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far above a regular degree in these fields. They offer much the
same curriculum as the standard degree, along with a selection
of extra opportunities. Common benefits include time with an
academic or industry mentor, prestigious internships, additional
advanced classes and research projects.
Gain industry experience and connections
A growing number of degrees include relevant practical
experience, although this is more common in some disciplines
than others. It might be called an internship, a cadetship, a
clinical, work-integrated learning or cooperative learning (co-op).
These programs use the university’s partnerships with industry to
give students a period of real-world experience during their
studies. Internships are available in a number of disciplines, can
be either paid or unpaid and can vary in length from a few weeks
up to a year. Some are compulsory components of the course,
while others are optional and set up by the student. Credit may be
granted. Co-ops are specialised degrees that incorporate industry
placements that usually run between six months and a year.
Students are typically paid for their work and complete assessed
projects or activities that count towards their degree. Co-op
programs are most common in disciplines such as engineering,
information technology and finance, and competition for places is
often fierce. Medical, nursing and education students all complete
several long assessed work placements (called ‘clinicals’ or
‘rounds’), but these are usually unpaid.
Fast-track your degree
Most universities use a semester system with two periods of
study, the first from around March to June and the second from
around July to November, followed by a long summer break.
Some courses offer students the option of a third study period
during summer. These three study periods are called trimesters.
By cramming an extra semester’s worth of material into each
year, students can graduate from a standard three-year degree in
two years. Even if your course is not available in trimester mode,
a ‘summer semester’ might be an option for certain courses or
Do a two-part degree
Some Australian universities have adopted a new model in which
all students complete a general undergraduate degree in a
discipline such as arts, science, health science or design.
Graduates who want to qualify for regulated professions — such
as law, medicine, dentistry or architecture — then go on to a
specialised masters program to gain industry accreditation. This
model is relatively new in Australia but is standard in the United
States and much of Europe.
More European institutions are moving towards this model as
a result of the Bologna Declaration, an agreement between 46
European countries to standardise higher education across
borders and improve mobility for researchers and students. For
this reason, these degrees are also known as Bologna-style
programs. So far two Australian universities have introduced this
structure across their entire course menu (see the University of
Melbourne and University of Western Australia profiles), but
many institutions are starting to adopt this model in selected
fields, such as architecture and the health sciences. Graduate
entry bachelor degrees, which allow students who have already
attained an undergraduate degree to qualify more quickly for
professions such as medicine and law, are also becoming more
These courses might suit you if you are not quite sure what
you want to do yet or if you think your marks will fall short of the
cut-offs required for entry into the more specialised courses.
Keep in mind that you will probably need to maintain a good
average mark to get into the relevant graduate course at a later
Add some breadth to your degree
Many institutions are introducing breadth units to broaden
students' experiences beyond their discipline. Some institutions
have introduced compulsory subjects that are completed by
graduates across all disciplines, generally covering
multidisciplinary topics such as globalisation and leadership.
Others require students to select a certain number of units (or
electives) from outside their course to make up their degree —
you might find an arts student studying the history of science, for
example. Other institutions leave it up to the students, allowing
them to choose subjects from other disciplines at their request —
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