What is the “Melbourne Model”?By Karly Banks in Tertiary Education
12th of October 2018
Karly Banks graduated in 2013, and studied a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne. She finished that in 2016, and now studies a Masters of Laws – also at the University of Melbourne.
Please note that this article is just one student’s perspective, and should only be considered as such.
So… what is it?
In 2008, Melbourne University underwent the biggest restructure in its history, scrapping almost 100 undergraduate degrees in order to replace them with six broad generalist degrees. This pushed all other qualifications to postgraduate level.
The reasoning behind the change was in order to ‘keep pace’ with the rest of the world, moving to a more US-based system, which has also been echoed within European countries.
Depending on who you ask, this is either a fantastic idea, or, as a rival from Monash once put it, “the best thing to ever happen to (every OTHER) university”. I’m here to set the record straight about the Melbourne Model, and give my honest assessment of its flaws, and its strengths.
Is it going to be good for me?!
Basically, let me sum up what I’m about to say: whether or not the Melbourne Model suits you, depends entirely on you. Only you can decide whether or not developing a broad understanding of a range of subjects is useful, or even necessary, prior to a specialisation in a field. For me, it was the best decision I ever could have made. For others, they couldn’t have thought of anything worse.
One of the main aims of the Melbourne Model is to develop a student’s broad understanding across a range of disciplines. It is compulsory within the Melbourne Model to study subjects outside of your chosen discipline. For example, I completed an Arts degree, with a double major in Criminology and Politics – but I was taking subjects in History, in Business, and in Law, all the way throughout the three years.
If you graduate without a clear idea of what you want to do (like I did), the Melbourne Model and its breadth program provides a fantastic way to dip your toe into a range of subjects. I was tossing up between Law and Journalism when I graduated, and the ability to take Law subjects during my Arts degree cemented my passion for the area. This led me to where I am today – my postgraduate law degree.
It sounds pretty good, then?
The important thing to remember is that the Melbourne Model is designed to encourage, and in some cases require, postgraduate degrees. A Bachelor of Arts degree, whilst it gave me the skills and the fire to learn that I never would have gained elsewhere, did not necessarily set me up for a career – the aim was always to complete another degree afterwards.
This is where a lot of people say one of the major flaws of the Melbourne Model lies. To an extent, I have to agree with them. For the most part (there are a few key exceptions), gaining entry into an undergraduate program at Melbourne University does not guarantee you entry into your chosen postgraduate course. I remember a few key times whilst I was studying for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test), where I kicked myself for not going straight into undergraduate law at a different university.
That being said, I do believe that the Melbourne Model allows for a development of one’s learning and skillset to an extent that going straight into a specific degree cannot possibly match. It was incredibly useful for my postgraduate studies that I had spent three years developing my research, writing and communication skills, as well as refining exactly where my passions lay and what I wanted to do with my life.
It’s incredibly rare to find a Year 12 student that can tell you the exact path that they want their life to take. And the amount of pressure on these students to choose the moment they graduate (and even before this point) is massive, and relentless. The Melbourne Model gives students a chance to breathe, without removing themselves from the study world.
Moving outside the actual study of the degrees involved, I also want to stress the life-changing experiences I had the chance to participate in, and the wonderful friendships I made during my journey through the Melbourne Model.
I spent a semester abroad in London: a chance that would have been a lot harder for me had I gone straight into a law degree (it’s a lot easier to find subjects that you can get reciprocal credit for when you’re studying a broad degree such as Arts). This is an experience I would not have given up for anything in the world.
The people I met through my Arts degree, all in the same boat as me, not knowing exactly where their careers would end up, and dipping their toes into everything the University had to offer, remain to this day some of my closest friends. We helped each other through decisions about work, and subjects, and careers, without the pressure of high school guidance counsellors, and without the time limits that would have otherwise been placed upon us.
The time that you spend studying, should you choose the Melbourne Model, will most likely be increased. So too, will the cost. But, if you enjoy learning (actually enjoy the PROCESS – not just what you learn), and you want to broaden your knowledge before you dive headfirst into a specific rat-race such as law or medicine, or even if you’re not entirely sure what you like – the Melbourne Model provides a great way to refine your skills, develop your passions, experience the awesome aspects of uni life, and make some damn good friends along the way.