March 19, 2019

Reshaping the Australian Qualifications Framework: the IRU approach

The challenge for the Review of the Australian Qualification framework (AQF) is to address the tension inherent in a tool that is intended to be both informative and enforced. An effective AQF responds to reality, developing in constructive response to changes in delivery purpose and style.

The focus for the AQF has become enforcement. It now needs to switch back to being an effective description of tertiary education in Australia for the coming decade that supports not inhibits change.

It needs to embrace the breadth of current activity, incorporating new developments such as the desire to credential small elements of learning. It needs to show the range of options available to inform students, employers and other interested parties. It needs to convey clarity about the system in Australia and around the world.

This requires the AQF to be reshaped, to include that breadth and then define in sufficient detail the nature of the major qualifications and their relationships to each other.

The AQF predates the creation of the regulatory agencies – the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). This requires the relationship of the AQF to providers to the regulatory agencies to be clear, with the AQF reshaped to reflect its role to and guide and support, rather than determine.

IRU positions

  1. An effective AQF for the future should provide a coherent context for the breadth of tertiary education and training – whereby the relationship of all activity to other education options is clear – and only then should worry at the correct application of its formal statements. This should let the educators develop tertiary education to meet future needs and take advantage of future opportunities.
  2. The legal relationship of the AQF, the HE and VET standards and the powers of TEQSA and ASQA need to be reset to achieve this outcome.
  3. The AQF should:
    • cover the full suite of tertiary delivery in its broad descriptive aspects
    • include as specific additional qualification types those short courses capable of being so presented.
  4. Each provider should determine whether and how to include enterprise and social skills in each of their qualifications. A reshaped AQF should identify the suite of potential enterprise and social skills relevant for that qualifications across the framework without specifying that qualifications at a level must enhance them.
  5. The AQF levels should reflect significant stages in acquisition of learning and skills with multiple qualifications possible within each. Areas to target for improvement are:
    • the need for level 8, with those qualifications aligned to current level 7 and level 9
    • the need for a Diploma qualification at level 7 and means to recognise partial completion of a bachelor degree
    • the need for two levels at the current level 5 and 6, with consideration of the best placement of the Associate Degree.
  6. The AQF Qualifications Pathways policy should be retained and continue to define expected levels of credit. IRU members do not support creation of a credit points system based on notional hours of delivery. The question of how to define consistently the amount of study for purposes of establishing credit needs further exploration. Extension of funded higher education’s use of EFTSL markers for each unit may be a possible approach.
  7. It is sensible to include the senior secondary certificates in the AQF to show the relationships between the school system, with its various exit points and broad range of student achievement, and the tertiary qualifications.
  8. The set of AQF policies should be reduced to remove the expectation for a qualifications register and otherwise tested to avoid unneeded overlap with the Standards for both sectors and the operating documents of both regulatory agencies.
  9. The future arrangements for update and renewal of the AQF should be addressed in the Review’s response to its terms of reference point 5 to advise on future governance arrangements.

Read the full IRU response