The programs will allow students to graduate with a UNE degree and, along the way, acquire a succession of VET (vocational education and training) qualifications through TAFE. They will also allow students to exit from – and re-enter – the degree program at various points along the way after acquiring the VET qualifications.
“Employers are, increasingly, seeking people who are work-ready as well as having a university degree,” said Eve Woodberry, UNE’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Students and Social Inclusion. “These new programs will enable students to work towards vocational and university qualifications concurrently, and graduate with two or more qualifications.”
Ms Woodberry explained that UNE already had “vertical articulation” arrangements with TAFE, under which students with VET qualifications could enrol in a UNE degree program at an advanced level. One example of such arrangements is in the field of early childhood education. “The programs under development, however, will follow a ‘concurrent articulation’ model,” she said. “It’s a model that is still quite rare in Australia – allowing students to enrol at two institutions in the one process without having to navigate their way through independent pathways. And it encourages people to enter a university degree program earlier than they might otherwise have done, while giving them access to multiple exit and re-entry points corresponding to the vocational qualifications they have earned along the way.”
Pat Walls, Acting Director of Educational Development at the New England Institute of TAFE, said the project was “an exciting opportunity for a VET provider and a university to work together”. “It’s exciting because of its use of online technology, and because it gives students the opportunity to gain employment through the acquisition of VET qualifications while continuing their university studies,” she said.
The first of the “concurrent articulation” programs being developed are in the fields of agri-foods (business and technology) and health and community services. “These are both areas in which employers want people with practical skills rather than graduates who they have to send back to TAFE for practical training,” Ms Woodberry said. “Overall, we’ll be working in areas where there is a well-documented demand for people with these kinds of qualifications, and we’ll be seeking partnerships with employer groups that have an interest in employing such people.” These first two programs should be open for enrolment in 2014. Their development is one of eight projects being undertaken at UNE, with the support of a $36.6 million grant from the Australian Government’s Structural Adjustment Fund, aimed at aligning UNE degree programs with regional workforce requirements.
Both Ms Woodberry and Mrs Walls agreed that the key to the successful delivery of these “dual sector” educational programs was the long-standing, productive relationship between UNE and TAFE that has seen, among other developments, the establishment of UNE Regional Study Centres at seven TAFE locations in the New England North West Region. “It’s a reflection of the growing maturity of the UNE/TAFE relationship,” Mrs Walls said.