Retrieving the Master's Degree from the Dustbin of History
Defining a Distinctive Role for the Master's Degree: Recent European Efforts
A. Dublin Descriptors
These descriptors were drafted by members of the Joint Quality Initiative task force of the European University Association, 2003–4.1
Bachelor's degrees are awarded to students who:
- have demonstrated knowledge and understanding
in a field of study that builds upon and supersedes their general
and is typically at a level that, whilst supported by advanced
textbooks, includes some aspects that will be informed
by knowledge of the forefront
of their field of study;
- can apply their knowledge and understanding
in a manner that indicates a professional approach to their work
and have competences
typically demonstrated through devising and sustaining
arguments and solving problems within their field of study;
- have the ability to gather and interpret
relevant data (usually within their field of study) to inform judgments
reflection on relevant social, scientific or ethical
- can communicate information, ideas, problems
and solutions to both specialist and non-specialist audiences;
- have developed those learning skills that are necessary for them to continue to undertake further study with a high degree of autonomy.
Master's degrees are awarded to students who:
- have demonstrated knowledge and
understanding that is founded upon and extends and/or enhances
that typically associated with
level, and that provides a basis or opportunity for originality
in developing and/or applying ideas, often within a research context;
- can apply their knowledge and understanding,
and problem solving abilities in new or unfamiliar environments
multidisciplinary) contexts related to their field of study;
- have the ability to integrate knowledge
and handle complexity, and formulate judgments with incomplete
or limited information,
but that include reflecting on social and ethical responsibilities
to the application of their knowledge and judgments;
- can communicate their conclusions, and
the knowledge and rationale underpinning these, to specialist
clearly and unambiguously;
- have the learning skills to allow them to continue to study in a manner that may be largely self-directed or autonomous.
Doctoral degrees are awarded to students who:
- have demonstrated a systematic understanding
of a field of study and mastery of the skills and methods of research
with that field;
- have demonstrated the ability to conceive,
design, implement and adapt asubstantial process of research with
- have made a contribution through original
research that extends the frontier of knowledge by developing a
of work, some of which merits national or international refereed
- are capable of critical analysis, evaluation
and synthesis of new and complex ideas;
- can communicate with their peers, the larger
scholarly community and with society in general about their areas
- can be expected to be able to promote, within academic and professiona contexts, technological, social or cultural advancement in a knowledge based society.
B. Common Reference Points for History Curricula and Courses
These achievement standards and competenc(i)es for history students at various levels were proposed by the History Subject Area Group of the European Union's Tuning Educational Structures in Europe project (2003).2
Proposed Formulation in general terms of the level of achievement which should be reached by History Students completing each level of History studies.
Type of studies
Description of achievement
|History for First Cycle History Degrees
[i.e., undergraduate history majors]
|T]he student at the end of a first level History degree should: …
1. Possess general knowledge and orientation with respect to the methodologies, tools and issues of all the broad chronological divisions in which history is normally divided, from ancient to recent times.
2. Have specific knowledge of at least one of the above periods or of a diachronic theme.
3. Be aware of how historical interests, categories and problems change with the time and how historiographical debate is linked to political and cultural concern of each epoch.
4. Have shown his/her ability to complete and present in oral and written form—according to the statute of the discipline—a medium length piece of research which demonstrates the ability to retrieve bibliographical information and primary sources and use them to address a historiographical problem.
Type of studies
Description of achievement
|History for a second Cycle History Degree
[i.e., master's degree in history]
|A student completing a second cycle degree in History should
have acquired to a reasonable degree the subject specific qualities,
skills and competences listed below.
He/she will have built further on the levels reached at the first cycle so as to:
1. Have specific, ample, detailed and up-to-date knowledge of at least one great chronological division of history, including different metho-
dological approaches and historiographical orientations relating to it.
2. Have acquired familiarity with comparative methods, spatial, chronological and thematic, of approaching historiographical research.
3. Have shown the ability to plan, carry out, present in oral and written form—according to the statute of the discipline—a research-based contribution to historiographical knowledge, bearing on a significant problem.
List of Subject Specific Skills and Competences
[Note: this list was used to frame the discussion that produced the achievement standards listed above]
1. A critical awareness of the relationship between current events and processes and the past.
2. Awareness of the differences in historiographical outlooks in various periods and contexts.
3. Awareness of and respect for points of view deriving from other national or cultural backgrounds.
4. Awareness of the on-going nature of historical research and debate.
5. Knowledge of the general diachronic framework of the past.
6. Awareness of the issues and themes of present day historiographical debate.
7. Detailed knowledge of one or more specific periods of the human past.
8. Ability to communicate orally in one's own language using the terminology and techniques accepted in the historiographical profession.
9. Ability to communicate orally in foreign languages using the terminology and techniques accepted in the historiographical profession.
10. Ability to read historiographical texts or original documents in one's own language; to summarize or transcribe and catalogue information as appropriate.
11. Ability to read historiographical texts or original documents in other languages; to summarize or transcribe and catalogue information as appropriate.
12. Ability to write in one's own language using correctly the various types of historiographical writing.
13. Ability to write in other languages using correctly the various types of historiographical writing.
14. Knowledge of and ability to use information retrieval tools, such as bibliographical repertoires, archival inventories, e-references.
15. Knowledge of and ability to use the specific tools necessary to study documents of particular periods (e.g. paleography, epigraphy).
16. Ability to use computer and internet resources and techniques elaborating historical or related data (using statistical, cartographic methods, or creating databases, etc.).
17. Knowledge of ancient languages.
18. Knowledge of local history.
19. Knowledge of one's own national history.
20. Knowledge of European history in a comparative perspective.
21. Knowledge of the history of European integration.
22. Knowledge of world history.
23. Awareness of and ability to use tools of other human sciences (e.g., literary criticism, and history of language, art history, archaeology, anthropology, law, sociology, philosophy, etc.).
24. Awareness of methods and issues of different branches of historical research (economic, social, political, gender related, etc.).
25. Ability to define research topics suitable to contribute to historiographical knowledge and debate.
26. Ability to identify and utilize appropriately sources of information (bibliography, documents, oral testimony etc.) for research project.
27. Ability to organize complex historical information in coherent form.
28. Ability to give narrative form to research results according to the canon of the discipline.
29. Ability to comment, annotate or edit texts and documents correctly according to the critical canons of the discipline.
30. Knowledge of didactics of history [i.e., subject-specific pedagogy for history].
Last Updated: May 11, 2007