The proposed axing of graduate certificates as recognised qualifications will make it harder for Australia to address skills shortages and could jeopardise government targets for educational attainment, universities have warned. Graduate certificates, also known as postgraduate certificates, typically take six months full-time or a year part-time to complete, making them popular with upskillers and career-changers.
But in a consultation paper, the Australian Qualifications Framework Council (AQFC) says shorter certificate courses are “not sufficiently robust as a stand-alone qualification” and it proposes they be replaced with graduate diplomas and advanced graduate diplomas, which would take one to two years to complete full-time, or two to four years part-time.
University groups have accused the AQFC, responsible for overseeing the strengthening of all post-school qualification types in Australia, of overstepping its boundaries and stifling innovation.
Innovative Research Universities Group executive director Conor King said there is “outrage” over the plan and described it as a prime example of “regulatory creep”. He said the move is part of a wider trend by the council to impinge on the capacity of universities to develop innovative offerings which might better suit students and employers.
It is not useful for [the council] to enforce a static, narrow framework in which few providers go wrong, but none can do well.
The Australian Technology Network of universities also opposes the abolition of graduate certificates which, at six months’ duration, are popular among up-skillers and career changers.
Graduate certificates can be used by people without bachelor degrees as a stepping stone to a masters qualification and by people wanting to gain higher skills in their profession, or to start to move into a different area altogether. Among the sub-categories of employees who make use of certificates are university lecturers themselves. Victoria University deputy vice-chancellor Anne Jones says the trend over the past decade or so has been for universities and TAFEs to require their academics to complete a graduate certificate in teaching.
Graduate certificates are very useful for a range of situations in which mature-aged people needing to develop some skills can do so in a relatively short period of time.
The proposed graduate diploma and advanced graduate diploma would take at least a year of full-time study to complete.