Policy on Honours Programs

1. Scope
2. Purpose of Honours Programs
3. Consistency with the University’s Mission
4. Entry Pathways
5. Nature of Program
6. Characteristics of Learning Outcomes
7. Supervision
8. Thesis
9. Assessment
10. Calculation of Honours Grade
11. Appeals
12. Documents and Related Policies
13. References

1. Scope

This policy applies to 80 credit point Honours (Fourth Year Honours) programs undertaken after completion of an appropriate undergraduate Bachelor’s degree and to Honours (Embedded Honours) programs embedded in the final year of the equivalent of at least the fourth year of study at Bachelor level1.

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2. Purpose of Honours Programs

2.1 The main purpose of Honours programs, irrespective of discipline, is to allow students to build upon the knowledge gained in the Pass degree and to develop research techniques for further study at higher degree level.  However, recognising that many Honours graduates do not subsequently undertake research degrees, there will also be opportunity for the development of attributes associated with research practice that have wider application.  Within this broader context of introducing students to research and research practice, Faculties will formulate and explicitly state the aims and objectives of their Honours programs.  The content of the program, and the assessment processes, will clearly reflect those objectives.

2.2 Faculties will identify in course proposals the particular purposes and character which distinguish their Honours programs from their other undergraduate and postgraduate coursework programs.

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3. Consistency with the University’s Mission

Any Honours program will be consistent with the Mission of Australian Catholic University.

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4. Entry Pathways

4.1 In order to qualify for entry to an Honours program a student must satisfy the requirements set out in the relevent course rules.

4.2 Enrolment in an Honours program will be subject to the Faculty/ies through the relevant School(s) being able to provide appropriate resources and staff to supervise the program of study and research.

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5. Nature of Program

5.1 The Honours program will require:

  1. for Fourth Year Honours programs undertaken after completion of a 3 year bachelor degree: completion of 80 credit points in academic studies (one-year full-time equivalent);
  2. for Embedded Honours programs undertaken in association with a 4 year bachelor degree: completion of at least 40 credit points in honours studies, including at least 30 cp from 400 level honours units and a maximum of 10 cp from 300 level honours units, (either in addition to or in place of some of the requirements of the third and fourth years of the Pass degree).

Where part-time enrolment in an Honours program is available, Faculties will identify provisions for the completion of Honours on a part-time basis.

5.2 Normally, Honours programs will contain a mix of advanced theory, professional training (where appropriate), research training and a research project leading to a thesis (in some fields, for example the performing arts, an alternative form of presentation may be appropriate).  The research project leading to a thesis will be between 30 and 50 credit points2.

5.3 Honours programs will include components involving the development of both written and oral communication skills3.

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6. Characteristics of Learning Outcomes

Characteristics of learning outcomes in Honours programs include:

  1. a knowledge and application of research skills, methodology and technology and a capacity to conduct independent, self-directed research as well as to contribute effectively to research teams;
  2. advanced conceptual and critical analysis skills and further development and consolidation of cumulative, sequential specialist/discipline knowledge or initial engagement with a new area of knowledge at the cutting edge of research;
  3. a capacity to identify critically problems requiring research and to develop appropriate solutions/methodology to collect, analyse and interpret data; and
  4. a capacity to complete, to a high standard, a thesis with a significant component of research, as a basis for higher degree research and professional practice.

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7. Supervision

7.1 Normally the academic staff involved in supervising Honours students will be active researchers or at least have a sound background in research.  The principal supervisor will be an Australian Catholic University academic staff member.  A co-supervisor may also be appointed.

7.2 Where appropriate, involvement in supervision by qualified non-academics, for example from industry, will be encouraged.  In some instances it may be appropriate to appoint an external contributor as co-supervisor.

7.3 The University will provide opportunities for supervisor training and development, and all supervisors will operate in accordance with the University Guidelines on Good Practice in Honours Supervision (Appendix A).

7.4 University Guidelines on the Responsibilities of Honours Students (Appendix B) will be provided to all Honours students.

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8. Thesis

8.1 Honours theses will normally be between 10,000 and 15,000 words in length, with a maximum of 18,000 words.

8.2 The Honours thesis may take the form of a thesis manuscript or be in a format which incorporates a component for a refereed journal publication, as outlined in the Guidelines for Theses in Appendix C4, which also provides guidelines regarding word length for this alternative format.

8.3 Honours theses will be submitted by the third Monday in October5 to enable Honours results to be finalised in line with the date (in early December) for same published by Universities Australia.

8.4 An Honours student may apply to the Head of School for an extension to the submission date of an Honours thesis.  Requests for extension must be made on or before the due date for submission, and must demonstrate exceptional circumstances which warrant the granting of an extension.  The maximum extension which may be granted is 6 months.

Honours theses submitted after the due or extended date will incur a penalty of 10% of the maximum marks available for that thesis.

8.5 Two bound copies and one electronic copy of the thesis must be submitted for examination.

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9. Assessment

9.1 Assessment in Honours programs will be conducted in accordance with the University’s Assessment Policy.

9.2 Faculties will develop explicit criteria for the assessment of each Honours program.  Such criteria will include expected standards of performance for each Honours classification.  These criteria will address but not be limited to:

  1. clarity of the aims and the demonstrated significance of the study;
  2. breadth and depth of the survey of relevant literature and evidence of appropriate critical understandings;
  3. design and use of appropriate methodology to provide relevant insights and/or data;
  4. demonstration of critical analysis and perceptive scholarship to draw conclusions;
  5. evidence of creative ability and potential for future research;
  6. accuracy and clarity of the presentation of the thesis.

