Supporting students to transition between VET and higher education

Collaboration between the higher education and VET sectors allows for integrated course development and seamless student movement between the sectors.

A clear line of sight is crucial for students in making study decisions and the possibility of progressing to higher education at their own pace is a key attraction of pathways. Established RPL arrangements between VET and higher education providers is important for this. Many of the pathway pilots allow students to enter the second or even third year of a bachelor level qualification through clear articulation arrangements.

For example, the Associate Degree in Applied Engineering (Renewable Energy Technologies) provides the option of progressing to the third year of an engineering degree without the need for individual credit transfer. Similarly, the Associate Degree in Integrated Care in Ageing allows articulation with credit into a number of related bachelor degrees, including nursing and social work.

Higher education and VET are based on different pedagogies which can affect successful transition. While VET assessment is based on competencies and technical skills, higher education focuses on capability-based assessment and critical thinking. This can be a challenge for students moving into higher education, as can the higher workload and the adjustment to self-directed learning. The attrition rate in the first year of university is currently higher for students admitted through VET than for those admitted on another basis.4

Successful pathways have incorporated support for students to move between the different learning environments. This support is critical in helping students to successfully complete study at a university level. For example, the associate degree developed as part of the aged care pathway contains foundational academic units to ensure students have the skills they need to complete the qualification and to transition into a bachelor level qualification if desired.

Woman on building site

Case study: construction management higher apprenticeship

The higher apprenticeship in construction management developed by the MBA has three clear exit points, providing flexibility for students, employers and the sector.

After the first 18 months the apprentice can continue their trade training and elect to commence the Diploma of Project Management. After three years the apprentice will have completed the Diploma of Project Management and the certificate III, with the option of going on to complete a bachelor degree in construction management.

This allows students to exit the pathway with a meaningful qualification at different points based on preference, ability and employer requirements, and allows for a return to study at a later time.

The pilot supports and guides apprentices through the transition from VET to higher education. As part of the certificate III qualification the MBA analyses student performance through literacy and numeracy tests. This is followed by ongoing assessment as part of the Diploma in Project Management which is designed to ensure that students are equipped with the skills they need to succeed in higher education.

The MBA worked with four universities to provide students with consistent content to prepare them to enter the second year of a construction management qualification. Once students transition into the bachelor degree, they can access further support such as academic literacy workshops to develop skills such as essay writing, critical analysis, referencing, note taking and assignment preparation.


4 Millman, T., Abridged too far? Credit transfer: examining the transition process from TAFE to university, Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 2013

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