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Melbourne Model 2.0

21 May 2018

Double degrees and a new Bachelor of Health* may be on offer to University of Melbourne students as soon as 2019 as part of the second phase of the Melbourne Model. Referred to as the Melbourne Model Evolution, this mature successive phase aims to rectify issues in the first decade of the process, with initial draft documentation outlining six new distinct improvements.

The Melbourne Model came into effect in 2008, and today at the University most students are studying under a Bachelor of Arts, Biomedicine, Commerce, Science, Music or Design (formerly Environments). However, its history of implementation has been riddled with intriguing machinations, a desire to be a global player and scenes of controversy.

From protests to lodgings of official complaints to the dean of business and economics at Monash University stating that it was “one of the best things to ever happen”, the elephant in the room is that this unique university structure still lingers within the minds of students and staff alike from both the past and present. But that is all about to change if proposals to the model are approved by the academic board.In February, a draft paper titled the Melbourne Model Evolution was released by the University containing six major recommendations, outlining the next steps for the second phase of the Melbourne Model:

A New Undergraduate Degree: The Bachelor of Health*
Taught under the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, this new degree would not be clinically focused, but instead have an emphasis on social and behavioural contexts of health and healthcare and global trends in the industry. Strong links with employers would be stressed. This degree will potentially be available from semester one, 2019.

Double Undergraduate Degrees
This would allow high-achieving students to concurrently study undergraduate programs in Arts, Commence and Science. This proposal is aimed at students who do not wish to pursue postgraduate study, permitting students to graduate in four or five years with two undergraduate degrees with two liberal degrees. Currently Melbourne permits students to study both a liberal and a professional degree over time, but not two liberal degrees at the same time.

Guaranteed Pathways
High-achieving school leavers will be given greater reassurance that they will obtain entry to their chosen course, this being the biggest deterrent for school leavers who are certain about the professional degree they would like to pursue at Melbourne. This development will also include increased flexibility in deviating from the professional course in which students first enrolled. For example, if a student enrolled in Science and Engineering, but wanted to switch to Chemistry and complete a Masters of Chemistry after two years of study, this would be permissible.

Fast-Tracked Degrees
Undergraduate degrees could be compressed into two years of study rather than the standard three, as a range of high-quality summer and winter subjects are increased, and overloading subjects is made more accessible. Students taking this option would study the same number of subjects, but with overall study time reduced, allowing students to enter the workforce one year earlier than usual.

Accelerated Degrees with Cross-Crediting
High-achieving students would be allowed to carry subject credit across their Bachelor and Masters degrees in certain cases, minimising the total number of subjects they are required to undertake to graduate. This may involve offering future students direct entry into a combination undergraduate and graduate courses, allowing them to graduate sooner with this qualification, with less subjects and time taken.

Scholarships
The University would increase offers to high-achieving school leavers, students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students from a diverse range of countries, improving equity and access.

 

These proposed changes appear to already be in demand. A significant portion of students at the University of Melbourne are taking more than the usual three years to finish their Bachelor degree through Concurrent Diplomas in Languages, Mathematical Sciences, Music or Informatics. For many, this is the closest they can get to receiving a double degree under the current Melbourne Model, with the Diploma acting as a second or third major.

Whilst many welcome the new proposals, some feel as if they have been underhanded by the University over this decision. Danielle, a final-year Arts student, is frustrated by the timing of these proposals as she is close to finishing her Bachelor of Arts before going into the Master of Teaching.

“I am disappointed that it happened at the time that I graduated. I could have gone into teaching much earlier than I anticipated at this moment and be in the workforce at a prime time,” said Danielle.

Danielle chose Melbourne as she was offered a guaranteed offer in the masters of teaching due to her high achievements at school. She was required to extend her degree by almost a year to achieve her prerequisites to teach English and Drama at a secondary level.

Had the fast-track or cross-crediting acceleration proposals be implemented earlier, Danielle could have become an accredited teacher within four years rather than the anticipated six she must now face.

Meanwhile, Jack is a first year Design student undertaking a concurrent diploma in French. He believes a fast-tracked degree would be beneficial and welcomes the changes.

“I’d absolutely take it!” said the new student. Just a few weeks earlier, Jack was looking to overload subjects so he could finish his degree in three years rather than four. “For some reason, I just feel in a rush … any fast track option would be welcomed by me.”

The proposals in the 2018 Melbourne Model Evolution paper are a far cry from the ones made in 2005 and later 2008. According to an article in 2010 from The Monthly, the original Melbourne Model intended to discard all degrees and amalgamate all specialisations into a Bachelor of Arts and Science.

No longer would there be the popular Bachelors of Laws, Medicine/Surgery or Engineering (which would later become their own respective postgraduate degrees), and there were even calls for the Bachelor of Commerce to be scrapped.

The new proposed changes show a change in direction for Melbourne, as the current Melbourne Model encourages students to commence an initial broad undergraduate degree followed by specialist postgraduate study.

Melbourne’s strongest competitors, Monash University and Australian National University (ANU) both offer double degrees at an undergraduate level, attracting a number of “high achieving students who wish to graduate with two degrees… but have no desire to pursue graduate study,” as stated by the Melbourne Model Evolution paper.

Monash University enrols approximately 500 students in their double degrees annually—a number previously matched by the University prior to the rollout of the Melbourne Model, which abolished double degrees. Undergraduate degrees in Medicine, Engineering, Education and Law are popular at Monash University, which are only accessible to University of Melbourne students as a postgraduate option.

When asked why they decided to choose Monash instead of Melbourne, many students emphasised their preference for the versatility of the courses. “Monash programs are flexible and you could take it with another degree,” said Nir, an Engineering and Commerce student.

However, Monash has gone through many changes with its double degree structure. Daniel, also an Engineering and Commerce student, has had to adjust his study plan numerous times due to the university’s experimentation with double degrees. “I had to overload some of my subjects because they kept changing first year foundation year in Engineering,” said the student.

So, has the Melbourne Model affected the enrolment rate and desire to go to the University of Melbourne? From 2008-2010, first preferences plummeted from 11,774 to 9,936. They then resurged after the Commonwealth Supported Place cap removal and are continually rising into 2018-19.

Responding to an email to Farrago, deputy vice-chancellor (graduate) and deputy provost, Professor Carolyn Evans expresses that, “At this stage, we don’t have any comment other than to say that the Melbourne Model is always evolving to meet changing patterns of student expectations and workforce needs,” citing the recent introduction of the Bachelor of Design to supersede the Bachelor of Environments.

“The University works to ensure it continues to have the most innovative and distinctive curriculum in Australian higher education,” said Professor Evans.

The six proposals outlined in the Melbourne Model Evolution paper are set to be tested in the next coming weeks, with a priority on guaranteed pathways, cross-crediting and scholarships. The new Bachelor of Health and undergraduate double degrees will be considered over an extended period, and look to be implemented in 2019 or 2020 at the University if approved by the academic board.

Such changes might not limit Melbourne’s iconoclasm in Australian higher education. In regards to academics, many would say the Melbourne Model is a trailblazer model whilst others might believe it is diminishing in quality. Regardless, its rankings have remained consistent over the past few years since its induction. What remains unanswered is if the model will truly revolutionise skillset building, pedagogy and future employees in the long-term future to come.

 

*UPDATE: since this article was published in edition four and online, the academic board has voted to reject the introduction of a Bachelor of Health.


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