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This project aimed to explore the defining facets of Masters level study, asking questions such as: 'What does it mean to be a Masters level student, and how are they supported in making that transition?'


Outputs from this project include:


  1. The Mastersness Toolkit used to aid discussion in workshops, held throughout the Scottish HE sector
  2. A background paper - What is Mastersness?
  3. 25 international, UK and Scottish case studies
  4. A thematic overview of the case studies - Pointers for practice.

Facets of Mastersness

The project developed a framework to help make sense of some of the different dimensions of ‘Mastersness’, adapted from Susan Warring's analysis of learning levels between qualifications. We based the framework on seven facets designed to help practitioners conceptualise, develop, and enhance their Master’s level provision. Each facet is an aspect or characteristic of the learning process that underpins the concept of ‘Mastersness’.


  1. Abstraction – Extracting knowledge or meanings from sources, and then using these to construct new knowledge or meanings
  2. Depth (of Learning) – Acquiring more knowledge and using knowledge differently.  For example, engaging in a narrow topic in depth, engaging in up-to-date research, or taking a multidisciplinary approach and examining something familiar and presenting it in a new innovative way
  3. Research and enquiry – Developing critical research and enquiry skills and attributes
  4. Complexity – Recognising and dealing with complexity of knowledge (including the integration of knowledge and skills, application of knowledge in practice), conceptual complexity, and the complexity of the learning process
  5. Autonomy – Taking responsibility for own learning in terms of self-organisation, motivation, location and acquisition of knowledge
  6. Unpredictability – Dealing with unpredictability in operational contexts – recognising that 'real world' problems are by their nature 'messy' and complex, and being creative with the use of knowledge and experience to solve these problems
  7. Professionalism – Displaying appropriate professional attitudes, behaviour and values in whatever discipline/occupational area chosen (from academic to occupational subjects), including learning ethical behaviours, developing academic integrity, dealing with challenges to professionalism, recognising the need to reflect on practice and becoming part of a discipline/occupational community.

The Mastersness Toolkit

The Masterness toolkit helps aid discussions and debate between those involved in the postgraduate student experience about the nature of Master's level study. It is designed to be as fluid as possible – there is no 'right’ way to use it. We would encourage people to develop and refine it, and use it in any way they think would be helpful. The toolkit comprises a set of eight cards. Each describes and defines a facet of Master's level study, and gives examples of learning and teaching practices designed to develop that facet.


Handbook and cards


Mastersness Toolkit Handbook

Publication Date: 15 Aug 2014

Masterness Toolkit Cards

Publication Date: 15 Aug 2014

Other project outputs

Background Paper - What is Mastersness?

Publication Date: 15 Aug 2014

Transitions to Master's level study - Pointers for practice

Publication Date: 15 Aug 2014

Transition to Master's level study - Collection of case studies

Publication Date: 15 Aug 2014