Although it is somewhat discipline specific, in Australia, to receive honours for a bachelors degree, a student must undertake an additional, optional year of fulltime study, turning a three year degree into a four year degree. Generally, the vast majority of that year is spent conducting an independent research project which is written up as an honours thesis. An honours project generally has two supervisors, and is examined by two independent academics, including one from another university. In my field (human geography), they are usually 12,000 - 20,000 words long, and generally include the collection and analysis of new research data. Although they are somewhat more detailed and verbose, an honours thesis in my field should contain research equivalent to one or two academic papers in terms of the quantity and scope of the work, although obviously quality varies from student to student.

1st class honours in Australia is generally sufficient for admission to a PhD program here, although a scholarship will generally require either exceptionally high grades or additional demonstration of research potential.

I understand that a New Zealand honours is similar to its Australian counterpart.

I have supervised several honours theses in Australia. I am currently applying for lectureships in Britain, where I understand that the honours system is quite different. How can I explain succinctly to a British audience the scope and magnitude of honours supervision? Is there a simple equivalence with some other form of thesis in Britain?

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    I thought UK universities did not have honours theses or honours years. And that UK honours were granted on the basis of performance in undergraduate study. Good question. Oct 29, 2016 at 4:56
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    At my UK university, an honours degree is awarded if the candidate has not failed any modules during the course of the degree. The Australian system you describe sounds more like the 4th year of the UK integrated Masters degree. In the UK it would be very unusual to go straight from a BSc into a PhD without this additional Masters year. Oct 29, 2016 at 8:59
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    Small sample size, but the one AUS honours thesis I've read seemed to exceed most UK Master's dissertations in my area. Perhaps you have to emphasize this is not just some kind of 50 page "4th year UG dissertation", done as a component alongside taught courses, but something lengthier and more substantial (and, therefore, where your supervision can be compared with other applicants' supervisions of PhD students)
    – Yemon Choi
    Oct 29, 2016 at 13:25

2 Answers 2


How can I explain succinctly to a British audience the scope and magnitude of honours supervision?

I suggest emphasizing the similarity to Masters.

Something like:

In Australia Honours is a postgraduate degree, very similar to a heavily condensed Masters degree. It runs in 1 year, instead of 2; and like most Masters comprises coursework, and a research thesis competent. A Honours degree, can allow talented students to fast-track their entry into a PhD program. Australian universities and scholarship organizers consider earning high marks in Honours as equivalent to completing a regular Masters.

If that is too long, just use the first sentence or 2. Give them enough so they know what to lookup. But that explains the scope of the honours, not the scope of the supervision.


in England, honours is granted after three years without a mandatory thesis or essay component. Scotland is more similar to Australia but not identical.

Even in Australia, the requirement for an honours thesis varies. I don't see why you can't be explicit. Explain that honours is an optional fourth year similar to a one-year English masters and detail what fraction of the year was spent on the thesis. If your students' theses were publishable, get them published and say they led to publications.

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