The impact of course duration on the quality of outcomes from VET

September 2017
Estimated publish date
July 2019
Principal researcher(s)
Josie Misko, Research Fellow, NCVER
Patrick Korbel, Quantitative Analyst, NCVER
Research sponsor - Commonwealth Department of Education and Training
Michelle Circelli, Team Leader Research, NCVER 08 8230 8646
Project code

Project purpose

There is little evidence which establishes that the duration of a course is the primary determinate of its quality; quality is multi-factored. Nevertheless it is also the case that very short durations (especially for commencing students) may not enable the student to demonstrate performance in a range of situations to indicate comprehensive understanding acquired through repeated practice. Determining a relationship will enable the Commonwealth Government to assist the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) with improved ways to identify, through environmental scanning, the risk factors impacting on the quality of outcomes, and to develop recommendations based on the research undertaken, to improve the quality of VET.

The overarching aim for this project is to determine the extent to which course duration is related to quality of outcomes and therefore whether adding course duration specifications for training packages could improve the quality of outcomes from VET.

In the context of this project, ‘quality of outcomes’ is considered in the context of the learner, employer, provider and regulator.

Research questions

  • For the qualifications in scope, and applying the Victorian Purchasing Guide maximum and minimum payable hours for each qualification as a proxy for the standard course duration, what is the profile of delivery of both the ‘short course duration’ and ‘standard course duration’ cohorts in terms of:
    • Provider characteristics (for example, provider type),
    • Course characteristics (for example, mode of delivery, location of delivery)
    • Learner characteristics (for example, age, sex, whether existing worker, highest prior educational qualification)?
  • Is there a difference in the quality of outcomes for the qualifications in scope delivered by providers in the ‘short course duration’ cohort versus those delivered by providers in the ‘standard course duration’ cohort?
  • For the period 2010 – 2016, has the course duration for the qualifications in scope changed? If so, how and why?
  • With the introduction of mandatory work placements in the sectors in focus, what has been the impact, if anything, on the quality of outcomes?
  • Where course duration and/or delivery requirements have been mandated by industry or government (for example, security qualifications), what has been the impact, if anything, on the quality of outcomes?


A mix of both quantitative and qualitative methods will be used to address the research questions.

Aligning with the recent foci areas of strategic reviews undertaken by ASQA, and growing demand for certain qualifications the sectors and qualifications that will be the focus of this project are:

  • Certificate II/III in Security Operations
  • Certificate III/Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care
  • Certificate III in Individual Support and Certificate III/IV in Disability