School of Graduate Studies

Higher Degrees

Dr Mike Minehan
Dean Graduate Studies

I sometimes wonder why students stop studying after they finish their first degree. My wonder is because we actually can’t stop learning, even if we wanted to.  It’s just not possible. Every day of our lives has new learning experiences and new horizons.

Maybe graduates of a first degree think that going further and acquiring a higher degree is difficult. But if we consider how fast a child learns language and life skills, it’s easy to see that we are all naturally fast learners.

Curiosity is the key. A case study is a friend of mine in Sydney, Australia. He left school early because his father died when he was 14, and he needed to go out and work to help support his family.  At the same time, he became interested in sport, and over a relatively few years, became an almost walking encyclopedia about anything to do with sport and all the statistics associated with it.

You might say, well, sport isn’t the same as study and passing exams. But is there really much difference? We are talking here about a field of knowledge and being interested in it and mastering as much as possible about it.

I can also hear you saying, “yes, but a degree is such hard work!” Yes, it is more structured. But a higher degree becomes a lot easier when you realize that your teachers will explain your subject area, they will guide you to the best reading for a better understanding, and they will help prepare you for your research papers and for exams. In comparison, the rest of life is not so structured and easy. Other goals are not always so clear cut, and you are rarely helped over hurdles in the same way.

I believe that with a sense of curiosity, everything becomes possible and more enjoyable. This is especially the case with degrees and it is even more true of higher degrees which are more focused on your interests. Do you remember that famous quote by Albert Einstein? He said that ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge’. Einstein wasn’t downplaying knowledge, because the rest of his quote is, ‘For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

And there’s one other attribute about learning and acquiring a higher degree that is worth considering. When Werner von Braun, the rocket scientist, was asked what it would take to land humans on the moon, he answered, “the will to do it.” von Braun could have given a complicated explanation in terms of engineering and astrophysics, but he didn’t. He thought that the will was more important.

Imagination, curiosity, a sense of wonder and will.

It’s really very simple. There are no limits. Everything is possible, and a higher degree is the fastest way to capitalize on your learning capacity and your potential to become a leader.

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