Connecting VET and HE: credit transfer is a challenge


the higher education sector does not have confidence that VET providers deliver uniformly high quality courses

At the Skills Ministers meeting in Darwin on Friday, Mary O’Kane shared the “key themes identified in (Accord) consultations to date and explored opportunities with ministers to support greater alignment between the VET and higher education systems.”

Skills Ministers then discussed how the National Skills Agreement could introduce reforms to “serve a more cohesive and connected tertiary sector”.

Last week Robin Shreeve and I were pondering the same issues, with Robin drawing on his experience leading VET institutions in Australia and the UK, as well as his senior government policy expertise, first as the NSW Deputy Director-General TAFE and Community Education, and subsequently as the CEO of the Australian Workplace Productivity Agency.

He shared a number of very interesting ideas which go beyond the usual set of issues we discuss when considering more integration between the two sectors. He also argued persuasively for better funding for VET and worried that with many of its senior leaders not having an educational background – there is a tendency to view it as “watered down” higher education (which in turn influences policy reforms).

I share Robin’s concerns. I also obviously support better credit arrangements between VET and higher education as one of the mechanisms to better integrate the sectors … . But before progressing with reforms, the Accord Panel and ministers need to ask themselves why credit recognition is much less of an issue for international VET students.

The international education sector is full of VET-HE credit transfer agreements.

Of course there is an additional administrative burden for universities in granting credit to an international VET graduate, BUT they do so,

*  because they have taken the time to get to know the provider and the quality of their teaching and * they do so because the university gets two years (or more) of international student fees – without incurring any student recruitment costs.

When considering granting credit to domestic students there is no financial benefit and there are thousands more providers to deal with – because the higher education sector does not have confidence that VET providers deliver uniformly high quality courses.

And hence it all gets too hard. Which means we need to focus not just on the AQF, but on VET quality and on well-designed funding incentives if we want higher education providers to grant domestic VET students the credit for their studies they deserve.

 Claire Field spoke with Robin Shreeve on the latest episode of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast