TAFEs are the Australian equivalent of polytechnics and institutes of technology. The Australian government has recently announced a goal arising from the Bradley review of tertiary education which would see 40 percent of all 24- to34-year-olds holding a degree within ten years.
Griffith University senior lecturer in vocational education, Leesa Wheelahan, said the government’s integration of vocational and university education is a breakthrough for post-secondary learning. She predicted a substantial expansion of the existing ten degree-granting TAFEs.
“I can’t see how the government can meet its expansion target of 40 percent of 24-to-34-year-olds with a degree without involving TAFE,” Dr Wheelahan said. “The idea that you have a university campus in every small regional town is ridiculous and not feasible; but TAFE is in most tiny towns, or accessible to them.”
As universities adopt new credit pathways from vocational education, Dr Wheelahan said, the government’s integration push could help achieve its expansion targets. The Bradley review, from which the government’s degree target was drawn, called for an extra 22,000 graduates by 2018.
“Integration is a good idea because, under the current architecture, we have two systems reporting to two different levels of government, with different funding, quality assurance and governance,” Dr Wheelahan added. “TAFEs have moved beyond offering degrees in niche areas and are offering degrees in business, commerce, engineering, building, and music.”
University of Melbourne professor of higher education, Richard James, said it is too early to say whether policy settings would encourage integration. “The potential of TAFE infrastructure and pedagogical capacity to help meet the degree target needs to be explored before any plans for new universities or new campuses are considered,” he said.
From Guy Healy at the Australian