The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is a critical part of the architecture of the Australian education and training system. The AQF defines the essential characteristics, including the required learning outcomes, of the 14 different types of qualifications issued across the senior secondary education, vocational education and training (VET) and higher education systems in Australia.

Australia was among the first countries to develop and implement a national qualifications framework. Although the structure and purposes of national qualification frameworks vary between countries, their central purpose is to ‘establish a basis for improving the quality, accessibility, linkages and public or labour market recognition of qualifications within a country and internationally'.

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) sets the overall framework for the design and quality assurance of education and training in Australia. It does not prescribe course content or methods of delivery and assessment. Factors such as funding, governance, regulation and institutional responsiveness have far greater influence on education and training than the AQF. Qualifications also sit within broader economic, social and cultural contexts, which can strongly influence perceptions about their standing and expectations about what they should provide.

The current version of the AQF is a more comprehensive and complete framework than earlier versions. It is widely used and applied. However, the Panel has found that the AQF should be significantly reformed.

Main recommendations:

  • A less complex AQF structure with a primary focus on the qualification types in the AQF (Degrees, Certificates etc.).
  • A single and clearer taxonomy comprising eight bands of knowledge and six bands of skills more flexibly applied. Application is not rigidly locked to other bands (or levels).
  • Contemporary definitions of knowledge and skills are used. Knowledge, Skills and Application are defined in terms of action – the information to inform action, the capabilities to take action and the context for action.
  • Using these features, the AQF is refocused on the design of qualifications linked to learning outcomes for individual qualifications.
  • Additional information is included to help define qualification types, particularly for qualifications leading to Nationally Recognised Training delivered through the VET sector, for apprenticeships and for research-oriented qualifications.
  • General capabilities (such as digital literacy and ethical decision making) are identified for use in individual qualifications.
  • The AQF Pathways Policy is revised to broaden guidelines for credit recognition across AQF qualifications and to define and provide for recognition of shorter form credentials, including micro-credentials, towards AQF qualifications.
  • A prototype national credit points system is developed for voluntary adoption by institutions and sectors.
  • Qualification types are realigned against the revised taxonomy (based on options outlined in this Report) including the addition of a higher diploma qualification. VET certificates can be more meaningfully titled to reflect their purpose.
  • The Senior Secondary Certificate of Education is more clearly defined and represented in the AQF in terms of its role in preparing young people for a range of pathways into VET and higher education (including with credit).
  • Volume of learning is expressed in terms of hours, not years, and applied as a benchmark for compliance and quality assurance.
  • An ongoing governance body for the AQF is established to give effect to decisions of the Review of the AQF and to provide advice on revisions to the AQF where required in the future.
  • AQF policies are updated or assigned to the relevant agency, with redundant policies removed. The AQF is more consistently referenced and applied in VET and higher education sector standards and guidelines.
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