Claire Field on why and where micro-credentials can work for unis


But some should stick to “proper degrees”

In her seminal piece ‘Making micro-credentials work’ Emeritus Professor Beverley Oliver defines micro-credentials as “a certification of assessed learning that is additional, alternative, complementary to or a component part of a formal qualification”.

The recent review of the Australian Qualifications Framework used Oliver’s definition and also noted that the European MOOC Consortium’s criteria for defining a micro-credential included “a total study of 100 – 150 hours including assessment.”

While no such official “length” or “volume” exists for micro-credentials in Australia – with Oliver’s definition and that volume benchmark in mind, it is clear that contrary to the views of Merlin Crossley (CMM, here ), many Australian universities have embraced them.

The University of Canberra’s UC Pro, for example, offers nine different six week courses for individuals and organisations.

They are not alone. Many other Australian universities have similar offerings and almost all of them are available exclusively on-line.

And here may lie the difference.

In 2019, 70 per cent of Australian higher education students were studying on-campus. Only 16 per cent attended externally (almost exclusively on-line), and 14 percent were multi-modal (i.e. on-campus and external).

By contrast, 90 per cent of students at the Group of Eight universities were on-campus. With high levels of research funding and an ability to more readily attract international students – on-line delivery at scale was not a part of the Go8 business model pre-pandemic.

Amongst the rest of the sector the take-up of on-line teaching was much stronger – led by UNE with 84 per cent of their students studying externally in 2019.

If your institution is used to on-line delivery, then offering micro-credentials (adapted from existing courses) alongside your existing full-degree programmes is a fairly straightforward proposition. For other institutions, a focus solely on “proper degrees” probably makes more sense.

 Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector