Reforming Post-Secondary Education

Reforming Post-Secondary Education

Executive summary

This paper has been prepared by the Vice-Chancellors of Australia’s dual sector universities as a contribution to discussion about the future shape of post-secondary education in Australia. The paper draws on the unique role and the long and varied experience of dual sector universities in providing programs across the full range of AQF qualifications and more broadly in meeting industry, learner and community needs.

The 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education (Bradley Review) proposed a broader tertiary education system which recognised that ‘although distinct sectors are important, it is also vital that there should be better connections across tertiary education and training to meet economic and social needs which are dynamic and not readily defined by sectoral boundaries.’

Despite the Bradley Review proposals, connections between the higher education and VET systems have – if anything – weakened as differences between the systems in governance, funding andregulation have become entrenched. Enrolments in higher education have grown rapidly (although funding has now been capped) while VET enrolments in publicly funded courses are lower than they were a decade ago as public investment in VET has declined.

Several major recent reports have revisited the Bradley proposals for a more connected tertiary education system. Some have gone further and argued for a single integrated system.

Australia’s dual sector universities are the only public institutions with a mandated role to operate across the full continuum of AQF qualifications in meeting the needs of the communities and industries they serve.

This report highlights the significant benefits available to learners, communities and industries when the capability of dual sector universities is realised through connected programs and student centred pathways. However, it also highlights how differences between the systems inhibit and frustrate the full realisation of the capability of dual sector universities and connections and pathways between higher education and VET more generally.

Proposals to develop a more coherent and integrated single tertiary education system have substantial merit but carry risks in terms of the cost and complexity of system integration and the loss of differentiation and diversity. They are also not likely to be agreed by the states and territories in relation to their roles in VET.

An alternative approach, based on the experience of the dual sector universities, is to retain the key characteristics and distinctive contributions of the current systems, to strengthen each system (particularly VET) where required, better connect the systems through a determined focus on student pathways and to carefully redress distortions between the systems created by anomalies and inconsistencies in funding.

This could be achieved through an overarching policy framework for the provision of post-secondary education in Australia agreed through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), underpinned by a set of common policy principles to guide the individual and collective development of the systems.

The common policy principles proposed in this paper are:

  • Universal access for young people and lifelong learning for adults
  • New and continuing learners make informed decisions
  • Stronger, distinctive but better-connected systems
  • Assessment and skills recognition support learner’s access and progress
  • Funding is demand driven, system neutral and priced to meet diverse needs
  • Learning and work are integrated.

Based on the experience of the dual sector universities a set of achievable and practical reforms that would strengthen and also better connect the two systems under a common policy framework are:

  • Reforms to the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), particularly to support learner centred pathways across the continuum of AQF qualifications
  • Modernising VET qualifications and their development to focus competencies on broad and future skills requirements
  • A coherent funding framework for higher education and VET, spanning the roles of the Commonwealth and states and territories
  • Extending 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.
Case studies QA session

Case studies QA session

Our case studies include material that will inspire, inform and assist WIL practitioners and you can share your experience and ideas.

Join this QA session with Anna Rowe, ACEN Board member responsible for case studies, and Ceri McLeod, who deals directly with submissions, who will provide an opportunity you

  • discuss the criteria
  • understand what information is required and
  • the process of preparation and submission.

It’s a chance to ask questions, check your understanding of the criteria and explore the possibilities.

June 26, 2019 12 noon AEST by Zoom

Also remember that at the ACEN Conference an Excellence in WIL case study is recognised with an award.

More about the award

See 2018 award winning case studies.

See previous case studies


Sydney University vacancy

Sydney University vacancy

Head of School and Dean, School of Health Sciences

The University of Sydney is seeking to appoint a distinguished academic as Head of School and Dean, Sydney School of Health Sciences, who will join the leadership team of the Faculty of Medicine Health. The school consists of six professions, five research groups and three research centres. The school provides professional preparation programs for a comprehensive range of health science professionals, as well as majors in health science and disability. Applications close on Sunday 5 May 2019


Service Learning Summit

Service Learning Summit

We are pleased to announce that Griffith University will host a SERVICE-LEARNING SUMMIT from 13-15 November, 2019 at its Gold Coast campus. We have secured an excellent Keynote speaker and workshop presenter, Dr Richard Kiely. See brief information on his expertise below. 

