Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Student Movement: Pathways, Fields and Links to Work

Academic journal article International Journal of Training Research

Student Movement: Pathways, Fields and Links to Work

Article excerpt

In 2009 the Australian government announced ambitious targets for increased tertiary education participation to improve economic productivity and social inclusion. The targets, to be achieved by 2020, include: that the proportion of 25 to 35 year olds holding a bachelor level qualification or above will increase from 32% to 40%; that the proportion of Australians aged 20 to 64 years without a Certificate level III qualification will be halved; and that the number of higher diploma and advanced diploma completions would be doubled (DEEWR 2009). A key means of achieving such increases was declared to be improving the interconnections within tertiary education to allow broader groups of people to develop the skills and knowledge needed to achieve higher-level qualifications:

To enhance this interconnection we need an education system that is less fragmented and easier for students to navigate. It should be straightforward for students to enter post-school education and move between vocational and higher education as appropriate to enhance their skills and qualifications. (DEEWR, 2009, p. 43)

The implication of this policy focus is that the norm in student transfer is a move towards higher qualifications, particularly across sectors, in the same or a very similar field of study. The focus of the section of the quoted policy document on improving tertiary pathways (DEEWR, 2009, pp. 43-46) is on the internal mechanics of education, with little regard to links with the labour market. This focus is also shown by the emphasis Australia's council of federal and state education ministers places on credit transfer and articulation from VET to higher education, as elaborated in reports published between 2005 and 2007 collated at MCEETYA (2009).

Much research does suggest that more can be done within educational institutions to facilitate student transfers and pathways. Watson (2006) presents evidence that, in order to improve pathways from VET to higher education institutions in the latter sector, there is a need to recognise the growing breadth of the undergraduate population and explicitly support academic literacy within undergraduate programs. These findings are supported by Tickell and Smyrios (2004) in regard to one of the fields of study that is discussed in this article, namely, accounting. Tickell and Smyrios (2004) found that students entering the accounting stream of a particular business degree via formal articulation from a TAFE program completed the degree at the same rate as students directly from Year 12. The articulating students, however, had on average lower grades and took longer to complete, results which appeared related to such students feeling less supported and experiencing 'transfer shock' when entering higher education. In any case, the question remains whether adjustments to the mechanics of education can alone achieve a broadening and deepening of participation in tertiary education.

Curtis (2009, p. 2) has noted that the working of student transfers is an important question of efficiency at an individual level and at a system level: 'To maximise efficiency, individuals should be able to negotiate the skills development they require without duplicating previous study, saving their own time and provider resources'. This implies that transfers work best in the same or similar fields so that prior learning can be recognised. This might be true from a fairly narrow perspective of maximising the utility gained per unit of effort, but it also makes sense from a broader perspective.

This paper derives from a research project entitled 'Vocations: Post-compulsory education and the labour market' (hereafter, the vocations project) that is supported by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research. The vocations project has a broad remit of studying how the links between education and work can best be conceptualised and how they can be improved. This project is underpinned by a broad understanding of human capability (based on the work of Nussbaum, 2000 and Sen, 1999) and of vocational streams (Wheelahan, Leahy, Fredman, Moodie, Arkoudis & Bexley, 2012, pp. …

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