AQF under the microscope

The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) is the national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training. The current version has been in place since 2011 and it is currently ‘undergoing a review’, which is policyspeak for ‘change coming: watch this space’.

Changes are highly likely to impact all registered training organisations because, by definition, an RTO only registers so that they can deliver AQF regulated qualifications.

A potted version of process
1. AQF Review Panel of six experts has been appointed by Australian Government
2. Contextual research report will provide background and recommend terms of reference
3. Discussion paper and public consultation during latter half of 2018
4. Final report to be provided to government by June 2019.

Steps 1 and 2 have been completed. The contextual research is an interesting read if you are into ‘big picture’. It contains an Australian environmental scan and a thumbnail overview of qualifications frameworks in 22 other countries. Overall, the Principal Findings are politely saying Australia used to be a world leader in this field, but we are not anymore. The researchers’ have included implications for the review terms of reference. A quick scan of these will give readers some grasp of possible issues addressed by a revamped AQF.


1. Review the structure and description of the AQF components (levels, qualifications and relevant explanations) including the extent to which:
a) the relationships between levels and qualifications are clear, appropriate and unambiguous;
b) the levels as currently defined are appropriate and fit for purpose;
c) the descriptors are expressed in simple language that supports ready interpretation; and
d) the knowledge, skills and capabilities reflect and support the full range of learning outcomes required for adaptation and successful participation in work and life.

2. Consider the issue of volume of learning including:
a) whether the volume of learning should cease to be expressed in the AQF in terms of calendar years and be replaced by a credit point system;
b) whether the disparities in volume of learning between qualifications at the same level can be supported by additional information such as prerequisite learning to dispel confusion; and
c) whether the volume of learning can be aligned with other measures of learning volume employed in VET sector specifications and requirements.

3. Review the positioning of vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) qualifications in the AQF and consider:
a) whether more explicit differentiation of VET and HE qualifications would be beneficial in general and specifically at levels 5, 6 and 8;
b) whether the variety of qualification titles used at the same levels for VET and HE continue to be relevant and meaningful in both the national and international context;
c) means by which any implication of a status hierarchy from VET to HE qualifications can be mitigated through changes to the structure or language of the AQF; and
d) means by which greater consistency in regulation of compliance with the AQF can be achieved between HE and VET sectors.

4. Review the desirability and feasibility of developing a system for the quality assurance and incorporation within the AQF of sub-qualification credentials such as skill sets, enabling and foundation courses, and in-service and advanced training provided by industry or professions.

5. Consider whether the AQF policies (issuance policy, pathways policy, register policy, addition or removal policy, and principles and processes for alignment with international qualifications frameworks and relevant explanations)
(a) are appropriate and fit for purpose and
(b) should remain within the AQF itself or be rationalised with TEQSA/ASQA registration and accreditation guidelines.

6. Review ways in which the AQF could more effectively facilitate learning pathways and mobility within and between levels, sectors and qualifications.

7. Consider what changes may be required to AQF governance arrangements, to the AQF itself or to regulation that references the AQF to ensure consistency of its application and ongoing monitoring and review.

8. Given the findings from issues 1 to 7, recommend any necessary changes to the AQF and devise an implementation plan for achieving the changes.

Extract from: Contextual Research for the Australian Qualifications Framework Review, Final Report. 25 April 2018.

Australian Government review announcement: click here