The Summit will explore a range of topics within SL and have a refreshing and innovative format that will ensure you gain maximum benefit from attending whether you are new to the concept of SL, or are looking for more of a masterclass experience.  We will provide details of cost shortly.  In line with the nature of SL, we are planning to use social enterprises for catering and keep the cost for participants as low as possible.

To be sure you secure a place at the Summit, please lodge your interest here:  

Introducing Dr Richard Kiely

Dr Richard KielyDr Richard Kiely currently serves as a senior fellow in the Office of Engagement Initiatives (OEI) in Cornell University’s Office of Engagement Initiatives.

In 2005, he was recognized nationally as a John Glenn Scholar in Service-Learning for his longitudinal research that led to the development of a transformative service-learning model (See Kiely, 2004, 2005, 2011). He served as the co-editor of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning for two special sections on global service-learning (2014/2015) and recently completed a co-authored book Community-Based Global Learning: The Theory and Practice of Ethical Engagement at Home and Abroad (2018).

He is the co-founder of a community-driven global service-learning (GSL) partnership in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, which will be entering its 25th year in 2019 and co-founder of, a multi-institutional hub supporting ethical global learning and community-campus partnerships.

Evidencing entrepreneurial capabilities – ACEN WA

Evidencing entrepreneurial capabilities – ACEN WA

Date: Monday 27th May 2019.

Time: 9:30 to 12:30 followed by lunch

Cost: Free to ACEN members

Venue:  Curtin University, Bentley. Building 211 Room 222,

To Register: Click here

Innovative and entrepreneurial models of WIL challenge the adequacy of traditional assessment approaches in generating the credible evidence of entrepreneurial capabilities that give students an employability edge for an ever-evolving and complex future.

The ATN Edge Project is addressing such challenges through the co-design, piloting and evaluation of a range of scalable and sustainable WIL assessment approaches (e.g. 360-assessments, use of online professional networks) in partnership with key stakeholders – national industry and recruiter groups, entrepreneurs, employers, alumni and students.

This interactive workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to:

  • Explore enterprise and entrepreneurial WIL approaches being implemented in courses across Australia
  • Unpack challenges in evidencing learning and assessment in enterprise and entrepreneurial WIL
  • Work with peers to design curriculum for interdisciplinary WIL experiences which develop enterprise capabilities

This workshop is relevant to course and discipline leaders, WIL practitioners, academic and curriculum developers.

The Speaker:

Judith Smith

Judith Smith Director, Next Gen Learning at Queensland University of Technology

Associate Professor Judith Smith. Director, Next Gen Learning at Queensland University of Technology.
In this role she provides strategic leadership to institutional initiatives and projects in emerging pedagogies and technologies that align to QUT’s real world learning vision addressing wicked challenges in teaching and learning. Judith is a Board member of Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) and Chair of the ACEN Research, Scholarship and Professional Learning Subcommittee. She leads the multi-institutional research project focused on the development of enterprise and entrepreneurial capabilities through emerging models of Work Integrated Learning (WIL).

To ensure you receive information directly about all events, workshops, webinars etc. and you are kept up-to-date on all things WIL, please register as an individual member at Registration and attendance at events is free if your university is an institutional member of ACEN.

A list of institutional members is available at

Studio photo by Chris Knight on Unsplash
Using GOS and GOS-L data – webinar

Using GOS and GOS-L data – webinar

‘Employment and Employability: Using GOS and GOS-L data to talk about employability’ – webinar

Monday 15 April 2019

In this presentation we will look at the data that institutions hold from the QILT Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) of recent graduates and GOS- Longitudinal (three years after completion) and the “stories” that can be told to drive improvement in institutions.  In this presentation we will take an overview of QILT and then do a deep dive below the public employment indicators to discover the wealth of information that is available and how QILT can be customised to maximise its potential to measure what is important to institutions.

Delivered by

Lisa Bolton, Director, QILT Research and Strategy, Social Research Centre

Lisa Bolton, Director, QILT Research and Strategy, Social Research Centre

Lisa Bolton, Director, QILT Research and Strategy, Social Research Centre

Lisa has been working in the QILT program at the Social Research Centre since January 2015.  Prior to this she spent 29 years in the VET and University sector in a range of roles from teaching, curriculum review, academic management, quality management, strategic planning, organisational research, surveys and evaluation. (BEd from Deakin University (Rusden) and MEd (Leadership and Management) from RMIT).

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Associate Professor Denise Jackson (ECU)

Denise will also be discussing some of the studies she has conducted using data from the Graduate Outcomes Survey and Student Experience Survey to evaluate her own WIL programs and the impact of WIL more broadly.