graduates completing the programme. Those designing postgraduate honours degrees as researcher training grounds may find this paper useful.

Article Details

Original Research
Author Biographies

Samuel Haysom, University of Auckland

Medical Student, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland 

David Newcombe

Senior Lecturer, Section of Social and Community Health, School of Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland 

Susan Carter

Senior Lecturer, Centre for Learning and Research in Higher Education, University of Auckland. 


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