Australia’s six dual-sector universities are calling on federal, state and territory governments to work together to implement landmark recommendations reforming the tertiary education system – in order to better meet the needs of students and the changing world of work.

The plea for action will be made during a speech today at Universities Australia’s Higher Education Conference.

Australia’s economy depends on workers with future-ready skills and access to retraining throughout their working lives. According to recent 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).

Over ten years since the Bradley Review proposed a more coherent tertiary education system, connections between the vocational and higher education sectors have instead weakened due to increasingly entrenched differences between systems of governance, funding and regulation.

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 said that federal, state and territory governments must begin to implement the recommendations of this crucial review as a matter of urgency.

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 needs;
  • 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,” said spokesperson for the Vice-Chancellors, Professor Peter Dawkins.

“The AQF review was a great start to this reform agenda and we were delighted with the response from the Federal Minister of Education. We now need the Australian Government, and all state and territory governments, to get behind it through COAG. Setting up the necessary government body to implement the recommendations as a staged approach would be a great start.

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

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.

Media Contacts: Victoria University, Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Adviser, [email protected], 0401 100 576

Hélène Hofman, Swinburne University, [email protected], 0423 325 090