2000 – Discussion Paper on the Australian Qualifications Framework

Attachment: CAPA Paper

From CAPA’s perspective the core problem to be address by The Review of AQF Guidelines For the Bachelor Degree and Postgraduate Qualifications are deficiencies in the current Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) standards for Higher Degrees. However, it is also clear that some of the deficiencies in the regulation of educational awards flow not from the AQF, but from the lack of a coherent national regulatory system. Both need to be addressed urgently.

CAPA has identified the following problems with the current AQF:

  • entry to coursework Masters is set at the three year Bachelor(pass) level and not the standard for other Higher Degrees which is the four year Bachelor with Honours level;
  • a full year of what is effectively a qualifying year can be counted as part of the Masters by coursework and, as a consequence, the duration of the Masters by coursework may be too short by one year;
  • the research Masters is too short in duration by at least one year, being one year instead of two; and
  • the PhD is too short in duration by at least one year, being three years instead of four.

Research conducted by CAPA and the AQF shows that some of these deficiencies are the legacy of past standards that have been incorporated into the AQF without review. Accurate standards are now essential because the marketisation of postgraduate coursework has created significant pressure on providers and accrediting bodies to lower course standards. In the case of research Degrees, pressure from government to reduce the funding periods has also highlighted deficiencies with the current AQF.

CAPA recommends the creation of a separate AQF level for the Bachelor Degree Honours to clarify the entry pathways to Higher Degrees and substantial amendment to the AQF guidelines for the Masters Degree and the Doctorate. In the case of the Masters, both coursework and research awards should have the same entry standard and be of similar duration (two years). In the case of the Doctorate, it is recommended that the duration be increased to four years and that an additional description of the Professional Doctorate be included in the guidelines.

The entry of Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers into the postgraduate coursework arena has called into question the relevance of generic AQF standards for both VET and university courses. The nexus between teaching and research is particularly relevant to postgraduate courses and needs to be maintained. Furthermore, the move to competency based training in VET and inflexibility from VET and universities on articulation has created an excessive barrier between the two sub-sectors of higher education.