The best of both worlds? Integrating VET and higher education

Vocational education and training Higher education Australia

There is renewed interest in better aligning vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) to enable students to move between, and draw from, both sectors. This is not a new concept, with a long history of policies, research projects and reports examining and promoting pathways between the two sectors.

Loosely integrated qualifications, whereby pathways might be endorsed but where no credit is specified or arranged, are numerous. In these examples, the possibility of following a pathway (usually from VET to HE) exists, but responsibility falls on the student to navigate it.

This project is focused on more highly integrated VET and HE qualifications, those that can be described as ‘consecutive’, ‘concurrent’ or ‘embedded’. These integrated models are designed to provide clear linkages and pathways between VET and HE qualifications, enabling better student engagement with both. Through the examination of existing examples of these more highly integrated qualifications, this project explored the characteristics of such arrangements, determining whether and how they might be implemented more broadly.

Key messages:

  • Highly integrated VET and HE qualifications are difficult and expensive to develop. This is primarily due to the comprehensive mapping of VET and HE content required, a time-consuming process involving skilled personnel. Other challenges include overcoming competitive pressures between the integrating institutions, convincing industry and employers to invest in and recognise integrated arrangements, and creating delivery schedules acceptable to students.
  • Sustainability may be a persistent issue for higher integration models. These models might be more widespread and sustainable if certain conditions were met.
  • This project suggests that greater programmatic integration of qualifications may not be the best way to promote greater integration of VET and HE, largely because of the difficulties in developing and sustaining them. Further, integrated qualifications would only be useful in some industry areas, and not necessarily in large numbers. They may only be viable as niche offerings and where the conditions listed above are met.
  • Less tightly integrated models of integration that do not require the same investment and expertise to initiate are likely to be a more sustainable approach.
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