Research Paper Summaries

Simon's paper

My research centred around two main areas and how they might relate to each other, firstly, the impact of Neoliberal education policies on the VET sector and secondly, what this might mean for transformative education.

I was interested in these areas for a number of reasons. Having been involved in the VET sector since 1999, I have observed VET-sector policy and approaches become progressively neoliberal. I hadn't really had a 'handle' or name for what I'd observed until I read the Olssen (2006) article from the course readings. This prompted me to want to explore the policy background that had driven the changes to my working environment and changes to students' experiences I'd observed, to better understand where these imperatives had come from. Another reason for my interest in transformative learning is that in the area in which I work - community services and health sciences - much of the learning that students identify as most significant for them is transformative in nature. Given that transformative learning doesn't seem to fit very neatly into the strongly vocational priorities of neoliberal approaches, I thought it would be interesting to see how the opportunities for this kind of learning might be being impacted by the neoliberal policy imperatives in VET - were these opportunities being marginalised and was this likely to impact on certain types or groups of students?

So firstly to my exploration of VET policy over the last few decades. Before undertaking this unit I hadn't really had a very concrete understanding of which policies, policy reviews, curriculum bodies and government changes had led directly to the changes in my delivery and assessment requirements that I'd experienced; I'd been more focused on the day-to-day demands of my students and courses. So retracing the policy steps was enlightening and showed a range of impacts of neoliberal education policies on the VET sector.

I found that there were a series of policy phases that progressively reduced the student as a stakeholder of significance in VET and gave increasing importance to the needs and purposes of industry. Anderson (1999) mapped this very clearly, showing how from the Kangan report in 1974 (Kangan, 1974) through to the establishment of NTRA (National Training Reform Agenda), ANTA (Australian National Training Authority) and then the implementation of training packages, the student voice was progressively marginalised until the interests of students and the interests of industry came to be understood as being the being the same. Now, in practice, we have training packages that dictate what a student will cover in a unit or course, that are predominantly established by industry, for industry and even the assessments that a lecturer uses need to be validated by industry. The place of the student has been radically reduced in a range of areas particularly; contributions to the curriculum, on-campus representation and policy input as a stakeholder. Conversations with colleagues that have worked in VET for more than thirty years very much supported the sequence of policy changes that writers such as Anderson (1999) described.

The impacts upon VET were found to have been varied and wide-reaching. The main areas were the changes to the conception of what vocational education is, the notion of 'choice', the imperative of accountability and the changes and pressures upon the learner-lecturer relationship.

Briefly, the conception of vocational education has shifted from having a predominantly public purpose to a private one (Reid 2009, Kerka 2000), where educational institutions are now participating in a marketplace where students become consumers of training products. The neoliberal perspective assumes that desireable changes are driven by the market (Kerka, 2000), but this has been complicated in the VET sector by the fact that the 'market' often makes decisions on outcomes and data that is more easily collected and therefore more attractive (Quiggin, 1999), the fact that not all students have equal access to the 'market' and not all have the same level of utility to access what the market has to offer. Of course this is not unique to VET and there was extensive literature and data that described the effects of this changed conception across other sectors.

Likewise the notion of choice, central to the market principle, emerged as another significant impact in as much 'choice' for many students is perhaps more apparent than real. Student's choices are determined by their social, economic and cultural dimensions and so choice is beter understood as related to students' individual biographies (Crump, 2007). Not only are training options often being set by industry (as per above), a range of others (Birch, Kenyon, Koshy, Wills-Johnson 2003, Fletcher 2003, Gray & Hackling 2009, Guenther, Falk & Arnott 2008, Kerka 2000, Pearce & Down 2011, Priest 2008, Wyn 2007) identified that students want an education experience that is broader and more whole-of-person than that being set by neoliberal imperatives.

Some very interesting perspectives on the effect of the neoliberal accountability imperative were provided by Ranson (2003) and Walsh (2006). Essentially, the need to 'be accountable' has changed the focus of lecturers to much more performance-reporting (what Ranson described as 'performativity') which diverts time from lecturer's other duties (including development of their delivery and student support). Another dimension is how the performance-reporting actually drives best-practice. Examples of this are often seen post-audit, where a system or mechanism that a lecturer has created has 'survived' an audit (that is it was deemed an appropriate tool by an auditor) and then becomes the best-practice 'standard'. That accountability measures actually drive lecturer practice - often divorced from student outcomes - demonstrates the extent to which lecturers have become instruments of neoliberal imperatives.

