Thursday, November 10, 2022

Australian Government Funding $18.5M Microcredentials Pilots

Jason Clare MP
Jason Clare, Australian Minister for Education has announced $18.5M for a Microcredentials Pilot in Higher Education (9 November 2022). This is targeted at skills shortages in areas including teaching, engineering, health, and technology. This year, only public universities will be able to apply for the first $2 M to develop, & $2M to deliver, microcredentials. Next year, Australia's private and for profit universities (Bond, Divinity and Torrens), along with Carnegie Mellon University of Pennsylvania, will be able to apply for the balance of the funds, along with non-university Higher Education providers (such as Box Hill Institute, and some TAFEs). Applications for Round 1 are now open. 

This is a useful initiative, but giving priority to public universities is a mistake. The institutions best equipped to deliver short, vocationally focused, flexible programs are Australia's public TAFEs, and private vocational education providers. They have staff trained and experienced in this form of education, whereas universities generally do not. Some universities are dual stream and have associated vocational arms. However, these tend to be run separate from the university arm, with different staff  teaching university and VET courses.

Creating microcredentials is very, very difficult. It is especially difficult for Australian universities which have research, not teaching, as their primary focus. It will take the universites multiple attempts to create microcredentials which work. This will require new staff, with new skills.

Government should be cautious overpromising with microcredentials. These are, in the main, not for school-leavers, bit for experienced staff who already have post-school qualifications, wishing to up-skill. As an example you can't take a school leaver and make them a cyber security expert with a microcredential. That person needs to already have a computer related qualification, and experience. Australia will need to invest in old fashioned VET and university qualifications, as well as microcredentials, to meet the skills shortage.

ps: I am speaking on Learning to Innovate for Sustainable Computing, at EduTech Asia, in Singapore, 3pm today (local time).

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