Our Submission Strengthening the AQF Consultation Paper

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1 Our Submission Strengthening the AQF Consultation Paper August 2010

2 Introduction Innovative Research Universities (IRU) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the draft of the proposed strengthened AQF. The IRU supports a strengthening and clarification of the AQF, and supports an expectation that the awards offered by higher education institutions should be consistent with the AQF. The IRU has identified seven key areas of concern. These include: 1. Postgraduate versus Graduate Programs Levels 8 and 9 2. Masters Programs Level 9 3. Doctoral programs Level AQF Qualification Type Specification standards - Specifications for the Bachelor Degree relating to proportion at Level 7 and the Master Degrees relating to the notional duration 5. Pathways and Linkages Policy minimum credit requirements and nested qualifications 6. Glossary definitions of double and combined qualifications and nested qualifications 7. Implementation issues 1. Postgraduate versus Graduate Programs - Levels 8 and 9 The descriptors for Graduate Diploma/Certificate and Master (Coursework) as they currently stand do not strongly distinguish between graduate and postgraduate entry to these level 8 and 9 qualifications. Post graduate entry is where the curriculum consists of material offered at fourth or higher year levels which pursues the undergraduate discipline at a deeper level, developing cumulative, sequential and specialist discipline knowledge, and for which a Bachelor degree or equivalent in a cognate discipline is an entrance requirement. Graduate entry courses consist mainly of material to develop knowledge and skills in a new discipline or area of study, broadening the skill base and possibly as professional preparation. A Bachelor degree or equivalent in any discipline is an entrance requirement. An example could be Bachelor of Science followed by a Graduate Diploma or a Master in Education. Current practice in the higher education sector, as well as DEEWR reporting, distinguishes between post-degree Certificates and Diplomas as post graduate or graduate level. This could be incorporated in the proposed framework. 1. The framework recognise graduate entry into an additional Level 7 qualification either by adopting the graduate/postgraduate nomenclature for horizontal (Level 7) and vertical (Level 8) movement of graduates, or by recognising horizontal credit and transfer pathways (e.g. for second bachelor degrees) 2. Masters (Professional Preparation) would appropriately be located at Level 8 of the AQF 3. Masters (Advanced) would appropriately be located at Level 9 of the AQF 2

3 2. Masters Programs Level 9 The IRU notes the inclusion of the concession that for professional registration purposes a masters may extend to a 4 year qualification. The IRU is strongly opposed to the use of Doctoral nomenclature for master level qualifications. 4. Doctoral nomenclature not be used for master level qualifications 3. Doctoral Programs Level 10 There is some inconsistency between Section 3 pp52-53 and Section 9 p55 in relation to the emphasis on research in doctoral degrees. The IRU is concerned that the description of the professional doctorate as a program of structured learning with some research and/or project work and/or practice integrated learning is too loose given the agreed research requirements for level 10 qualifications. A minimum of 2 years research is required. 5. A minimum requirement of 2 years research for level 10 qualifications in the AQF 4. AQF Qualification Type Specification Standards AQF Specifications for the Bachelor Degree (p34) Under Section 9 it is specified that the majority of learning outcomes of the qualification are at AQF Level 7. This runs counter to the AQF Pathways and Linkages Policy which is designed to build pathways between qualifications. For example an Associate Degree of 2 years duration (up to Level 6) might, under current arrangements, attract the full two years of advanced standing into a relevant Bachelor Degree. If the majority of learning outcomes for a Bachelor Degree are to be at Level 7, then this amount of advanced standing will no longer be possible. It also reduces the potential for nested qualifications, where a HE Diploma (Level 5) might be regarded as equivalent to the first year of a Bachelor Degree, and an Associate Degree (Level 6) as equivalent to the first two years of a Bachelor degree. The separation of the Bachelor Honours Degree into a separate 1 year qualification following a 3 year Bachelor degree will have impact on the four year Bachelor (Honours) degree. The IRU would be grateful for clarification as to whether a four year Bachelor degree with embedded Honours will cease to exist. AQF Specifications for the Masters Degree Section 5 p38 specifies a notional duration of student learning for Masters (Coursework) as being 2 years following a 3 year Level 7 or 8 qualification. A practice in the sector is to have 1.5 year EFT professional preparation Master Degrees. Examples include the Master of Business Administration. The requirement for Masters (Coursework) to be at least 2 years following a 3 year undergraduate degree will eliminate from the higher education sector a range of innovative coursework and professional Master Degrees that have been purposefully designed to support professional development and lifelong learning. These distinctive degrees are not necessarily designed as research preparation but feature learning outcomes that are at a higher cognitive level than the Bachelor Degree. These observations underline the point made above about the distinct types of Master degrees captured within the descriptor Masters (Coursework). 3

