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Pathways-ED: Change is in the Australian Air

Stuart Middleton
9 August 2012


From Australia – the lucky country where even the sunset last night was silver – the new gold!

On the same day that a national seminar on inter-sector relationships was cancelled the press reported considerable activity in relationships between sectors to address the issue that is arising from the cuts being made, especially in Victoria, to TAFE activity.

The University of Ballarat is extending an agreement with regional TAFE institutions that secures some pathways from the vocational providers into the university. The new agreement will extend this notion to create certain pathways between the university and the six TAFE providers. This initiative is cutely dubbed the “Menzies Affiliation” after Sir Robert Menzies, the former Australian PM who apparently came from this area.

The cut to funding for vocational education and training in Victoria was almost $300m and the federal government is now coming in with a grant to the state of $435m by way of compensation. This is an example of the the sort of byplay that occurs in a bicameral government set-up and the “cuts” made in Victoria might in fact be aimed at securing such an intervention will, to me seems, that additional funding will be available to the VET sector.

Another interesting report details the introduction of the “vertical” double degree that allows students undertaking what we know as conjoint degrees to make a head start on a masters degree and in the process save six months.

I have long thought that a lot of our programmes could be shorter whether by extending the year to something more like “normal” working years or by arrangements such as this. If the outcomes of degree study include the general development of intellectual capability then this can be achieved with much more flexibility between programmes rather than the walled cities that are characteristic of so many programmes.

Interestingly, a further report raises the issue of whether a university course should focus on breadth or depth. Apparently opinion among students is divided between those who value the opportunity to study outside their field and those who do not.

The writer argues that simply having breadth and depth won’t be sufficient and students hoping the move through to higher level postgraduate study will also need height. And so the two ideas come together – the notion of breadth / depth / height and the “vertical double degree combing undergraduate and postgraduate study.

So what seems to be emerging is a challenging of the traditional transition points and a softening of some of the boundaries. First, the VET / University boundaries are becoming more porous and the vertical pathways up through the university seem willing to become more adaptable.

If these can happen one way they can happen in the other direction – clearer pathways for university graduates to proceed on to the more utilitarian qualification of the ITP sector with RPAA (Recognition of Prior Academic Activity) allowing for a telescoped programme. – the  New Zealand equivalent of the vertical double degree.

With evidence from both New Zealand and Australia that the benefits of a university degree vis a vis a polytechnic degree have been somewhat exaggerated, the outcome of such a collaborative pathways could well benefit students and, if they are achievable  through shortened study programmes, others as well.

I sense that the world of postsecondary study is starting those seismic rumblings that could lead to bigger things – well at least in Australia. But then again they have usually always been a little ahead.

As I finish this a filler on the Aussie TV is playing a song called “You can’t always get what you want…”  accompanied by a picture of Valerie Adams in the moments after her final throw. The lucky country notion seems significantly to be premised on the view that all others are by definition unlucky!

A Note:


I am grateful to David Guerin for helping me out with thew number of LATs in New Zealand. He calculated that the Teachers Council report of income from LATs ($56K) came from 1,050 persons with such a designation. But he also tells me that the Teachers Council has 98,000 registered teachers. There is something in the order of 56,000 teachers in schools so I wonder about this. When I get back I shall make further enquiries – suffice to say that the number of LATs in schools is somewhere been 1% and 2%. I also wonder about this. But thanks, David.


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