Thursday, 21 Apr 2011

For immediate release Thursday 21 April 2011

Results from a new study of coursework postgraduate students’ engagement in education suggest that, while coursework postgraduates in Australasia tend to have higher levels of engagement than undergraduate students, Australian and New Zealand higher education providers could do more to improve student and staff interactions and provide enriching educational experiences.

More than 10 000 students from 15 higher education providers in Australia and New Zealand participated in the first administration of the Postgraduate Survey of Student Engagement (POSSE) in 2010. A research briefing on the results was released today by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

ACER Senior Research Fellow Dr Daniel Edwards said POSSE is the first major effort to collect meaningful data from postgraduate coursework students in Australia and New Zealand.

“The coursework postgraduate population is very important to higher education, but often these are the forgotten qualifications that come in between undergraduate and research higher degrees,” Edwards said.

POSSE is closely linked to the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), the largest survey of current university students undertaken in Australia and New Zealand. The surveys provide internationally comparable data relating to student engagement and learning outcomes.

POSSE 2010 reveals that coursework postgraduate students have higher levels of engagement than undergraduate students, particularly in the areas of Academic Challenge, Work Integrated Learning and Higher Order Thinking. More specifically, coursework postgraduate students indicate greater involvement in synthesising ideas, blending academic learning with workplace experience and in making judgements about the value of information.

International students in coursework postgraduate studies have higher levels of engagement than domestic students on all engagement scales except Work Integrated Learning.

Engagement levels among postgraduate coursework students vary in relation to the field of education studied. Information Technology students tend to have lower levels of engagement than those from other fields, particularly in Work Integrated Learning, Higher Order Thinking and Overall Satisfaction. Science students are substantially more likely to express a desire to continue on to a research degree while management, engineering and creative arts students show the least interest in further study involving research.

POSSE is a collaboration between ACER and participating universities. The full briefing, Monitoring risk and return: Critical insights into graduate coursework engagement and outcomes, is available from 


Media enquiries: Megan Robinson, Journalist and Corporate Communications Officer

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
Phone: (03) 9277 5582
Mobile: 0419 340 058