Less trodden paths: alternative routes to the taught MA

Carlile, Orison (2008) Less trodden paths: alternative routes to the taught MA. [Conference Proceedings]


There is student pressure to reduce the time taken to complete taught Masters programmes, whether in full or part-time mode. In response, institutions have tended to reduce the amount of time necessary to complete programmes. This may lead to poor quality research and dissertations in some cases.Especially vulnerable to failure are international students completing a one year’s Masters in Europe. These often have weak English and little experience of research and extended writing. There is pressure on institutions to nurse these international students through their programmes and a consequent risk of lowering academic standards, in order that such students may gain this reward.This paper challenges the assumption that the acquisition of a taught MA includes a significant research project and minor dissertation. A typical taught MA programme involves: a number of taught modules, small scale research and a minor dissertation. This paper examines what is meant by an MA and considers a range of ways of achieving the qualification. It investigates alternate routes to the taught Masters and alternate modes of delivery from the traditional face-to face methodThese routes include:Taught modules + minor dissertation (the traditional method) Taught modules entirelyTaught modules + a project reportTaught modules + ten-week internship and reportTaught modules + research outline (research question and extended literature review) Taught modules + portfolio.The paper argues that there is a need for greater flexibility in the routes to the achievement of Masters awards and recommends alternative delivery methods including Blended and e-learning, collaboration with other universities and programme exchanges or franchising. Greater flexibility in routes leading to the award would lead to more appropriate curriculum and learning experiences.

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