NSW Tertiary Pathways Project: Addendum

Summary

Following the publication of The NSW Tertiary Pathways Project: Lessons to Date report, the development of an additional round of pathway pilots was finalised in June 2019.

The Pilots

In 2017, the Department issued a new request for proposals to develop and trial innovative tertiary pathways. Three pilots were chosen:

  1. Southern Cross University (SCU) – Civil Construction and Engineering Management tertiary pathway

    SCU proposed new qualifications at AQF Levels 5-7 to bridge the gap between existing civil construction qualifications offered at AQF Level 4 by TAFE NSW and at Level 8 by SCU.
  2. Western Sydney University (WSU) – Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security tertiary pathway

    WSU proposed a flexible protected cropping “advanced skill set” which would link students of Tocal College’s Diploma of Production Horticulture and students of TAFE NSW’s Diplomas of Agriculture and Horticulture to WSU’s Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.
  3. University of New England (UNE) – Aboriginal Healthcare tertiary pathway

    UNE proposed a pathway for Aboriginal people extending from Aboriginal School Based Traineeships/Cadetships to UNE’s Bachelor of Community Services, with embedded vocational qualifications.

Evaluation

Two of the three projects (SCU and WSU) achieved the aims of their original proposals. SCU developed a new Associate Degree with embedded Diploma and Certificate IV components, and the option for students to articulate into a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours). WSU created a set of industry-recognised tertiary pathway units which students can either use to gain credit towards WSU’s bachelor degree or to upskill and specialise in various aspects of protected cropping. There is also potential for students to combine the tertiary pathway units with additional study to exit from WSU with an Advanced Diploma.

After encountering some obstacles, the focus of UNE’s project pivoted to become a unique mechanism for VET-qualified students to articulate into a bachelor degree. UNE performed a comprehensive and rigorous mapping exercise to map the competencies of the Certificates IV in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care/Practice to the Bachelor of Community Services. This enabled a disadvantaged student group to gain 50% advanced standing into the bachelor degree.

Each project was finalised at the end of June 2019, with some additional work to be undertaken in the future, including piloting of the models.

Next Steps

The Department is committed to the success of the projects beyond the pilot phase and will continue to engage with key stakeholders and monitor the success of each project as the universities move into the pilot and delivery phase.

Southern Cross University - Civil Construction Engineering and Management

Summary of Pilot

Purpose

  • To address industry requirements for more workers with management skills
  • Predicted shortage of project managers and site engineers due to a boom in infrastructure projects

Product

  • A new Higher Education Diploma, with embedded Certificate IV and VET Diploma content
  • A new Associate Degree which is linked to the job role of Engineering Associate
  • The pathway articulates into a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)

Next steps

  • First intake of students: November 2019 for the Diploma and March 2020 for the Associate Degree

SCU’s Tertiary Pathway pilot aimed to address industry requirements for more workers with management skills by bridging the gap between VET and higher education qualifications in civil construction. There is a predicted shortage of project managers and site engineers over the next 10 years due to a boom in infrastructure projects planned across NSW.

The University has developed a Higher Education Diploma with embedded Certificate IV and VET Diploma content, and an Associate Degree in Civil Construction Engineering and Management which articulates into a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours). The Associate Degree is linked to the job role of Engineering Associate and the Bachelor degree with Honours is linked to the role of Professional Engineer.

The Diploma and Associate Degree units are internally accredited by SCU and will be delivered online. The units incorporate the existing Certificate IV in Civil Construction Operations and the VET Diploma of Civil Construction Design. The learning outcomes of SCU’s courses align with the units of competency for the VET courses, so students should be able to exit the SCU course and obtain Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) with a VET provider.

SCU tertiary pathway model
Image: SCU's Civil Construction Engineering and Management tertiary pathway model.

Next Steps

The first intake of students will be in November 2019 for the Diploma and March 2020 for the Associate Degree. SCU will seek external accreditation of the Associate Degree from the professional body, Engineers Australia, in early 2020.

Lessons Learnt

A success of SCU’s pilot development is its foundation in research. The university spoke with stakeholders, established demand through primary and secondary research, evaluated current offerings in Australia and looked to international examples for inspiration. The result is a pilot with a comprehensive rationale that engages with a clearly defined problem, which will help ensure the ongoing success of the Pathway.

The SCU pilot also demonstrates the importance of strong industry partnerships and good project management and governance. SCU regularly engaged and collaborated with industry representatives throughout the development of the pathway. This ensured that the model and qualifications are informed and strongly backed by the engineering industry. SCU also effectively engaged other consortium stakeholders, including TAFE NSW, by holding productive steering committee meetings and through clear and regular communication.

The SCU model highlights both opportunities and challenges to scaling pathways more broadly. On one hand, there is clear evidence of the need for the model, as the developing boom in infrastructure projects across NSW increases demand for qualified civil construction supervisors and project managers. The online unit delivery also enables ease of access to the pathway for students across different regions, a feature that would benefit future models. On the other hand, the SCU model faced challenges imposed by the cap on Commonwealth Supported Places for sub-bachelor programs. Reform of Commonwealth funding of sub-bachelor places would enable expansion of the model, particularly at the Associate Degree level.

Western Sydney University - Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security

Summary of Pilot

Purpose

  • To integrate VET and higher education to address growing demand for skilled workers in the sector
  • The protected cropping sector is the fastest growing food production sector in Australia

Product

  • A set of four 'Tertiary Pathway Units' at AQF6 to assist students transitioning from VET to university
  • Completion of four units will result in an academic transcript from WSU to be accredited by industry
  • Individual units may act as a standalone micro-credential recognised by industry

Next steps

  • Talks are ongoing with TAFE and Tocal College regarding mapping of units to a VET Diploma
  • Possibility of Advanced Diploma is being explored, perhaps using two units from a Bachelor course

WSU’s pilot aimed to integrate VET and higher education to fulfil the needs of the protected cropping industry. The protected cropping sector is the fastest growing food production sector in Australia, and its expansion has led to increased demand for skilled workers in the industry.

WSU has developed a set of four ‘Tertiary Pathway Units’ (TPUs) at AQF Level 6 which will assist VET Diploma students from TAFE and/or Tocal College to transition into the Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security at WSU. If students choose to transition to the bachelor degree they will be credited with six months of full-time study (40 units) and a ‘sub-major’ in protected cropping. Completion of the four units will result in an academic transcript from WSU, and the package will be accredited by industry professional bodies (the Hydroponic Farmers Federation [HFF] and Protected Cropping Australia [PCA]) as an industry-recognised certificate. Each individual unit may also act as a standalone micro-credential, accredited by both the HFF and PCA.

WSU’s model provides both a linear pathway for students to transition from VET to higher education, and a flexible way to upskill with multiple entry and exit points.

WSU tertiary pathway model
Image: WSU's Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security tertiary pathway model.

WSU began delivering the first of the four units in Semester 1 2019, with nine students enrolled. The second unit is set to be delivered in Semester 2 2019, while the third has been approved by the School Academic Committee ahead of delivery in the Summer Semester 2019-2020. The fourth unit is an internship which is currently available to students.

Next Steps

WSU is developing a marketing and communications strategy with a view to increasing enrolments in the TPUs, specifically bringing more industry workers into the program.

Discussions are ongoing between WSU, TAFE and Tocal College regarding the mapping of the TPUs to a Diploma qualification, with a view to giving TPU students backwards credit (via non-standard recognition of prior learning) towards a Diploma of Production Horticulture.

WSU is also exploring the possibility of an Advanced Diploma in Production Horticulture. To achieve this qualification, students with a Diploma in a related field would need to complete the four TPUs plus an additional two units. WSU has identified four units from the Bachelor of Sustainable Agriculture which may be offered as part of an Advanced Diploma. The university is currently in the process of restructuring, so further consideration of an Advanced Diploma qualification is likely to occur after this process is complete.

Lessons Learnt

WSU identified differences in governance procedures and course design between the VET and university sectors as a barrier in conducting their pilot. As a result, WSU was unable to pursue co-delivery of the VET and university qualifications and it experienced difficulties mapping the VET Diploma to the TPUs. Maintaining effective working relationships with TAFE and Tocal College has helped WSU manage the complexities of working across sectors. By signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with both institutions, WSU formalised their working relationships and secured ongoing support.

This is the first pilot project to innovatively use ‘micro-credential’ or ‘micro-learning’ elements to create a pathway for students from a range of backgrounds. The unit set is accessible to VET students, current greenhouse workers, school leavers and bachelor-level students wanting to access more work-integrated learning.

The single units of study help overcome a barrier identified by industry: workers finding it difficult to find time to complete further study. The online and work-integrated nature of the unit set allows current workers to upskill without taking time off and provides a ‘taste-test’, showing them that they can succeed at university-level study.

Although the WSU approach may be a scalable way to approach future tertiary pathways, Commonwealth funding arrangements remain a barrier. Under the current policy framework, the TPUs can only be offered as full-fee paying units to students who are not enrolled in the Bachelor, as they do not qualify for Commonwealth Supported Places, FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP. There is potential for industry to fill the funding gap by paying for employees to enrol in the TPUs. For example, the HFF and PCA have offered support in the form of scholarships for students at WSU.

University of New England - Aboriginal Healthcare

Summary of Pilot

Purpose

  • Create more education/career options for people with a Certificate IV in ATSI Health Care Practice
  • Shortage of Aboriginal Health Practitioners and Aboriginal people in management roles

Product

  • Unique articulation pathway for holders of the Certificate IV into a Bachelor of Community Services
  • Students will receive 50% advanced standing into the Bachelor with Aboriginal Community Care major
  • UNE developed a comprehensive methodology for mapping the VET qualification to the degree

Next steps

  • UNE and the Australian Community Workers Association to discuss accreditation of the Bachelor
  • Marketing strategy in development with aim to recruit students by Trimester 3 2019 (November)

The aim of UNE’s pilot was to create further education and career options for people who have completed a Certificate IV in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Care Practice. There is a current and predicted future shortage of Aboriginal Health Practitioners and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in management roles in health and community services.

UNE has delivered a unique articulation pathway for holders of the Certificate IV in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Care Practice. Students with the Certificate IV will be able to apply for and receive 50% advanced standing into the Bachelor of Community Services (Aboriginal Community Care) at UNE. This means that students can complete their Bachelor degree in 18 months of full time study or 3 years part time. The project has developed a comprehensive methodology for mapping the VET qualification to the university degree.

To support the transition from vocational to higher education, students undertaking the degree will be supported by UNE’s Oorala Aboriginal Centre.

The Curriculum Committee at UNE approved the articulation pathway in April 2019.

UNE tertiary pathway model
Image: UNE's Aboriginal Healthcare tertiary pathway model.

Next Steps

UNE is in the process of developing a marketing and communications strategy to promote the articulation pathway, with a view to recruit students for Trimester 3 (November) 2019. Should UNE fail to recruit enough students, intake will occur in Trimester 1 2020.

Lessons Learnt

UNE’s pilot highlights the need for strong governance, stakeholder engagement frameworks, and robust project management when creating a Tertiary Pathway. Although UNE initially intended to target high school students and create additional entry and exit points, unforeseen circumstances, including staff changes and high turnover of external contacts, hindered UNE’s ability to explore this thoroughly.

Another lesson that can be taken from UNE’s pilot is the importance of having a well-defined aim with industry demand at the core. Demonstrating a clear purpose and rationale for a pilot is critical to keeping stakeholders such as VET providers and industry groups engaged. Creating a Tertiary Pathway can be a complex process and stakeholders need to believe that the work required will be beneficial to students and their industry.

Overall, the UNE pilot will deliver opportunities for a group of students underrepresented at university. There are further opportunities to use UNE’s mapping methodology to make the case for more investigation into the overlap between course content in vocational and higher education.

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