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Australia joins qualifications framework

Australia has officially joined a UNESCO framework allowing qualifications from its institutions to be recognised internationally.

The agreement will come into force for Australia on March 21. Photo: pexels

Signature of the convention was a key part of the 'Ensuring global competitiveness' strand of the government's Strategy for International Education 2021-2030

By joining the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education, Australian institutions and their students will more easily be globally mobile, Canberra says.

Adopted by UNESCO in 2019, the Global Convention seeks to reduce obstacles for students pursuing further studies or employment internationally. And Australia’s minister for education, Jason Clare, said the country’s ratification is “a significant education milestone”.

It is designed to allow students and graduates to “have their qualifications recognised in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner around the world”.

“The 1.4 million students who study at our universities each year can now have even greater confidence that their Australian qualification, whether undertaken onshore, offshore or online, will be recognised in other countries, helping them to access higher education abroad, as well as pursue greater employment opportunities,” Clare said.

Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O’Connor, added that it will also “boost international recognition of Australia’s world-class, vocational education and training graduates who are equipped with skills ready for the jobs of the 21st Century”.

Universities Australia acting chief executive Peter Chesworth highlighted that the agreement will benefit students from over 144 countries studying at Australia’s universities.

“This agreement ensures they can take their education, skills and knowledge anywhere, contributing to the development of new relationships and building understanding between nations,” he said.

“It also creates new opportunities for Australia’s universities to expand their operations overseas and contribute even more to the global challenge of educating more people around the world.”

On December 5, Iceland and Andorra ratified Global Convention, meaning the 20 states required to make the agreement became legally binding was reached. Weeks later, on December 21, Australia ratified the convention. For Australia, it will come into force on March 21 of this year.

The peak body for independent skills training, higher education, and international education providers, ITECA, welcomed the treaty.

“Independent skills training and higher education providers offer qualifications in areas as diverse as law, nursing, aviation, mining, IT and communications, through to construction, transport and logistics. It’s great that these qualifications will empower students in the global marketplace,” said Troy Williams, ITECA chief executive.

“The Convention provides a clear framework for recognition of qualifications delivered online and backs Australia’s robust recognition of prior learning framework. In many respects, the Convention plays to the strengths of Australia’s tertiary education system.”

The Australian Qualifications Framework review, “considerable” skills reform agenda and the further review of higher education have all helped “create a framework in which independent skills training and higher education providers have established an internationally renowned reputation for excellence”, he added.

Signature of the convention was a key part of the ‘Ensuring global competitiveness’ strand of the government’s Strategy for International Education 2021-2030.

By strengthening the recognition of Australian qualifications, the government would “secure further study and employment opportunities for all students that study with Australia”, the document said.

The University of Melbourne recently urged the government to do more to support qualifications recognition.

“The Global Convention will also boost international recognition of Australia’s world-class education sector”

“The UNESCO Convention has the potential to promote greater student and graduate mobility, and to enable better information-sharing between countries relating to qualifications,” it wrote to the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in December.

Improved recognition of Australian qualifications internationally will enhance “the value and utility of those qualifications, and will provide a forum through which Australia can influence standards around recognition internationally”, the university added.

Like the government said in its press release, Melbourne said the convention will help providers to diversify their forms of delivery, including micro-credentials, joint degrees, and quality online learning.

These points were also picked up by the Independent Higher Education Australia.

“Being part of the Global Convention will also boost international recognition of Australia’s world-class education sector, which includes independent higher education providers, IHEA CEO, Peter Hendy, said.

“Australia’s diverse independent higher education sector comprises established and stable providers playing an important role in addressing skill needs and delivering quality education to domestic and international students from a range of backgrounds.”

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