Until last year, it was the June Degree Shows that reigned unchallenged in Glasgow's art school world.

With doors yawning wide on the threshold of working life, Glasgow School of Art (GSA) would launch its undergraduates out into the unknown in one sum exhibition of four years' work.

Now, bookending the other end of the summer, another event has taken its place on the calendar, as the Graduate Degree Show, now in its second year, fills the exhibition floors of the Lighthouse to show the public what the institution's postgraduate students have been doing in the past 12 months.

The Degree Show itself - here as in the many other art schools up and down the country - should prove a fascinating thing once installed, filled with the culmination of a year spent delving much deeper into each artist's own practice than the grasp-all-you-can learning of undergraduate life.

That the range of disciplines represented has grown broader for 2013 is not surprising, given that GSA has one of the largest visual art postgraduate communities in the UK. There are Masters degree representatives in Fashion, Product Design, Fine Art Practice and Design Innovation. There are Architecture students, Graphic Designers and Illustrators. There are students working in Medical Visualisation and Human Anatomy. There is even a musician who has made an automatic conductor.

If diversity rules, it is abundantly exemplified in just one of the postgraduate qualifications, the rigorous research qualification of MRes Creative Practices, which not only takes on students from all disciplines, but allows them to complete their Masters either with an emphasis on studio practice or a more indepth academic thesis.

"It is very much about making a bridge between work and practice," says programme leader Ranjana Thapalyal of the qualification that aims to produce flexible, individual researchers "able to integrate the rigorous traditions of academic research with the autonomy of creative practices".

"Practice is a means of asking research questions, and by providing a training in academic research practice, we open the doors to people from different academic disciplines," continues Thapalyal. It is this diversity that has often necessitated a broadening of expertise outside GSA doors, with students supervised at, for example, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland or Glasgow University.

The course begins with two taught sessions of workshops and seminars before a longer-term project aimed at concentrating the students' research ideas, followed by the completion either of a shorter dissertation and a practical portfolio, or a 10,000-word dissertation. The Masters requires "a different kind of discipline" to undergraduate work, explains Thapalyal. "Simply having longer to do more in-depth thinking in the studio means you become conscious of asking research questions."

Among the students who will be exhibiting at the Lighthouse this year, many are broaching weighty and topical themes, from the treatment and representation of women in an increasingly digitised society to our own stratified cultural identity. Thapalyal talks me through the work of former Ceramicist Sinead O'Donnell Dunn, who has been focusing on portraying non-violent Palestinian resistance to Israeli Occupation in the West Bank. Concentrating on a women's collective in Hebron, O'Donnell Dunn has documented their daily life, trying to practice their art in Hebron's market under a cage-like structure which locals have been forced to build to protect themselves from rubbish - and worse - thrown down by the Israeli occupants of the building above.

Elsewhere, artist Maggie Laidlaw looks into the lives of women closer to home with her timely 'vocal poems', translated into sculptural glass forms, culled from the testimonies of women who have experienced public harassment. "It's very powerful, compelling material," says Thapalyal.

Another student, Andrew Welsby, has melded questions of Scottish identity, cybernetics and post-colonial theory by using 'drawing robots' that roll around inside a drum making tiny marks on paper in what seems to become an increasingly deliberate pattern. "The drawing machines have made some very lovely images," explains Thapalyal of the re-routing automatons. "At first the pictures seems to be very intricate, painstaking things, but then you realize they're made by tiny rolling robots. Welsby, I think, exemplifies the fun you can have with research on the MRes. He shows how you can literally answer your questions through your medium. You're not analysing, you're visualising, showing what you mean and understand of the theory." Academia, in other words, becomes art.

But there is functionality, too, in the work of students exhibiting in other disciplines, from a revolutionary street-side bike locker to prevent cycle theft (Philip Matthews, MSc Product Design Engineering) to a more accurate way of visualising the artery for medical students (Lauren Clunie, MDes Medical Visualisation). From the philosophical to the practical: if you're not careful, you might just come away from this exhibition thinking that art can change the world.

Glasgow School of Art: Graduate Degree Show, The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow (0141 276 5360, www.thelighthouse.co.uk, www.gsa.ac.uk) until September 28