What is the ‘graduate model’?

Quite a few universities are adopting a ‘graduate model’ of education. This means specialist (or ‘professional’) degrees such as nursing, medicine, teaching, law and engineering are offered at postgraduate level only. In other words, entry into these programs usually requires an undergraduate degree. Sometimes the type of undergraduate degree is specified, sometimes any undergraduate degree will do.

The universities to have adopted this model are the University of Melbourne, The University of Western Australia and Macquarie University. The University of Melbourne was the first to introduce a graduate model, so Melbourne newspaper The Age dubbed it ‘the Melbourne Model’.

It’s one of the most controversial things to happen in higher education in the past decade and opinions are still deeply divided as to it’s merits. When the Melbourne Model was introduced, the University of Melbourne reduced the number of undergraduate degrees from 96 to just 6.

On face value, getting qualified via a graduate model means spending more time at university, which means more money spent on fees, less spent on mortgages and adventures. For example, at the Universities of Western Australia, Melbourne and Macquarie, a medicine degree means doing a three year undergraduate degree plus a four year specialist med degree.

Meanwhile, universities like Monash and the University of Newcastle offer a five year undergraduate medicine degree. That’s two fewer years in order to become professionally qualified. In other words, at University of Newcastle in NSW, you can get qualified via a five year undergraduate medicine degree, but at the University of Western Australia, it’ll take you at least seven to do an undergraduate degree plus the professional postgraduate degree. Obviously, this has led to more a than a few people wondering: why on earth would anybody do that?

Well, a lot of people choose not to and for good reason. But a lot of people do choose the graduate model, also for good reason.

The model “encourages students to experience new ways of thinking about the world,” said Professor Glynn Davis, Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.

Proponents of the model like him like to talk in terms of ‘breadth’ and ‘depth’. It’s a reference to the fact that the system is designed to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to study a breadth of subjects, and decide which area(s) they want to focus on in depth, before they go on to do a masters in a chosen professional discipline. It means that students, on the whole, may get a more well-rounded university experience. Many people like this idea and have enjoyed the graduate model for this reason.

Following the graduate model also means your degrees MAY be better recognised in places like Europe, where it is customary to do a generalist undergraduate degree followed by a masters degree.