Australian qualifications review simplifies route between work & education

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A simpler qualifications framework offers a clearer path between work and education.

By U2B Staff 

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The educational path to specific work disciplines is about to become clearer Down Under, under a raft of reforms proposed by a panel reviewing the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

Greater flexibility lies at the heart of the landmark proposal, which recommends allowing students to combine secondary, vocational and tertiary sectors courses to create qualifications.

Creating ease of movement between the courses, allowing short courses known as “micro-credentials” to be recognised for credit towards other qualifications, and credit for school subjects, all aim to create a qualifications system much easier to understand and that answers the needs of an ever-evolving world of work.

“To retain their relevance and effectiveness, qualifications will need to respond to current and emerging workforce and social needs, be delivered in ways that meet learners’ needs and circumstances, and be trusted by learners, employers and the community generally,” said the panel led by Victoria University’s Professor Peter Noonan.


In a nutshell, the review decided change was necessary to improve the quality and impact of the Australian education system. Reviewers said simpler categories and more flexible pathways between education and work were the way to go.

Most significantly, they said the Australian education system must be cognisant of the impact of technology on the modern workplace.

“The ongoing effect of new technology–particularly artificial intelligence–is transforming the world of work through its power to analyse, aggregate and disseminate information, including new knowledge.

“Production of goods, transportation and services, including health and the media, are in a constant state of disruption and innovation,” the report said.

“Many current job roles will become redundant, particularly in areas of standardised and routine production and service delivery. But new roles are also emerging, roles that place a premium on human aptitudes and capabilities, including the ability to understand, shape, interpret and reshape the use of technology.”


The digital skills problem is impacting economies everywhere, hurting bottom lines and resulting in billions of dollars worth of untapped potential. 

In Australia alone, the national skills deficit is projected to hit 29 million by 2030. It has been estimated that overhauling education and skills training in the country could deliver a dividend of AU$36 billion to the national economy.

Universities are rushing to close the gap by transforming pedagogy and introducing new courses in emerging technology fields. Businesses are engaging directly with learning institutions to help modernise the curriculum and offering work-integrated learning opportunities for students.

The Australian government has also stepped in. The review of the Australian Qualifications Framework is among several initiatives in motion to revamp the overall architecture of education.

Others include a review of Australia’s Higher Education Provider Category Standards to improve the standards for university status and efforts to tie graduate performance to university funding applications for 2020.

“This (qualifications framework) review will help Australia reshape its qualifications architecture to better serve students and meet the demands of the modern economy,” Education Minister Dan Tehan was quoted saying in Sydney Morning Herald.

“Allowing students to earn qualifications across VET and higher education based on their learning requirements better reflects the value that both streams of education provide.”


Universities Australia Catriona Jackson called the proposed reforms “laudable” for its aim to create greater clarity in the framework.

She repeated remarks made in a joint opinion piece with TAFE Directors Association Chief Executive Craig Robertson, saying: 

“Australia needs two strong systems — higher education and vocational education — working together to deliver the best possible results for Australians, and for our economy and our communities.”

“We need to make sure Australians of all ages have access to ongoing education to upskill and re-skill as they need to — and that young Australians, in particular, can train for the jobs of the future.”

The government has said it will need time to respond to the panel’s recommendations.