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close this bookTrends in Articulation Arrangements for Technical and Vocational Education in the South East Asian Region (RMIT, 1999, 44 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOverview
View the documentAustralia
View the documentIndonesia
View the documentMalaysia
View the documentThe Philippines
View the documentSingapore
View the documentThailand
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences
View the documentInterviews


The Commonwealth of Australia has a land area of about 7 million square km, and climatic regions ranging from tropical in the north to temperate in the south. Australia has a population of about 18.1 million people. Most of the population, together with agricultural activities and centres of manufacturing, are concentrated in the coastal strip along the east coast and south west coastal regions of continental Australia.

Although Australia is a substantial exporter of agricultural produce and minerals these sectors of the economy provide limited and generally declining employment opportunities. Manufacturing and construction are significant sectors of the Australian economy, but most employment growth is in the provision of services.

Gross Domestic Product


Australia 1995












Financial services






Other Services


In Australia, the primary/secondary system of education is based on a 6 + 6 year cycle of schooling. Few barriers exist to prevent students completing 12 years of schooling. Attendance at school is compulsory from 6 until at least 15 years of age. For school leavers, entry to university undergraduate degree programs is based on performance in the relevant senior secondary (year 12) certificate course.

In former times, a number of Australian states provided secondary technical education in technical schools, that operated in parallel with more academic secondary high schools. This model of secondary education has been replaced in Australia, with secondary education courses which are general in nature.

To cater for a broad spectrum of student ability and interest, a recent trend in Australia has been to permit senior secondary students to undertake some vocational studies, which may be cross credited to vocational education qualifications. This trend is driven by attempts to improve the transition between school and employment, particularly for those students who do not wish to proceed to university at this stage.

There are 37 government funded universities in Australia, and two private universities. The small number of private universities is partly a reflection of the fact that places in undergraduate courses at government funded universities were provided on the basis that cost of tuition was largely paid by the Australian Government.

Technical and vocational education

In Australia, technical and vocational education is frequently referred to as vocational education and training (VET). In broad terms, vocational education and training covers preparation and ongoing retraining, for a broad sweep of occupations, ranging from the operative through to the para-professional level.

The delivery of formal VET programs in Australia has, until recently, mainly been the responsibility of government funded technical and further education (TAFE) colleges.

These efforts were supplemented by the training colleges of government bodies, the armed services and to a lesser extent private educational providers.

In addition, there is a well established provision of informal education and training in Australia, mainly directed at adult and community education, but often providing elements of what might be considered vocational education.

Over the last decade successive Australian Governments have encouraged much broader provision of vocational education and training through government and non-government providers, including TAFE colleges/institutes, private colleges, industry training centres, group training schemes, and in-house training arrangements. There are about 80 TAFE institutes in Australia with many operating on a multi-campus basis. Some universities also provide VET courses, mainly at the paraprofessional level.

To facilitate broader provision of vocational education and training in Australia, a number of steps have been taken to establish a more open training market which is driven by demand rather than input of resources, including:

· Establishment of a framework for qualifications, standards and assessment which apply to both government and non-government providers of vocational education and training.

· Transferability of recognition of formal education and training between providers.

· Encouragement of competition between government and non-government vocational education and training providers. This is enhanced by government funding assistance for some programs provided by non-government providers.

· A focus on competency based training directed at the needs of industry and commerce, with a shift away from time-dependant programs.

· Mechanisms for recognition of prior learning gained by individuals through formal or informal means.

· Establishment of the industry based Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) in 1994, to formulate national strategic plans and objectives for the provision of VET.

The Australian Qualifications Framework which was introduced in 1995, encompasses vocational education and training awards, as well as higher education courses delivered by universities. This framework of qualifications replaced all former certificates, advanced certificates and associate diplomas awarded by vocational education and training providers in Australia.

Australian Qualifications Framework (2)

Vocational Education & Training

Higher Education

Occupational level

Doctoral Degree

Masters Degree

Graduate Diploma

Bachelor Degree


Advanced Diploma

Advanced Diploma





Certificate IV


Certificate III

Skilled Trade

Certificate II

Skilled Operative/

Certificate I


Secondary students have the option of leaving school after about year 10, and might at that time commence an apprenticeship or traineeship. In recent years; under the Australian Traineeship system, the notion of an apprenticeship has been extended beyond what were previously considered to be traditional trade occupations.

During an apprenticeship/traineeship period a student works through a training program leading to certificates I - IV. These studies generally articulate to VET diploma/advanced diploma programs.

Given the trend for students to complete secondary school, many students enter a TAFE college, or another VET provider, and undertake a post year 12 diploma/advanced diploma course. A diploma/advanced diploma would require normally 2-3 years of full-time studies, or perhaps be a combination of part-time/full-time studies over a longer period.


In the decades prior to the 1960s it was quite common for senior technical college students in a number of states to undertake a certificate course which articulated to a professional diploma program. In a number of instances, cooperative arrangements existed which permitted technical college diploma graduates of demonstrated ability to articulate to related university degree programs, with advanced standing.

These practices were disturbed in the 1960s when senior technical colleges in Australia were removed from the technical college system in each state, and redesignated what at the time were known as ‘colleges of advanced education’ (CAEs). CAEs were established to provide tertiary level studies of a more applied nature than were delivered by universities, and were the consequence of an investigation into the national provision of higher education by the 1964 Martin Committee. (3)

Initial CAE course offerings did not extend beyond the professional diploma courses previously conducted by the technical colleges. However, by the early 1970s the CAEs, which later absorbed many former teacher training colleges, had moved to introduce degree level programs. During the early 1990s, the CAEs underwent a further metamorphosis to become universities in their own right, or were absorbed by existing universities as a consequence of decisions by the Australian Government which required rationalization and consolidation of the higher education sector. What remained of the technical college system in Australia at the postsecondary level was reworked into what became TAFE colleges during the 1970s.

