Credit, where? – Comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Credit, where? – Comment by CEO Craig Robertson

Proposed changes to credit arrangements in higher education are likely to go through with not so much as a whimper but they speak volumes of the state of tertiary education in Australia, let alone the attitude toward lifelong learning.

The Higher Education Standards Panel was asked in 2018 for advice on the adequacy of credit transfer arrangements by the then Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham[1]. Adequacy in terms of meeting the needs of students and institutions, noting the Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework was forthcoming.

The credit policy in the current Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) acknowledges automatic credit for all Certificates, due to their national accreditation, I guess – so it is automatic in some way. The major credit action is between VET Diploma and Advanced Diploma to higher education and then between higher education institutions for transferring higher education students.

For certificates, given they are established nationally, the policy dictates (somewhere) that all statements of attainment carry equal weight and should be recognised across registered training organisations. Credit shouldn’t be confused with Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) – that is the process of bringing informal learning (and skills) to be assessed for certification against formal requirements. Some providers, nevertheless, limit the make-up of RPL in a final qualification and limit credit imported from other providers, given their own reputation is embodied in the graduates with the qualification.

For the higher education sector, in contrast, credit is granted (only) through recognition of prior learning and if students are not disadvantaged in achieving the expected learning outcomes for the course of study and the integrity of the course of study and the qualification are maintained. In both these instances the higher education provider is empowered to make a judgement about the suitability of the candidate to succeed in the course, so course integrity is maintained. Academic integrity and autonomy of the institution is central in exercising credit judgements.

Within VET, however, credit is nationalised (apart from the limits mentioned above). Isn’t it curious that VET, with its long record of poor performance and quality concerns, dictates that good quality providers must accept statements of attainment from any provider? Concern about a provider’s credibility seems second or third order in national policy terms.

This aside, the panel has come up with a sensible suggestion – that credit into higher education will be subject to AQF policies (current or future), leaving the door open for broader dialogue about credit when the AQF Review goes to its next steps. It does leave one minor dilemma though – why is RPL the specified instrument? RPL requires the student to make their case for credit and they are fully in the hands of the provider. Shouldn’t there be credit and articulation systems available from Government to these students, especially to overcome the power imbalance?

The next stage of the AQF review needs to start now. At a time of dislocation and uncertainty, every effort should be made in policy instruments to recognise and facilitate progression for individuals.  As a country which prides itself on its egalitarian roots, are we satisfied that there appears to be such differences in how learning is recognised, especially for progression to higher education?

National credit, as in VET, versus academic autonomy in higher education. These need careful consideration, so I suspect the standards panel’s work is not over yet on this topic.

A new operational framework for apprenticeships

An operational framework to keep apprenticeship training up to date and relevant for the aspirations of apprentices has been developed by consulting house, Actuose.

The authors, Jane Phipps and Caroline Roach, bring extensive experience in working with TAFEs and other providers in modernising their approach to trade training, in particular.

The report Operational Framework for Industry Skills Development is available for download.

International students to get access to VET short courses

The federal government plans to make it easier for international students to do short courses and microcredentials as part of their studies in Australia.

The Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the government plans to amend the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 to enable international students to supplement their primary field of study and improve their employability.

The courses might include first aid, responsible service of alcohol or barista courses.

“This will create new opportunities for Australian education providers to expand their business delivery to international students,” Mr Tehan said.

“Microcredentials are an opportunity for education providers to enter a global market in an emerging form of education, opening new markets and potential business opportunities.”

International students won’t be able to apply for student visas based solely on the short courses.

The government plans to consult with the education sector on amendments to the ESOS Act.

See more

Universities and industry invited to join TAFE NSW digital centre of excellence

The NSW government has announced an Expression of Interest for industry and universities to partner with TAFE NSW in the design and delivery of its Digital Technology Centre of Excellence at Meadowbank.

The government will inject $154 million to transform TAFE NSW Meadowbank into the first digital technology-focused campus, with university and industry partners to play a key role.

The facility will design and deliver training in future technologies and digitalisation including artificial intelligence, big data, gaming, cloud computing, cyber security, and programming.

“This latest announcement at Meadowbank shows TAFE NSW is leading the way when it comes to partnering with industry to meet the skills needs of the economy and ensure the people of NSW are job-ready,” the Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee said.

The EOI is open until 26 October.

See more about the TAFE NSW Meadowbank precinct and the EOI details

Artist’s impression – view of the proposed Multi-Trades and Digital Technology Hub 

TDA welcomes appointment of National Skills Commissioner

The federal government has formally announced the appointment of Adam Boyton as National Skills Commissioner.

Mr Boyton was appointed Interim National Skills Commissioner last October to oversee the early design work around the new body, leading up to its formation.

In a media release, TDA welcomed the appointment, noting the critical role of the NSC in identifying and addressing Australia’s future skills needs.

“We look forward to working with Mr Boyton and the National Skills Commission on key elements of the skills reform, including on benchmark costs of qualifications,” TDA CEO Craig Robertson said.