Lastly, I found that there was extensive evidence of both the importance of the learner-lecturer relationship for student learning and also, that various neoliberal imperatives were diminishing and impacting upon this relationship both in VET and more broadly in adult education. Many of the impacts were highlighted by Pearce and Down (2011) in a higher education context - increased casualisation of lecturers (meaning less student access, more lecturer mobility), increased 'performativity' requirements and increased pressure to offer international or online options - that are all applicable to the VET sector.

When explored in the context of the student population in the VET sector, I also found that these impacts were most likely to have a greater impact on marginalised, disadvantaged or disengaged students. A range of studies showed that the dimensions of learning and education that these students benefit from or require are often those same dimensions that are marginalised or excluded by the neoliberal policy lens (Birch et al 2003, Bridwell 2012, Chen 2011, Morrice 2012, Crump 2007, Guenther et al 2008, Madsen & Cook 2010, Reid 2009, Wyn 2007 and others). There were various grounds upon which one could argue that these students either needed or would benefit from learning opportunities that were less available under education policies based upon a neoliberal perspective.

This related strongly with the second main area I explored- transformative learning. Again, there were numerous studies that demonstrated the effectiveness of transformative learning for marginalised and disadvantaged groups. But in the context of the neoliberal impact upon VET, these types of learning, in being so important to certain students and being essentially harder to access, became even more significant.

Transformative learning was understood as being meaning making (Mezirow, 1989) focusing on the development of the learner’s meaning structures and the processes involved (Jones, 2009). A large component of this ‘meaning making’ is the learner recognising problematic assumptions, viewpoints or habits of mind (Cranton & Carusetta, 2004) that present contradictions (Hobson & Welbourne, 1998). These personal ‘dilemmas’ are often latent until an individual’s environment activates them (Boyd, 1989) at which point the person might choose to acknowledge the contradictions and work through them, rather than ignore them (Hobson & Welbourne, 1998).

I found that while there are some limitaions to transformative learning occurring in VET (institutional culture, lecturer willingness, lecturer ability, time and space for reflexivity), it offered important learning opportunities for all VET students, essentially by providing two things.

Firstly it encourages forms of learning that aren’t part of a vocational and instrumental education perspective. These are all the more important because of this. The common outcomes that studies identified – stronger sense of self, identity, self-esteem, connectedness, social engagement, self-empowerment, integrated sense of meaning – have value for many students but particularly for the marginalised, the disadvantaged and the disengaged.

Secondly, by fostering reflection upon assumptions, perspectives and meaning, it represents something of an antidote for the neoliberal imperatives. It is a tool of emancipatory learning (Cranton, 1994). One study (Lange, 2004) found that the neoliberal values that were implicit in many of the student's life choices were in fact the values that many students chose to reject when it became apparent that they were in contrast to the student’s best interests. Similarly, Wyn (2007) found an emerging level of awareness of the clash between wellness aims and neoliberal aims amongst the young people in her study. As such, transformative learning itself can also be the means to see ideological imperatives that are impacting upon us – neoliberal or otherwise – that are shaping our lives, decisions and realities.

While not concluding that it is something of a cure-all, transformative learning does offer very important learning opportunities that certain groups of students could benefit from. The opportunities for this kind of learning in VET are being marginalised by neoliberal education policy imperatives. The paper proposes that more discussion and research into transformative learning is warranted because of the valuable dimensions of learning it offers.

