The federal government has opened its micro-credentials pilot for higher education so thousands of university students can undertake short courses in national priority areas like engineering, health, and technology.
Education minister Jason Clare on Wednesday announced $2 million in funding for universities to develop micro-credentials in partnership with industry, and another $16.5 million to deliver them to up to 4000 students over the next four years.
It continues a planned Morrison government program and follows previous projects to define micro-credentials and set guiding principles. A separate grant for an online marketplace to compare short courses was also awarded last year, with the platform yet to launch.
The Micro-credentials pilot program is part of the government’s response to a University-Industry Collaboration in Teaching and Learning Review completed in 2021. It recommended a stronger culture of partnership in the delivery of industry-focused micro-credentials be accelerated through targeted investment.
In last year’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the Morrison government pledged $32.5 million to develop micro-credentials, and allocated most of this to a four-year Higher Education and Offshore Micro-credentials program in the March budget.
Labor kept a similar allocation in last month’s budget, including leaving up $8 million for the offshore micro-credentials component. The offshore component will pay professional associations and commercial bodies to develop up to 70 globally relevant micro-credentials for delivery offshore by licenced vocational education and training (VET) and higher education providers.
Mr Clare announced the opening of the domestic pilot program on Wednesday.
“The Microcredentials Pilot program will support the design and delivery of shorter forms of learning in the higher education sector,” he said in a statement.
“Microcredentials offer students increased flexibility to mix and match studies across the higher education sector to enable them to find a new job or get ahead in their current field. They also have the potential to expand university and industry collaboration and improve the higher education sector’s ability to respond to industry needs.”
Public universities will have access to the first round of the pilot by applying for a share of $2 million (up to $100,000 per micro-credential) for development in partnership with universities.
The micro-credentials will need to be between 0.25 and 0.49 of Equivalent Full Time Student Load – up to around half a normal university course.
The second round will be open to public and private universities as well as Non-University Higher Education Providers, who will compete for $14.5 million in funding to deliver the short courses.
The Education department launched a National Microcredential Framework in March in an attempt to reduce the complexity arising from several government projects trialing micro-credentials.
The framework set a national definition and guiding principles for micro-credentials, as well as set the minimum standard for an upcoming Microcredential Marketplace.
The marketplace is being delivered by the Universities Admission Centre, which secured a $2.3 million grant for the project last year. The marketplace is expected to allow users to compare short courses and explain how they can be stacked and used for credit towards a complete qualification.
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