Publication Date



Coursework graduate courses have been a significant growth area over the last few decades and are of immense importance to Australian higher education. The knowledge and skills achieved through postgraduate study make a significant contribution to individuals and society. Nearly one quarter of all higher education students in Australia are enrolled in a coursework postgraduate degree. These students generate substantial income for institutions through the fees they pay. Nearly one third of all international students in Australian higher education are enrolled in postgraduate coursework degrees. Overall, international students make up around 50 per cent of all coursework masters enrolments, a third of all coursework doctorate enrolments, and 13 per cent of other coursework enrolments. It is reasonable to ask, therefore, why so little is known about coursework postgraduate education in Australasia. Indeed, this question has been framed specifically by the Australian Universities Quality Agency, a recent review of international education and the Council of Postgraduate Associations. Particular concerns surround the: • lack of robust information about coursework students and provision; • academic, careers, teaching and individual support offered to postgraduate cohorts; • integration of international learners, and their interactions with institutions and domestic students; • quality and conditions of offerings, particularly in light of very rapid expansion over the last decade; • students’ patterns of campus use and the increasing number of external students; and • financial and quality risks associated, particularly concerning international provision. As such, securing timely and relevant insights into postgraduate coursework education is of enormous importance. To that end, this briefing paper highlights a number of key findings from the 2010 Postgraduate Survey of Student Engagement (POSSE). Piloted in 2009 and implemented in 2010, the POSSE is a unique resource for examining the engagement and outcomes of coursework postgraduates. With close ties to the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement the POSSE is the primary source of cross-institutional information on students’ engagement in coursework postgraduate study within Australasia. The POSSE focuses on students enrolled in masters and graduate diplomas, although the collection does include students in other coursework graduate degrees. Information is collected from students in the first year and later year (typically, the final year) of their postgraduate study. Fifteen higher education providers in Australia and New Zealand took part in the 2010 POSSE. A census of all onshore students enrolled in coursework postgraduate study was conducted at each institution, combining to form a cross-institutional total of 47,614. A total of 10,014 responses were received – a response yield of 21 per cent, just above the designed rate of 20 per cent. Response rates vary from 7.9 per cent to 33.5 per cent between institutions. Post-stratification weights are applied to ensure that results represent the target population on key characteristics. This briefing examines big-picture results from the 2010 POSSE. It provides a summary of the main engagement and outcomes scales in the instrument and delivers results at the Australasian level. The intention of this report is to increase awareness of this collection, highlight some key findings from 2010 and encourage the future use of the data for institutional and national planning and improvement activities.