Higher Education

, Volume 62, Issue 5, pp 619–633

Honouring the incomparable: honours in Australian universities

  • Margaret Kiley
  • David Boud
  • Catherine Manathunga
  • Robert Cantwell

DOI: 10.1007/s10734-011-9409-z

Cite this article as:
Kiley, M., Boud, D., Manathunga, C. et al. High Educ (2011) 62: 619. doi:10.1007/s10734-011-9409-z


The Honours undergraduate degree in Australia is unlike that in most other countries. It has taken on a particular significance as a qualification, as a pathway to and a pre-requisite for direct entry into doctoral programs. This paper explores the outcomes of a study that suggests that the aims, outcomes, curriculum, pedagogical practices, purposes and enrolment patterns of Honours vary substantially across disciplines and university types. It addresses the questions about the diverse nature of Honours programs and questions what this diversity means for Australian higher education in the context where global standardisation of awards is rapidly occurring. Honours is seen variously as a qualification, an experience, or a program. These variations are discussed and it is demonstrated that Honours globally has not one, but many meanings. These meanings are often poorly understood within, and outside the academy. These multiple meanings create confusion about what Honours stands for and inhibit communication about the role and purpose of Honours both within Australia and in a global context.


Research educationCurriculum planningLearning outcomesResearch skillsStudent experience

Copyright information

© UK Crown: The Australian National University 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Kiley
    • 1
    • 2
  • David Boud
    • 3
  • Catherine Manathunga
    • 4
  • Robert Cantwell
    • 5
  1. 1.Centre for Educational Development and Academic MethodsThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.University of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  3. 3.Communication & Learning GroupUniversity of Technology SydneyBroadwayAustralia
  4. 4.Teaching and Educational Development InstituteThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.School of EducationThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia