Australia links qualifications

The Australian federal government has obtained the agreement of states and territories to introduce a unified qualifications framework.

Under the agreement, a national qualifications board was established on January 1 to connect the three education sectors --higher education, technical and further education, and schools -- in the new unified system.

Certificates, diplomas or degrees awarded in one sector will be regarded as equivalent to a similarly titled qualification awarded in another.

The decision was welcomed by employers and educationists, many of whom have long been confused by the complex array of qualifications. Every state offers a different year 12 school certificate; technical and further education colleges issue technical certificates, advanced certificates and associate diplomas; while universities award diplomas, advanced diplomas and a galaxy of degrees.

Under the new framework, the system of certificates, advanced certificates and associate diplomas issued by TAFE colleges will be scrapped. In their place will be one certificate -- awarded at four levels -- plus a diploma and an advanced diploma. Universities will continue to issue diplomas and advanced diplomas, along with their degrees.

Some higher education institutions also award two-year associate degrees which the Australian Vice Chancellors' Committee wants included in the framework. Although this was previously rejected by federal, state and territory education ministers, the board is expected to consider accepting the qualification.

Ministers responsible for employment, education, training and youth affairs agreed to the establishment of the board at a meeting late last year following a report by a national taskforce on standardising qualifications.

The taskforce was headed by a senior Victorian education official, Sue Christophers, and included representatives from the various sectors and the Commonwealth. The meeting endorsed all the taskforce recommendations.

Ms Christophers said the framework would help cross-crediting of courses and qualifications between schools, colleges and universities. Each qualification issued by a registered provider would have national and -- eventually -- international portability.

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