Mr Boyton was previously the Chief Economist at the Business Council of Australia and before that the Australian Chief Economist at Deutsche Bank.

His five-year appointment will commence on 13 October.

New chair for TAFE SA

The TAFE SA board will shortly get a new Chair after the decision of Jacqui McGill to stand down after two years in the role.

The Minister for Education John Gardner announced that current board member Ms Jo Denley (pictured), a professional independent director and business adviser, will commence as the new Chair from 31 October. 

Mr Gardner said that under Ms McGill’s leadership, TAFE SA has taken significant steps forward in its service to the people of South Australia, highlighted by its reaccreditation for seven years in its most recent ASQA audit.

TAFE SA Chief Executive David Coltman says Ms McGill’s leadership of the organisation has resulted in the organisation achieving a significant number of key milestones outlined in the State Government’s A Fresh Start for TAFE SA.

Ms Denley has been a TAFE SA Board member since 2012 and has previously served as Acting Chair of the Board.

“It is an honour to be taking on the role of Board Chair and I look forward to serving TAFE SA together with my dedicated Board colleagues and TAFE SA’s exceptional management team to make a positive difference in providing quality education for students across the state,” Ms Denley said.

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Four charged over VET corruption in Victoria

Victoria’s anti-corruption agency, IBAC, has charged four people with a range of offences as part of Operation Lansdowne.

Operation Lansdowne examined allegations of serious corruption involving the Victorian vocational education and training, and transport sectors.

More than 55 charges have been laid against four individuals in the Victorian VET and training sector – one former public sector employee and three individuals associated with an external provider – with alleged offences including:

  • conspiracy to defraud
  • obtaining financial advantage by deception
  • using and supplying identification information
  • dealing with proceeds of crime
  • misconduct in public office
  • computer offences – unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment.

Those charged will appear at the Warrnambool Magistrates’ Court on 19 October.

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'Education facilitator' fined $10k for VET misrepresentations

Qualify Me! Pty Ltd, which describes itself as an “education facilitator”, has been convicted and fined $10,000 in the NSW Local Court over misrepresentations about VET courses.

The firm was found by the Downing Centre Local Court to have contravened section 123A of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 by advertising a VET course without identifying the issuer of the VET qualification.

Qualify Me! Pty Ltd is not a registered training organisation.

ASQA Chief Commissioner and CEO, Saxon Rice, said the conviction was an important reminder for any non-RTO to ensure that they accurately and honestly represent the courses they advertise so that students can make a fully informed decision prior to enrolment.

“It is vitally important that current students, potential students and the wider public have complete and clear information when choosing a course to enrol in, including about with whom they are enrolling,” Ms Rice said

See ASQA’s statement

Universities to trial Industry 4.0 advanced ‘apprenticeship'

RMIT, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Technology Sydney, University of Tasmania, University of Western Australia, and University of Queensland will participate in an advanced “apprenticeship-style” digital technologies pilot program.

The federal government will provide $7.2 million for the advanced apprenticeship pilot to teach students high-level specialist knowledge and skills to prepare them for Industry 4.0.

The Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the program would help build stronger relationships between universities and industry to drive innovation, productivity gains and produce highly-skilled graduates.

RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Science, Engineering and Health and Vice-President for Digital Innovation Professor Aleksandar Subic said Industry 4.0 would impact every sector.

“We expect as many as 10,000 RMIT students across the dual sector and a range of STEMM disciplines including engineering, science, technology, health and design to access some of the most advanced industrial software for Industry 4.0 through project based and work integrated learning,” Professor Subic said.

The program will commence in early 2021.

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Latest apprentice incentive guidelines released

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has released the latest Australian Apprenticeships Incentives Program (AAIP) guidelines.

The guidelines come into effect on 1 October and reflect recent changes to apprentice incentive payments during COVID-19, including the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees measures.

See the AAIP Guidelines

Diary Dates

AVETRA 2020 Researcher Development Series
Webinars designed for early career, emerging and practitioner researchers
June 2020 – March 2021
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OctoberVET 2020
A range of free online events on VET and VET research, hosted by AVETRA organisations and members.
October 2020
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LH Martin Institute
Web Fest
1 – 29 October 2020
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AIEC Braindate: Making meaningful connections in a virtual world
20 & 21 October 2020
Virtual event
Register here

National VET PD Week
Velg Training
26 – 30 October 2020
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Beyond 2020: Creating the Future with Work Integrated Learning (virtual) 
Australian Collaborative Education Network Limited (ACEN)
27 – 28 October 2020
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VDC 2020 Virtual Teaching & Learning Conference
19 & 20 November 2020
Registrations Open

Australian Training Awards
20 November 2020
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Velg Training & MRWED
30 November – 4 December 2020
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TAFE Directors Australia Convention 2021
29 – 30 April 2021
Westin Hotel, Perth
More information coming soon

Worldskills Australia
28 April – 2 May 2021
Perth Exhibition and Convention Centre
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