The inaugural National Micro‐Credentials Accreditation Summit on 7&8 March in Melbourne was a run‐away success with over 270 registrations. We had to extend the event to two days and change the venue twice to accommodate the interest in the Summit!
After an inspiring Welcome to Country our keynoters A/Prof Marcus O’Donnell (Pro‐Vice‐Chancellor Education, Deakin University), The Hon Trish White (National President and Chair, Engineers Australia), Prof Susan Elliott AM (DVC Education, Monash University), Prof Belinda Tynan (DVC Education, RMIT), Prof Peter Noonan (AQF Review and VU), Prof Marcus Bowles (Director/Chair, The Institute for Working Futures), Anthony McClaran (CEO, TEQSA), Dr Simon Eassom (Executive General Manager Education, CPA Australia), Glenn Campbell (Executive Director, DeakinCo), etc. highlighted the various opportunities, aspects and challenges that Micro‐Credentials bring.
Overall, the speakers and participants agreed that Micro‐Credentials are well and truly upon us with all university speakers confirming that their programs to create and deliver Micro‐Credential units are well advanced or have already commenced. However, the issues of how Micro‐Credentials are evaluated and accredited as well as if they will eventually replace the traditional under-graduate degrees are still quite unclear and need more deliberations ‐ see the Summit Communiqué below. These questions will be explored in the two Micro-Credentials Round‐Tables in Sydney and Melbourne!
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2016 commissioned an Independent Review of Accreditation Systems (ASR) to explore and address concerns about cost, transparency, duplication and prescriptive approaches to accreditation functions.
The final report was considered by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) and publicly released in October 2018. We were invited to comment and submitted extensive comments from our Members in February 2019.
In December 2018/January2019 we collated your feedback on behalf of the Department of Education and Training (DET) for a Ministerial briefing on the posibility of increased regulation of higher education course accreditation. With our Members we researched and compiled a comprehensive briefing draft that we delivered to DET in January 2019. It is our understanding that the facts put forward in our briefing draft dissuaded the Minister’s office from rushing into new regulation of the accreditation of higher education courses.
In February 2018 we convened the inaugural National Professional Accreditation Best Practices Summit. The Summit was hailed by the participants as a very timely event with more than 140 participants, many intensive discussions between the higher‐education thought leaders in Australia and a communiqué ap‐ proved in the closing session. The Summit was opened with a video address by Education Minister Birmingham
Minister Birmingham favourably mentioned the Summit in his speech to the ~1150 attendees at the University Australia Conference held a week later in Canberra, saying “Just last week, Professions Australia held a National Professional Accreditation Best Practice Summit, which was a great opportunity for participants to discuss the relationship between our higher education system, professional associations, industries and employers and students. This was an important and impressive initiative that demonstrates the commitment of the professional and university sectors to a collegiate approach regarding identification and adoption of good practice in professional accreditation.“ Keynoters included Professor Mike Woods, Emeritus Professor Christine Ewan AM, the Hon Trish White, Anthony McClaran from TEQSA, Professor Kerri‐Lee Krause from Universities Australia as well as the Deputy Chairs of the Washington and Seoul Accords, Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Taylor AO and Pro‐ fessor Michael Johnson.
In February 2018 we explored and collated our Members‘ views and opinions by convening a Members‐Only Forum to provide formal input into the “Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Review Terms of Reference” project conducted by Prof Christine Ewan for the Federal Department of Education and Training (DET).
The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP or “Professions Australia”) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency that will allow for greater collaboration and sharing of information between the two organisations.
At the MOU signing during our 2017 Strategic Planning Day, TEQSA Chief Executive Officer, Mr Anthony McClaran, said the agreement further strengthened the existing relationship between two organisations who both share a strong interest in protecting the quality of Australian higher education. “I am very pleased for the opportunity to formalise this arrangement with Professions Australia which will see us work closely to share information,” Mc McClaran said. “The relationships we are building with industry professional bodies will ultimately assist TEQSA to streamline regulation and reduce the accreditation demand on providers.”
Professions Australia Chief Executive Officer, Ms Liz Lang, said she was delighted to sign the agreement on behalf of member associations who represent more than 420,000 professionals nationwide. “This MoU will help TEQSA to reach out and increase its engagement with the professional associations represented by Professions Australia and enable information sharing and collaboration between TEQSA and the professions,” Ms Lang said. “We have a mutual interest in maintaining and improving the quality of higher education for students who graduate and practise as professionals across Australia.”
Engineers Australia welcomes the Joint Statement of Principles for Professional Accreditation developed in cooperation with Universities Australia and Professions Australia. “Engineers Australia accredits all University undergraduate engineering courses, supporting the integrity of the profession,” said Ron Watts, Executive General Manager, Professional Standards & Practice at Engineers Australia. “The Engineers Australia accreditation process is based on competency standards that are recognised globally through our membership of the International Engineering Alliance (IEA). Engineers Australia is the only Australian professional association recognised by IEA to represent the engineering profession in Australia.”
The Joint Statement of Principles – signed by Professions Australia President Michael Catchpole (left) and Chair of Universities Australia, Professor Barney Glover – is a joint undertaking by Universities Australia, representing 39 universities with 1.3 million students, and Professions Australia, representing 21 peak professional organisations including Engineers Australia. Engineers Australia is the peak body for the engineering profession, representing more than 100,000 members from all disciplines of engineering and maintaining representation in every state and territory. “The agreement documents arrangements in place and will benefit both students and professionals,” Mr Watts said.
The formal signing took place at Universities Australia’s flagship annual conference, which brought together more than 800 senior leaders from the university sector, business, policy and politics. Our President Michael Catchpole (front left) and Chair of Universities Australia, Professor Barney Glover, signed the Joint Statement which streamlines and improves consistency in the professional accreditation of university courses – essential to ensuring that graduates from professional degrees are ready for entry into the workforce. The agreement clearly defines the role of professional accreditation and the respective responsibilities of universities and professional accreditation bodies.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said that the agreement between the two peak bodies would benefit both students and professionals. “Enhancing national consistency in accreditation standards and processes at the discipline level will help to improve graduate mobility between States,” she said. “Professional employers around the country will be able to be even more confident that all graduates meet their standards.”
Professions Australia (aka Australian Council of Professions – ACoP) Chief Executive Officer Liz Lang said that Joint Statement will further improve the competencies and job-readiness of graduates for entry into professional practice. “Universities and professional accreditation bodies will contribute to graduate quality according to their strengths. For the professional accreditation bodies, it is a focus on the capabilities, knowledge, ethics and professional standards needed for entry to the profession – while universities will focus on providing the best, cutting-edge educational design and course delivery. The statement is also an excellent example of how universities and the professions can work together to successfully self-regulate” Ms Lang said.
The members of Professions Australia and Universities Australia place a high priority on pursuing initiatives to enhance quality within the professions and to increase the contribution the professions make to the broader community. While recognising that the overall professional accreditation process is a wider public good, Universities Australia and Professions Australia acknowledge that the immediate beneficiaries of robust professional accreditation processes are students and professionals.