Monash University leads study of undergraduate degrees in vocational institutions in Australia

A landmark study, by the Faculty of Education at Monash University, into Australian undergraduate degrees in vocational institutions has secured funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC) for a project called Vocational Institutions, Undergraduate Degrees.

This research project is the first of its kind in Australia and will work in collaboration with the VET Sector.

Professor Sue Webb from Monash University leads the project which will run through to 2020 and aims to identify the effects of broadening participation to undergraduate degrees through the recent expansion of higher education in vocational institutions.

The study aims to understand the effects of these degrees on enabling the higher education system to respond to the global drivers for social and economic restructuring through new forms of distinction.

“We hope the study will provide new policy knowledge for institutions, states and national government about the growth and effects on equity of college-based higher education,” Professor Webb said.

“Both state and national governments will be informed about the effects of this expansion on creating opportunities for more equity groups to obtain degrees and for the higher education system to better drive national innovation and economic restructuring in ways that give a fairer chance to all equity groups to participate,” she said.

The project research will be based in a number of case study sites and the research design includes:

  • analysis of national data
  • interviews with staff and sector representatives
  • survey and interviews with students
  • interviews with employers.

Professor Webb from Monash University leads the project with Dr Shaun Rawolle (Deakin University) and Dr Steven Hodge (Griffith University). International partner investigators include Professor Trevor Gale (University of Glasgow) and Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker (University of Birmingham).

The research impact will be aided by advice from a reference group that includes TAFEs from several states, the NSW Skills Board, National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (NAGCAS), National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCESHE), TAFE Higher Education Provider Network, TAFE Directors, The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), and Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association (AVETRA).

Ms Ili Pelletier, the Chair of the Australian TAFE Higher Education Provider Network, said that as the project is investigating the diverse approaches in Australia to undergraduate degrees, it has the potential to effect a change in understanding of the nature of higher education in Australia through recognising the different way of learning that higher vocational education offers.

“This is important not only for education institutions but also for the workforce as there is increasing need for higher skilled workers. We welcome this research as it recognises the place of TAFE in higher education and is also critically important that the focus of the project engages with issues of social justice,” Ms Pelletier said.

The ARC provided $396,500 through the Discovery Project, in addition to in-kind contributions from participating universities.

Professor Webb said she hopes the research will help our understanding of what this expansion is about, what a degree really means and how both students and employers are perceiving them.

“It’s a very important time to be considering these issues. The government wants the universities and TAFE sector to contribute to innovation by preparing students with employment skills. This is also happening in Northern Europe so having international counterparts involved from University of Glasgow and University of Birmingham gives us a broader network,” Professor Webb said.