Recommendations from the Postgraduate Student Experience OLT project

...acknowledge, recognise and treat postgraduates at Citizen Scholars - 'students who care not only about gaining information and generating knowledge but that are rooted in the reality of their contexts, problem oriented and interested in applying their knowledge for the better of a society' (Arvanitakis & Hornsby, 2006, p.1; cited in Crane et al 2016, p.11)

Many of these students are currently employed or have a history of employment. These reasons contribute to postgraduate coursework students particularly appreciating real-world relevancy in their courses.

Some strategies to bring real-world relevancy into courses include:

  • industry and work-based projects, being able to apply their theoretical knowledge to real situations
  • guest speakers from industry who are leaders in their field
  • using authentic assessment practices
  • working in multi-disciplinary teams
  • network with industry professionals and alumni
  • apply problem based learning or inquiry based learning strategies
  • balancing generalist (e.g. higher order thinking skills) and vocational training (Reid, Rennie & Shortland-Jones, 2005)

Be aware when creating opportunities for internships and placements that it takes into account postgraduate's situations. If a student is currently working full-time or has other responsibilities, completing a voluntary during-working-day internship may not be feasible. For some courses placements and practicums are a necessary part of accreditation.

Postgraduates speak - internship

One postgraduate student explained that he transitioned a mid-level career in the finance industry from full to part-time to commence postgraduate studies. In order to fulfil his program requirements for graduation, he was forced to quit his paid employment to commence an unpaid internship in an entry-level position. (Kinash et al , 2016, p.13).

Postgraduates speak - consultancy project

Throughout the first year of my MBA I have been involved in two consulting projects with industry, in the food and agriculture industry and diesel engine manufacturing industry.  This has been an excellent opportunity for me to apply my MBA knowledge to complex business problems in a dynamic fast-changing business landscape. The MBA learnings have aided my development with the industry projects through use of emotional intelligence from leadership learnings, future developments in business from economics and strategy classes and strategic thinking from business model canvas and lean theories. I have gained invaluable networking and industry opportunities to help build my future career. (Evans, 2017)

Draw on their expertise and lives

Many postgraduates bring with them a rich work history, drawing on this can support peer-to-peer learning and foster engagement. Adult learners want their experience valued, and their existing knowledge drawn upon.

  • integrate activities that allow students to contribute their own knowledge
  • integrate group activities and assessments in which students can learn from each other
  • at the beginning of semester, get students to share their background in an introductory activity (face-to-face or virtually on forum or in live classroom)



Crane, L., Kinash, S., Bannatyne, A., Judd, M-M., Eckersley, B., Hamlin, G., Partridge, H., Richardson, S., Rolf, H., Udas, K., & Stark, A. (2016). Engaging postgraduate students and supporting higher education to enhance the 21st century student experience. Final report prepared for the Learning and Teaching Support Unit, Australian Department of Education and Training.

Evans, F. (2017). Quote from MBA postgraduate student. Sourced by Evans, V. Educational Designer, Australian Catholic University.

Herrington & Herrington. (2006). Authentic conditions of authentic assessment: Aligning task and assessment. In Bunker, A. and Vardi, I. [Eds]. Research and Development in Higher Education: Critical Visions Thinking, learning and researching in higher education Vol. 29. HERDSA conference proceedings. Retrieved from

Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J. & Brown, C. (2014). Establishing
the critical elements that determine authentic assessment, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher
Education, 39:2, 205-222, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2013.819566.

Kinash, S., Crane, L., Bannatyne, A., Judd, M-M., Stark, A., Eckersley, B., Hamlin, G., Partridge, H., & Udas, K. (2016). National research on the postgraduate student experiences: Case presentation on career development and employability (Volume 3 of 3). Sydney, NSW: Australian Government Office for Learning and
Teaching. Retrieved from:

Macquarie University. (2015). Creating authentic assessment. Retrieved from

Reid, I.,  Rennie, L. & Shortland-Jones, B. (2005). Best practice in professional postgraduate coursework. Australian Universities Teaching Committee. Retrieved from

Page last updated on 06/02/2020

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