Thursday, May 6, 2021

Two Phase Approach to Australian International Education: Offshore VET Plus Onshore University

One useful source of migrants for Australia has been international graduates of Australian universities. It will be interesting to see what effect COVID-19 and the resulting shift to online education has. This may result in a two phase process, where international students do their initial training offshore online in the Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) system, then come to Australia for further study at university, and to work.

Dirk Mulder
There are some indications this is happening. It may involve students studying first at a vocational institution offshore, before moving to a university onshore ("International student growth – it’s all in VET and it’s all from India", Dirk Mulder, Campus Morning Mail, May 5, 2021). While international enrollments are falling at Australian universities, VET is growing, especially from India at Victorian institutions.

The option of starting study in the VET sector and then moving to university is a sound approach for vocational qualifications. Some Australian universities have the option of doing this in-house, offering VET qualifications as well as university degrees. The student can first enroll in VET, complete a diploma and then go straight to the second year of their degree. I was asked by one of these institutions to be on a review panel for their computing degree and was impressed by how it worked.

There are differences in how and what VET and universities teach. VET focuses on vocational skills, offers recognition of prior learning (RPL) and "competency" based assessment. You learn what you need for a job, and if you have evidence already have that skill you don't need do that part of the course. University tends to teach more theory, it is harder to get credit for prior experience and the assessment looks for excellence.

But in terms of learning how to do something both VET and university approaches work. I undertook a certificate in education at  both university and VET, with more similarities than differences. Also the move to online learning over the last year by universities has made their courses more like VET (which is not a bad thing).