Tehan’s Plan B (that’s b for big) for HE change

The Education Minister made a couple of quiet announcements yesterday. They did not involve much money and will not cause HE lobbies to consult their copies of “How to build a barricade”. But they point to a future for post-school education way beyond the forward estimates

The Senate committee report on the government’s bill to change funding for UG places is due today – the Labor and Greens assessments will be scathing. But if the bill fails it’s not the end of Dan Tehan’s ambitions for HE change.

Industry engaged: Yesterday, Mr Tehan announced a university-based “advanced apprenticeship-style Digital Technologies pilot” to, “teach students high-level specialist knowledge and skills to prepare them for industry jobs of the future.”

Participants are RMIT, Swinburne U, U Tas, UTS, Uni Queensland and UWA. Last year Siemens, Swinburne U and the Australian Industry Group trialled an “industry 4.0 apprenticeship” to lead to a diploma and associate degree.

The new initiative appears to extend the associate degree in applied technologies tech  corporate Siemens is also funded to develop with Uni Queensland, Uni SA, U Tas, UTS and UWA, (CMM July 14).

It’s the sort of applied-learning, industry-engaged education the minister likes.

People making their own case: Mr Tehan also announced yesterday a Nationals Credential Platform, “to help students transition from education to employment by showcasing their achievements.”

Launching next year, the platform will, “standardise access to education records, making it easier for students to compile and present their credentials.”

Short and to the employment point: “Future phases” of the platform will include “recognition of micro-credentials and general capabilities.”

Good for people creating their own skills-portfolios and for universities that are keen on building micro-credentials into their product-range.

Like Deakin U, which makes a big-case for micro-credentials, (CMM August 6). And like Griffith U, which has just announced an “extensive suite” of micro-credentials “preparing professionals for new employment opportunities in post-pandemic world.”

Mr Tehan also likes the employment-focus of micro-credentials.

In June, he announced $3.4m to build an information base on what’s on offer and what they are worth as pre-reqs. “Micro-credentials address the most common barriers cited by adult workers who are not intending to undertake further formal training or study: time and cost,” he said then, (CMM June 22).

But this will not go down-well with supporters of the way things are. Peak university lobbies were all ambivalent about micro-credentials in submissions to the Australian Qualifications Framework review (CMM July 29 2019).

As to “general capabilities” the minister may mean generic skills, acknowledged by providers, using badge-platforms, such as Credly. Griffith U went big with badges last year (CMM April 8 2019).

Who’s working on it on the platform: Universities Australia and its subsidiary Higher Education Services are both involved – HES makes especial sense. It created My eQuals, which allows graduates of ANZ universities to log-on and acquire a PDF of their academic record (CMM June 15 2018).

And the NSW Universities Admission Centre is also involved – it has worked with Deakin U to develop a credentialing system for workplace skills, (CMM February 4 2019).

Not a big deal now: But industry-engaged, corporate-created, employment-focused qualifications could be. So could recognition of micro-courses and generic skills.

As will giving people the ability to assemble their own recognised credential statement, independent of institutions.