The Government is moving the wrong way on sub-bachelor student places

by Andrew Norton


This submission responds to a consultation paper on how to allocate Commonwealth-supported student places in diploma and associate degree courses.

These places are allocated to universities through funding agreements with the government. These allocations primarily reflect historical decisions. The government plans to slowly redistribute these places according to criteria it sets. The consultation paper proposes that places should be allocated to courses that meet industry needs and fully articulate into a bachelor degree. This submission advises against both criteria.

Most existing diploma courses would not meet an industry needs test. In higher education, diploma courses are not intended to provide standalone qualifications leading to work. Most diploma courses are pathways to a bachelor-degree course, usually for students with weaknesses in academic preparation, or complementary to a bachelor degree, such as diplomas in languages. The submission argues that diplomas should continue to meet these niche needs, rather than being converted to a purpose for which there is unlikely to be any employer demand.

Diploma and associate degree courses usually provide academic credit towards another degree, meaning that the same subjects can count for both qualifications. However, a requirement of full academic credit would be a mistake as it undermines the diploma or associate degree as qualifications with independent purposes.