Constructing curriculum development as responding to industry needs in higher education in vocational institutions

Year: 2019

Author: Walls, Sandra, Hodge, Steven, Knight, Elizabeth, Webb, Susan, Rawolle, Shaun

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper considers the legitimation of new knowledge in higher education curricula and how the emergence of new degree subjects in non-traditional higher education providers can test traditional knowledge claims. It draws on understandings about the recognition of powerful knowledge to theorise how new Bachelor’s degrees gain legitimacy in the market.

Data discussed in this paper was generated as part of a ARC Discovery project ‘Vocational Institutions, Undergraduate Degrees’ and contributes to the research on high participation systems of higher education by investigating how messages in the field of HE play out in new higher education providers with a vocational education heritage.

This paper works with the project’s analysis of government-produced statistics relating to higher education provision in the eleven public VIs who have courses on the national regulator’s (TEQSA) register and the courses’ stated Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) field, degree titles. It also draws on interviews with 28 senior stakeholders, marketing staff and educators in these institutions to understand how new degree programmes are developed.

The broader questions about the engagement of industry in higher education is explored through these analyses of curriculum development in vocational institutions and is worked through in depth in one case study site. Bernstein’s thinking about the message system of curriculum is investigated through the discussion of the practices around the commencement of a new major in a Bachelors degree within one of the ARC project’s case study institutions. The inclusion of a new major into an existing degree was included as part of a suite of new qualifications which have been developed as an output of a government-industry project in partnership with the vocational institution investigating cyber security.

Although re-accreditation of the degree including a new major in cyber security was part of the institute’s normal procedures, the inclusion of the new curriculum into the institution’s offerings evidences how new programs in vocational institutions can draw on existing strengths and can create new opportunities for both institutions and their students.

The project’s analysis of higher education curriculum development within vocational institutions shows how opening up higher education markets operates in practice; touches on the need for higher credentials in response to the changing nature of work, and highlights the tensions within a system which partially legitimises some forms of knowledge but does not always grant equally accredited higher education institutions the same status and recognition in the higher education field.