Integrating VET and HE qualifications is no easy task

Media release

25 November 2021

Integrating vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) qualifications to enable students to move between both sectors is difficult and costly to develop, according to latest research released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The report The best of both worlds? Integrating VET and higher education examines the characteristics of three models of highly integrated VET and HE qualifications to explore the characteristics of such arrangements and how they might be implemented more broadly.

Case studies of each model highlighted some of the difficulties that hinder efforts. It revealed the main barrier is the time and expertise needed to map VET and HE content, which is a costly process.

Other significant challenges include overcoming competitive pressures between the integrating institutions, convincing industry and employers to invest in and recognise integrated arrangements, as well as creating delivery arrangements which appeal to students.

The research concludes that greater integration of qualifications may not be the best way to promote greater integration of VET and HE, largely because of the difficulties associated with developing and sustaining them.

Further, it was noted by research participants that integrated qualifications would only be useful in some industry areas, and not necessarily in large numbers, where providers are supported with the expertise and resources to undertake mapping processes, the integration is valued and supported by both collaborating institutions, industries and employers value both VET and HE qualifications in the integration, and where students find the integration attractive and the associated demands acceptable.

Less tightly integrated models that do not require the same investment and expertise to initiate are likely to be a more sustainable approach.


Enabling student movement between the VET and HE sectors has been a long-term workforce development policy goal; however, it is no easy task. Over the past few decades, a range of reports, research projects and policies have examined and promoted pathways that use qualifications as the vehicle for facilitating movement between the sectors. As recently as 2020, the VET Reform Roadmap had among its goals to build on existing cross-sector cooperation, specifying ‘stronger alignment and integration between VET and higher education’ as one of seven destinations to be reached.

This research explored the characteristics of existing models of integrated VET/HE qualifications and how they might be offered more broadly.

Quotes attributable to Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER

Aligning VET and HE qualifications to enable students to move between and draw from both sectors is not a new concept.

Movement between the sectors has been described as difficult, often due to the different learning and assessment approaches as well as the different funding regimes of the two systems. To address this, there is currently a policy interest in integrating the sectors in such a way that it better enables student movement between HE and VET, in both directions.

Download: The best of both worlds? Integrating VET and higher education

Enquiries: Deanne Loan M: 0413 523 691 E:

About NCVER: we are the main provider of researchstatistics and data on Australia’s VET sector. Our services help promote better understanding of VET and assist policy-makers, practitioners, industry, training providers, and students to make informed decisions.

This work has been produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments, with funding provided through the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.