9.2 Vocational education and training sector

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The vocational education and training ( VET) sector represents a pool of prospective students who could transition into higher education, although they may not have the academic qualifications required for direct entry from Year 12 to university. VET and higher education providers have a role to play in unlocking the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to use VET as a launching pad into higher education, particularly for students who have left secondary school without the academic qualifications necessary for university entry.

9.2.1 Critical success factors

Critical success factors include:

  • support and aspiration programs offer easy-to-navigate pathways, for example through guaranteed entry into certain courses
  • courses are adapted to fit students, rather than the reverse, and take into account prior study
  • student transition into university study and life is scaffolded through peer support, mentoring and pastoral care.

9.2.2 Key challenges

Key challenges include:

  • promoting collaborative approaches in curriculum development between the VET sector and universities
  • tailoring higher education courses to meet the needs and experiences of each student, which can be resource-intensive
  • providing required resources and support, such as technology and mentoring, to students who do not have access to on-site services.

9.2.3 Examples

University of Ballarat – TAFE2HE

The University of Ballarat is a regionally headquartered, dual-sector institution with both VET and higher education operations. The university’s ‘TAFE2HE’ initiative provides education pathways for students wanting to study in their local region and community, and for those aiming for a career with a regional focus. Through TAFE2HE, students who have successfully completed their TAFE diploma or advanced diploma studies can articulate into university studies. Initiated in 2011, the program builds on existing pathways from TAFE to higher education in a range of disciplines and is expected to be the first step in a sustainable process for encouraging TAFE students to undertake further studies.

TAFE2HE seeks to build the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students by offering a simple and streamlined process for access and entry to university that does not require Year 12 university entry qualifications. Once they enter university, students can access individualised support programs, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peer group learning and student-based mentoring.

During the first week of December 2011, enrolment packs, including both a personalised application form and a reply-paid envelope, were mailed to all eligible TAFE graduates, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Around 1,200 TAFE students were offered a guaranteed place in a higher education program at the University of Ballarat, on the basis of having completed a pathway TAFE qualification. This included offers of a guaranteed place to 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. An initial review of the program will be conducted in mid-2012.

The program is part of broader VET-to-university pathway initiatives to support regional areas of Victoria. The University of Ballarat has received $24.8 million under the Structural Adjustment Fund in 2011 to link with six regional Victorian VET institutes to teach industry-relevant degrees in underserviced markets.

Charles Sturt UniversityTAFE pathways and partnerships

With 30% of commencing undergraduate students entering the university through VET, Charles Sturt University has developed VET-to-university pathways for people in their local communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Building on its relationship with the TAFE sector, the university has established links with the rural community through the Parkes University Study Centre (sponsored by the university, the TAFE NSW – Western Institute and the Parkes Shire Council); a partnership with the TAFE NSW – Riverina Institute at Griffith and Wagga Wagga; and an Indigenous steering group with TAFE NSW – Western Institute to promote the participation and success of students in VET and higher education.

These partnerships provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with increased exposure to educational opportunities. Key elements are VET-to-university pilot projects, community-based professional development, locally based community facilitators and a mentoring network with links to students and university programs.

In a student-centred and course-by-course approach, particularly suited to the needs of distance education students, the university tailors degree courses to take account of relevant VET course outcomes, so that graduates can be articulated into customised Charles Sturt University degree programs. Supporting students who experience difficulty in negotiating the contrasting institutional practices across two sectors has proven critical to student success.

The university has created a position, Manager VET Agreements, to support VET (including school) to higher education opportunities for people in rural and regional areas of New South Wales and nationally. The manager facilitates educational course and program development and delivery, and provides an increased number of articulation pathways across all faculties. The manager also facilitates research and educational partnerships with both private and public sector organisations and communities.

The University of Notre Dame – VET pathways in nursing and education

The University of Notre Dame is a dual-sector institution. Its Broome campus has developed pathways to enable students to gain VET and higher education qualifications. These pathways provide multiple course entry and exit points which give students the flexibility to leave with formal recognition at those points or to continue to higher education.

In 2012, the university introduced a new 12-month Foundation Year program, which offers students alternative entry to undergraduate studies. The program is suitable for students who have not studied recently or who do not meet tertiary entry requirements for higher education. It includes courses offered by the Schools of Education and Nursing. On completion of Education Support Certificates III and IV, education students are eligible to enrol in the Bachelor of Education (Kindergarten to Year 7). For students interested in nursing, a pathway starts with a VET in Schools Health Support Services Certificate II, followed by a Health Services Assistant Certificate III and a Diploma of Nursing (Enrolled/Division 2 Nursing)—this third course provides entry into the Bachelor of Nursing – Enrolled Nurse Conversion course. Alternatively, students may enter directly into the Foundation Year program, which provides access to both education and nursing degrees.

In 2011, the Broome campus established a postgraduate program, commencing with four master’s degree by research students, three of whom are Aboriginal women. Along with supervisory guidance, students receive administrative support and pastoral care from a postgraduate coordinator and the Indigenous Community liaison Officer.

Queensland University of Technology – articulation into the Bachelor of Justice

In 2010, the Queensland University of Technology School of Justice signed a memorandum of understanding with Southbank Institute of Technology to offer a pathway from the Diploma of Justice (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) into the university’s Bachelor of Justice program. This arrangement is suitable for students interested in the fields of justice, policing and criminology. The institute’s Diploma of Justice (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) is specifically designed for Year 11 and 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Upon completion of the diploma, students are offered direct entry into, and advanced standing towards, the Queensland University of Technology Bachelor of Justice course.

Students have access to finance, textbooks, computers and a range of other services through the university’s Equity Officer. To enhance the prospect of successful completion, the students participate in a Pre-Entry Law and Justice Program for Indigenous Students, jointly run by academics from the School of Justice and School of Law and overseen by the Faculty of Law, Equity Chair and Equity Officer. Year 12 completion is not a requirement for entry.