Australia’s dual-sector universities renew call for education reform

Wednesday 26 February 2020

A woman using a circular saw.

Reforms are needed to safeguard Australia’s economy and create new opportunities for our workforce.

In summary

  • The Vice-Chancellors of Australia’s six dual-sector universities are renewing calls for the federal, state and territory governments to  reform the tertiary education system
  • They want recommendations laid out in a 2019 COAG review implemented to better integrate the higher education and vocational systems
  • The reforms are needed to better meet the needs of students and the changing world of work

Swinburne’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Linda Kristjanson - together with the Vice-Chancellors of Australia’s five other dual-sector universities - is calling on federal, state and territory governments to implement landmark recommendations reforming the tertiary education system to better meet the needs of students and the changing world of work.

The plea for action was made during a speech at the Universities Australia Higher Education Conference in Canberra.

The Vice-Chancellors say Australia’s economy depends on workers with future-ready skills and access to retraining throughout their working lives. According to recent government figures, of the 1.1 million jobs to be created by 2021, 96 per cent will require skills acquired through both higher education and vocational education training (VET).

In 2019, the Australian government released the final report of The COAG Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework, which recognised that students need more flexibility in combining vocational and higher education to access skills and knowledge they need to be successful.

Australia’s six dual-sector Vice-Chancellors say that federal, state and territory governments must begin to implement the recommendations of this crucial review as a matter of urgency.

“Most of the jobs being created in Australia today require skills acquired through both the higher education and vocational systems,” says Professor Kristjanson.

“Unfortunately, the fragmentation and complexity of the current systems of accreditation, funding and regulation are slowing us down and standing in the way of developing and growing more innovative, relevant tertiary education activities.

“For dual-sector institutions like ours to deliver on workforce needs and offer a meaningful tertiary experience to students, transitions between higher and vocational education need to be as easy and logical as possible. If we don’t work together with governments to reshape our system, Australia risks being left behind.”

The Vice-Chancellors outlined a path forward in their 2019 report, Reforming Post-Secondary Education in Australia, which called for:

  • reforms to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), particularly to support learner-centred pathways across the continuum of AQF qualifications; 
  • modernisation of VET qualifications so competencies focus on broad and future skills requirements;
  • a coherent funding framework for higher education and VET, spanning the roles of the Commonwealth, states and territories; and
  • extension of work-based learning, including apprenticeships, into new industries and occupations in both VET and higher education through partnerships with firms, industries and the labour movement.

“We need policy reforms that create greater connections between vocational and higher education systems, which in turn will create a more coherent, comprehensive and modern set of opportunities for Australian students,” says Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins AO.

“We need to act now to safeguard Australia’s economy and create new opportunities for our workforce.”

The Vice-Chancellors of Australia’s six dual-sector universities are:

  • Professor Simon Maddocks - Charles Darwin University
  • Professor Nick Klomp – CQ University
  • Professor Helen Bartlett - Federation University 
  • Mr Martin Bean - RMIT University
  • Professor Linda Kristjanson - Swinburne University of Technology
  • Professor Peter Dawkins - Victoria University