During the 1960s, when diploma courses were transferred from technical colleges to the CAEs, concerns were raised by a number of parties including trade unions and educators, regarding the loss of convenient linkages between vocational and higher education courses, but at the time were ignored, in favour of a Taylorist approach which resulted in terminal courses directed at particular occupations. Students wishing to articulate between vocational and higher education programs during this era were subject to assessment on a case by case basis, which proved to be somewhat inconsistent.

During the 1980s the efficacy of articulation arrangements for TAFE course graduates began to be questioned, and has subsequently led to a more open approach, which was the result of a number of factors including:

· The number of TAFE college graduates from paraprofessional courses that subsequently sought higher level studies increased significantly.

· The provision of TAFE courses was greatly improved both in terms of course delivery resourcing, quality and availability during the 1970s, in the wake of higher levels of government funding.

· The entry level to higher level TAFE courses gradually increased until completion of secondary education became the norm for many courses.

· Technological change impacting on industry and commerce encouraged the existing workforce to undertake further studies, not necessarily in a field of previous study.

· Social pressure, exemplified by trade union calls for removal of artificial barriers to further study became stronger.

· Government at the national level, gradually became more interested in seeking ways to improve articulation arrangements, for a number of reasons including social justice for disadvantaged groups, and the need to improve the provision of education to enhance economic growth.

· State educational authorities became more sensitive of the need to improve linkages between vocational education programs under their control, as well as linkages between TAFE and related higher education institutions.

The 1985 report Articulation of TAFE Middle-Level and Higher Education Courses in Australia, by the TAFE National Centre for Research and Development chronicles the limited opportunities and difficulties faced by TAFE course graduates wishing to articulate to higher level studies at that time. (4)

In 1989, the Australian Government in the White Paper, Higher Education, A Policy Statement, (5) documented its concerns on the somewhat ad hoc credit transfer arrangements between TAFE and higher education and set out a number of principles that it expected higher education institutions to adopt, including:

· Transferring students should receive maximum possible credit for completed work.

· There should be continuing dialogue between higher education and TAFE institutions to establish means by which cooperative planning of TAFE courses, may facilitate credit transfer.

· Individual institutions should codify and publish information on the extent of credit which they are prepared to grant in recognition of work done in other institutions.

· Arrangements should be available so that students who believe that their previous academic study justifies exemption from particular units may have credit transfer decisions reviewed.

Many factors have created a climate which has encouraged improvements to articulation arrangements for vocational education students to undertake higher level studies, and in 1993, at least 8.3% of all students who university courses in Australia had commenced or completed a VET course. (6)

Information about pathways through postsecondary education courses is more widespread and routinely appears in TAFE college and university handbooks. Secondary students are made aware of the education pathways open to them. (7)

Higher education staff involved in the enrolment process have become familiar with the notion of articulation and where applicable credit transfer arrangements. (8)

It has became commonplace for the accreditation process in both VET and higher education, for course approval submissions to demonstrate a clear indication of articulation pathways. This concept has been taken up by the Institution of Engineers Australia as part of its course recognition process which now requires articulation arrangements to be described in all courses submitted to it for recognition and assessment.

A small number of ‘dual sector’ educational institutions exist in Australia that have both VET and higher education components. These institutions are Swinburne University of Technology, RMIT University, Victoria University of Technology (all in Victoria), the Australian Maritime College in Tasmania, and the Northern Territory University. These institutions have developed comprehensive policies to enhance articulation arrangements.

Recently, the Victorian Government announced that a number of TAFE colleges will amalgamate with universities, in part to enhance articulation arrangements.

Higher education programs offered through the distance education mode provide significant articulation opportunities for VET course graduates, particularly those in remote geographic locations, or those who otherwise find it difficult for various reasons to attend classes.

Generally, courses offered through off-campus studies have the same entry requirements and course credit arrangements that apply in respect of courses conducted on-campus, including allowances made for the entry of mature age applicants to courses. In many cases students can enrol in single subjects without prerequisites.

Reverse articulation

It has become apparent that articulation is not simply a one way traffic between vocational education and higher education.

In Australia there is widespread articulation of individuals from the university sector to vocational education programs at TAFE colleges. This might be described as ‘reverse articulation’. The two-way nature of articulation between VET and higher education in Australia, is such that there is now more traffic between higher education and VET than the other way round.

Not only that, there is evidence indicating that articulation is a multidirectional phenomenon with more than half the students who migrate between vocational education and the university sectors previously enrolled in more than one tertiary course. (9)

Whereas there has been considerable dialogue over decades to bring about improvements in articulation arrangements between VET and higher education by those having an interest in this matter, ‘reverse articulation’ is a phenomenon which has grown without any perceived encouragement by government, educational authorities or institutions. Demand has been a function of individual need.

What is apparent in Australia is that there is now considerable community pressure of widespread provision of postsecondary education, in contrast to the situation which applied in former times when postsecondary education was seen as only being necessary for small numbers of people. The 1998 West Committee felt it necessary to comment on this matter with the statement that the ‘national target should be near universal access to some form of postsecondary education’ (13)

Given increasing pressure for individuals to undertake further education and training simply to cope with change it is apparent that the pressure to continue improvements of articulation arrangements in Australia will increase.