4 The requirement for a 2 year Master (Research) following a 3 year undergraduate degree seems appropriate. However, it should also be noted that a 3 year Level 8 qualification does not appear in the current draft AQF. Section 8 (p38) refers to pathways and linkages for Master degrees and says that these are detailed in the AQF Pathways and Linkages Policy, however this does not appear to be the case. Additional consideration needs to be given as to what pathways and linkages are appropriate at post-degree level. 6. The notional duration of an Honours degree (p39 point 5) should read Bachelor Honours Degree qualifications are typically 4 years in duration (1 year following a 3 year bachelor Degree or embedded in a 4 year Bachelor degree). 7. Coursework Master Degrees of 1.5 EFT duration be included in the AQF 8. Additional consideration be given to pathways and linkages at post-degree level 5. Pathways and Linkages Policy This policy refers only to pathways to undergraduate qualifications, although the AQF Specifications for the Masters Degree (p36) includes a section on pathways and linkages. Section 2.2 prescribes percentages for the minimum amount of credit to be given for Level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications into Level 8 qualifications in the same discipline. The IRU supports the creation of pathways and linkages between VET and Higher Education qualifications, but this specification of minimum requirements will create numerous problems. Section 2.2.1, p52 specifies that a completed qualification at Level 4 will attract a minimum of 10% credit into a Bachelor Degree in the same discipline area. In some disciplines, for example, Mathematics, this policy may place students at a disadvantage, as the required level of understanding is not achieved in Level 4 qualifications. Current practice in the sector is to recognize the Certificate 4 as an alternative to year 12 for university entry, and credit is rarely given. For Levels 5 and 6 qualifications a minimum of 33% credit into Level 7 qualifications is specified. For HE Diplomas (Level 5) of 1 year s duration, which are effectively the first year of a degree course this is feasible. However for some VET sector Diplomas it would not be feasible to give this amount of credit. Universities negotiate their own comprehensive articulation agreements with TAFE institutes. As part of this process, academic colleagues conscientiously map TAFE qualifications to university courses and give as much credit as possible, without creating a situation where students miss out on critical content. The setting of these minimum credit requirements may assume some elective space within degrees allowing for unspecified credits to be awarded. However many professional degrees, subject to external accreditation requirements, do not have large numbers of elective subjects or the electives are located at second and third year levels. Awarding credit for these subjects for a completed Level 5 qualification would have a significant negative impact on standards and the achievement of Level 7 learning outcomes for the degree. The likely outcome of setting these minimum credit requirements is that it will impinge upon or replace the academic integrity of qualifications [and] the autonomy and responsibility of individual institutions. It is also likely to discourage institutions from creating pathways for VET graduates. 4

5 Nested qualifications This policy should contemplate the role of Nested Qualifications, which are becoming more commonly used as pathways to further study. These include HE Diploma/Associate Degree/Bachelor Degree at undergraduate level and (Post)Graduate Diploma/Master Degree at post-degree level. Considerations would include description of the extent of overlaps and potential articulation between the different levels, also indicating those that are strictly sequential or exclusive. For example, clarification around whether a (Post)Graduate Diploma or Honours year could be nested within a Masters Degree would be useful. 9. Minimum credit arrangements for qualifications at levels 4, 5 and 6 need to be reconsidered to ensure that academic standards and professional accreditation can be appropriately managed for qualifications at level 7. These minimums should be reframed as guidelines rather than as mandatory requirements. 10. Additional consideration be given to the role of Nested Qualifications, particularly in relation to progression to HE Diploma/Associate Degree/Bachelor Degree at undergraduate level, and (Post)Graduate Diploma/Master Degree at postgraduate level 6. Glossary of Terminology Definitions of Combined and Double Qualifications The new definition of Combined Qualifications is problematic. Where these qualifications are of different types, such as the Bachelor/Graduate Diploma combination it would be our expectation that the requirements of both qualifications are completed. For example it seems an anomalous situation to have a student complete all of a Degree at level 7 and only part of a Graduate Diploma at level 8. A version of the previous definition is preferable A combined qualification is awarded when a graduate has completed the requirements of two AQF qualifications of different types. A separate testamur is issued for each for each qualification awarded. Regarding Double Qualifications the definition could be improved to say: A double qualification is awarded when two AQF qualifications of the same type have been completed concurrently and in less than the minimum time required to complete the separate qualifications. The minimum requirements of each award must be satisfied.... This allows for overlapping of elective requirements of both qualifications and the award of double Bachelor and double Master degrees. These types of double degrees are widely used in the sector. Examples include the BA/LLB. The IRU would also like to see additional clarity on the issue of compliance and whether adoption of AQF terminology will be mandatory, or whether institutions may adopt or retain their own terminology but provide a translation of the AQF terminology. 11. The definition of Combined Qualifications be changed to state that A combined qualification is awarded when a graduate has completed the requirements of two AQF qualifications of different types. A separate testamur is issued for each qualification awarded 12. The Definition of Double Qualifications be changed to state that A double qualification is awarded when two AQF qualifications of the same type have been completed concurrently and in less than the minimum time required to complete the separate qualifications. The minimum requirements of each award must be satisfied 13. A definition of nested qualifications is included in the AQF 5

6 7. Implementation Issues If the descriptors for the post-degree qualifications are applied as in the discussion paper there will be numerous changes required in order to fit existing programs to the new framework. Additionally the specification of minimum credit for Level 4, 5 and 6 qualifications will require major revisions to many undergraduate programs. In the case of programs currently being advertised overseas, there will be an obligation for these to be taught as advertised and under current CRICOS registration. 14. A timeline be developed with the sector to implement changes in the AQF 15. That consideration be given to the resources required to introduce changes Contacts Professor Kevin McConkey Chair, IRU Academic Group e t

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