Exploring Difference: The Challenge of (Post)Graduate Education

Exploring Difference: The Challenge of (Post)Graduate Education

Berlin, 9 October 2008

With the introduction of undergraduate degrees in Germany as a consequence of the Bologna process, the question of how to organise and structure (post)graduate education has become ever more important. One strand of the "Exzellenzinitiative" explicitly funds "Graduiertenschulen", referred to as "Research Schools" in English. They are designed to provide young scientists with structured PhD programmes within an excellent research environment. Another example of a German approach towards a more efficient (post)graduate education are the well-established "Research Training Groups" ("Graduiertenkollegs") funded by the DFG. 

They provide doctoral students with the opportunity to work within a coordinated research programme that usually has a strong interdisciplinary focus and is set up for a specific time period.

This event will look at the wide variety of postgraduate education in Australia, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom , and examine best-practice as well as new developments from these four countries. In the US , all academic education after the Bachelor's degree is usually referred to as "graduate studies". These are organised in graduate schools, within which students work toward a Master's or a PhD as well as toward professional degrees such as MBAs or degrees in medicine and law. The decision to apply for a PhD programme - or for a more "practical" career is usually made after the Bachelor's, not after the Master's. In the UK , Canada and Australia similar models can be found, but also very different ones. What the Anglo-Saxon models have in common is the fact that they do not use the German "consecutive Master's" idea - with the exception of some engineering programmes - , but see Bachelor's and Master's/PhD programmes as separate.

The organisation of (post)graduate education differs widely not only from country to country, but also from institution to institution within countries. This variety is mirrored in a slightly confusing terminology: we speak of "postgraduate students" in the UK and Australia but of "graduate students" in the US and in Canada , when referring to students who are doing a Master's or a PhD. With the implementation of the Bologna system, the German terminology is in flux as well. Currently, the term "Graduiertenstudium" seems to apply mainly to doctoral and not to Master's programmes, but this may change.

At our ID-E event we particularly looked at the following issues:

  • The philosophy of (post)graduate studies and the overall importance of graduate schools for universities
  • Successful administrative frameworks for graduate schools/(post)graduate education
  • The relationship between Master's and PhD/doctoral programmes
  • The relationship between professional degrees and other (post)graduate studies
  • The relationship of (post)graduate studies to the labour market
  • Best practice models and new trends in (post)graduate education
  • Student involvement and supervision, teaching and training