The changing landscape of master's degree curricula: a view from New Zealand
Until recently, master’s degrees were primarily focused on developing research skills and enabling further specialisation in a subject area studied at undergraduate level. Over the last twenty years their focus has broadened and there is now a wide variety of master’s degrees, partly as a result of increasing participation in higher education and also because of the demand for professional qualifications at postgraduate level. Alongside this, not only has there been significant growth in the numbers of master’s qualifications, but also increasing variation in terms of the focus of the curriculum and, the volume of work required for completion of the degree. As Davies (2009) so fittingly comments, this variety of modes and purposes gives the master’s degree ‘a polymorphous character, which is not yet well charted’ (p.17). Taking a qualitative approach and using documentary analysis of selected qualifications frameworks and related documentation, this paper explores changing nature of master’s degrees and how their characteristics are represented in qualifications frameworks in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. Traditionally, the majority of New Zealand master’s degrees have been classified as research degrees. We will examine the recent changes to master’s degrees in New Zealand, and discuss these in relation to master’s qualifications elsewhere, highlighting key features and differences, including those related to curriculum structures.