Using Higher Education Qualifications for Teaching in the Training Sector

Ross Woods, Rev. July 10. Reviewed 2018

Most ACAS staff have higher education qualifications, and need to use them as evidence of vocational competence for teaching in the VET sector.

It would be ideal to compare lists of outcomes between the qualifications one has and the qualifications one wishes to teach. But this is seldom possible:

  1. Higher education qualifications are seldom defined in outcomes.
  2. Higher education qualifications that are defined in outcomes do not have one-to-one correspondence with the training outcomes one teaches.
  3. There is hardly ever an exact one-to-one correspondence between unit names and course names between institutions, except between endorsed qualifications in the VET sector.
  4. Higher education emphasizes thinking skills, while the training sector emphasizes vocational skills. That is, the higher education qualification might not represent the vocational competencies and only  represent "thinking clever thoughts in a library".
  5. Different qualifications can be equivalent. For example, a Bachelor of Theology with a ministry emphasis may be equivalent to a Bachelor of Ministry. These may in turn represent competencies equivalent to a VET sector Advanced Diploma or Graduate Diploma.
  6. Qualifications of the same name might not be equivalent. For example, an academic Bachelor in Theology might not be equivalent  to a Bachelor of Theology with a ministry emphasis.
  7. If a teacher's qualification is at a very much higher level than that at which he/she teaches, he/she might not have the lower level competencies. For example, a mechanical engineer might be quite competent in designing a new kind of engine, but not be able to set up a lathe to make a simple component.
  8. Religious institutions use different terminology for the same competencies.
  9. Government training bodies see higher and vocational education as being separate and often non-equivalent.


One possible solution

One RTO simply conducts an RPL assessment of all incoming staff and issues a new qualification. This also solves the problem of the staff member holding qualifications for which the competency requirements have changed. Not only does this create unnecessary work for the RTO, it demeans staff's existing qualifications and generates some staff resistance.


A suggested solution

First, there might not be a problem. Many higher education courses actually do represent vocational outcomes, and some higher education qualifications might be the best possible qualifications for VET teaching.

If there is a problem, the suggested ACAS solution is to require a qualification to be: verified, in the area of study, and accompanied by current relevant experience

Teaching staff have an ethical requirement to identify their areas of expertise, including changes in expertise due to updating, further studies and writing, etc. (This ethical requirement applies equally to any instructor and assessor, regardless of their qualifications.)

Religious and secular qualifications may be equivalent. For example:

Although difficult, staff should now map their credentials to what they teach on a unit-by-unit basis; an instructor might be qualified to teach some units in a qualification but not others. Moreover, it would be good practice for the RTO to identify the teaching areas of each staff person in its staff list.


Ambiguous cases

However, it may be best in ambiguous cases to map VET outcomes to the higher ed qualification on a unit-by-unit basis. If necessary, the RTO can collect all current evidence into a portfolio and issue a new VET qualification.

It is preferable for staff to have a qualification a level higher than that at which they teach, although this is not usually a training sector requirement. In the past, a few training packages required it for some qualifications.