All students and examiners will be provided with a clear statement of the criteria and standards.

9.3 Schools will provide regular and systematic feedback to students on all elements of their performance in the Honours program as it proceeds.

9.4 Schools will maintain written records of the criteria used for grading Honours students’ performance to facilitate comparability from year to year.  Written records of the considerations taken into account in reaching final grades for students will be maintained.

9.5 Examination of Thesis

9.5.1 Every Honours thesis will be examined by two examiners, normally including one internal and one external examiner6.

9.5.2 In the case of a thesis in a format which incorporates a component for journal submission examiners will weight the grading of the thesis as follows:

    1. literature review: 30%;
    2. journal submission component: 50%;
    3. expanded methods section or discussion of methodology: 20%;


    1. literature review: 50%;
    2. journal submission component: 50%.

9.5.3 The examiners will examine the Honours thesis and make separate reports which will be submitted for consideration to the Head of School.

9.5.4 Each examiner’s report will include a recommendation that the student:

  1. has met the Honours thesis requirements and has passed outright;
  2. has passed the Honours thesis requirements, subject to minor changes, as recommended in the examiners’ reports, being made to the satisfaction of the Head of School acting on the advice of the supervisor;
  3. be permitted to revise and resubmit the Honours thesis within an appropriate timeframe of no more than one semester full-time or equivalent part-time, as determined by the Head of School, in consultation with the supervisor and in accordance with the Academic Regulations7; or
  4. has failed to meet the Honours thesis requirements and has failed outright.

9.5.5 Examiners will also be requested to provide both a grade and numerical marks for the Honours thesis in accordance with the following:


Numerical marks




Work of exceptional quality showing clear understanding of subject matter and appreciation of issues; well formulated; arguments sustained; relevant literature referenced; marked evidence of creative ability and high level of intellectual work.  The thesis suggests excellent potential for future research work.



Work of good quality showing strong grasp of subject matter and appreciation of dominant issues, though not necessarily of the finer points; arguments clearly developed; relevant literature referenced; evidence of creative ability; solid intellectual work.  The thesis suggests good potential for future research work.



Work of solid quality showing competent understanding of subject matter and appreciation of main issues though possibly with some lapses and inadequacies; arguments clearly developed and supported by references; some evidence of creative ability; well prepared and presented.  The thesis suggests limited potential for future research work.



Adequate, but lacking breadth and depth; work generally has gaps; frequently work of this grade takes a simple factual approach and does not attempt to interpret the findings; at the lower end, indicates a need for considerable effort to achieve improvement.  The thesis suggests little potential for future research work.



Unsatisfactory; this grade characterises work that shows a lack of understanding of the topic and inadequacy in degree of relevance and/or completeness.  The thesis does not suggest any potential for future research work.

The above grades and marks are awarded on the basis of the Honours thesis as submitted for examination and not on the basis of a version produced after revisions have been made in the light of examiners’ comments.

9.5.6 Normally the grade of the Honours thesis will be calculated on the basis of the average of the marks awarded by the examiners.

9.5.7 In the case of examiners awarding the Honours thesis results that are more than 15 marks apart, the Head of School will refer the matter to the relevant School committee.  The committee will be given copies of the thesis and of the examiners’ reports and may:

  1. seek clarification from the examiners;
  2. not re-examine the thesis but make a recommendation to the Head of School based on the advice found within the conflicting examiners’ reports;
  3. recommend to the Head of School that the candidate be required to re-submit the thesis within an appropriate timeframe determined by the School committee, in consultation with the supervisor and in accordance with the Academic Regulations, only to the examiner assigning the lower marks; or
  4. appoint an adjudicator, external to the committee, who will be given a copy of the thesis and the examiners’ reports.  The adjudicator will not act as an examiner but will provide advice based on the conflicting examiners’ reports.  The adjudicator’s report will be given to the School committee which will make a final recommendation to the Head of School.

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10. Calculation of Honours Grade

The final Honours grade will be:

  1. calculated as the average of the marks obtained by the student in all units including any approved cross-institutional units comprising the honours program, weighted by the credit point value of each unit; and
  2. awarded in accordance with the table of Grading Codes contained in the Academic Regulations.

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11. Appeals

Any appeal will be dealt with in accordance with the Student Appeals Policy.

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12. Documents and Related Policies

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13. References

  • Guidelines for Honours Degrees - Australian Qualifications Framework;
  • Fourth Year Honours Programs - Guidelines for Good Practice - Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee; and
  • Policy on Honours Programs - Flinders University.

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1This Policy also applies to the Postgraduate Diploma in Psychology thesis.
2Which may consist of the sum of the credit point values of a number of units covering topics including research methodology, development of the research proposal, data collection and analysis and reporting/publication.
3For example, students will be required to present a seminar on their research project
4These matters relate to formatting of the thesis only. Assessment occurs in accordance with Section 9.
5See also Academic Regulations re extension of submission date for Honours thesis.
6Assessment is undertaken irrespective of the format adopted for the thesis, and is in no way contingent on publication in any journal.
7The re-submitted thesis will be re-marked by the examiner who requested the revision.  Any student who is permitted to resubmit a thesis will not be awarded a class of honours higher than Third Class, and will not be permitted to submit the thesis for a third time.

Page last updated: 29 Jun 2017

Short url: https://handbook.acu.edu.au/640724