Belinda's paper Post-Secondary Education for Indigenous Students

ABSTRACT: Post-secondary education is an integral part of the Australian Government’s vision to build a stronger nation. Students have therefore been placed at the centre of proposed reforms, with the Government committing to the expansion of a high quality university sector. Funding to comply with student demand, and targets for quality assurance in teaching and learning, hope to provide equal educational opportunity for future generations of students. Our Indigenous Australians, however, still remain highly under-represented in the university sector. This research paper will explore issues and barriers facing the Indigenous culture in relation to university access, integration and participation. In order to achieve equitable and supported integration into post-secondary education for Indigenous students, it seems that a combination of three phases must occur. Each of these three phases have the capacity alone to contribute to Indigenous education, yet without a combination of all three phases, a holistic approach to Indigenous education is not achieved. The initial phase aims to foster equitable access to education through alternate pathways, promoting higher participation rates and completion of studies. The second phase encompasses appropriate integration for Indigenous students into university life and studies, regardless of cultural and learning differences. The third phase involves implementing a framework for inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in the Australian curriculum, and supporting Indigenous teachers and community to assist in upholding this framework. If these issues can be addressed as a whole, an increase in the number of Indigenous students participating in post-secondary education will occur, and Indigenous Australians will have the access to university and other further education that they deserve.

Sarah's Implementing a Work-Integrated Model in Postgraduate Nursing


The higher education sector is strongly influenced by government policy, industry, community and student expectations (Patrick, Peach & Pocknee, 2009). The sector needs to demonstrate its ability to be responsive to skill shortages and professional workforce demands in producing ‘job ready’ graduates to address the needs of all stakeholders involved (Patrick et al., 2009). The introduction of a work-integrated learning (WIL) approach appears to be the logical progression to addressing the demand of increasing the nations knowledge economy by producing graduates equipped to contribute to the country’s economic progress (Patrick et al., 2009).

What is work-integrated learning or work-based learning?

"A learning process which focuses university-level critical thinking upon work, in order to facilitates the recognition, acquisition and application of individual and collective knowledge, skills and abilities, to achieve specific outcomes of significance to the learner, their work and the university.” (Gibbs & Garnett cited in Garnett, 2012, p. 165).

Why WIL within postgraduate nursing?

In the contemporary clinical environment it is increasingly difficult for nursing staff to be released from clinical practice to participate in post-registration training due to staff shortages and budget constraints (Jasper, 2010). WIL is an innovative approach in addressing both the needs of the industry and the student in this contemporary environment (Rhodes & Shiel, 2007).

What is the purpose of this research paper?

It will be the purpose of this research paper to complete a literature review to contextualise the policy and practice considerations behind the implementation of a WIL approach to post-graduate training in nursing.

The author of this resource is employed by a tertiary hospitals education unit which has historically facilitated postgraduate certificate level programs for nurses within the state (Centre for Nurse Education, 2013). The tertiary hospital has a partnership with a local university who are trialling the use of a WIL postgraduate model, with the pilot to commence in 2014 (Edith Cowan University [ECU], 2012). In response to the contemporary clinical environment, the tertiary hospital will pilot the first cohort of students within the Universities WIL model.

Literature Sources

The Cumulative Index to Nurse & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) was reviewed to discover five articles applying the following search strategy: peer reviewed journals, no greater than six years old, specific to the work-based or work integrated learning in higher education.

The ‘WIL report: A national scoping study’ created a national Australian dialogue regarding the implications of WIL on practice and policy development (Patrick et al., 2009). Within this report the following themes were identified: Ensuring equity and access; managing expectations and competing demands; improving communication and coordination; ensuring worthwhile WIL experiences and adequately resourcing WIL (Patrick et al., 2009). These themes will be used to contextualise the literature reviewed for the purpose of this presentation

Ensuring equity & access

In the national scoping report Patrick et al (2009) identify the importance of providing a WIL program that is responsive to the social and economic status of the students participating. The report identifies the need for students to be positioned to embrace WIL activities and raises concerns related to the potential for inequality related to differing student experiences (Patrick et al., 2009).

How did the theme present in the literature?

This theme was evident within the literature related to the presumption that learners in the higher education sector will automatically be adult learners (Rohdes & Shiel, 2007). An issue which affects the equity and access to potential students within the program as the assessment structure and content requires a high level of autonomous learning (ECU, 2012).


Students enrolling in postgraduate higher education have varying degrees of academic experience and may not have the existing knowledge and skills to function as autonomous adult learners (Rhodes & Shiel, 2007). Providing the students with appropriate scaffolding techniques is an essential component of WIL curriculum development to ensure equity and access.

Managing expectations & competing demands

In the national scoping report Patrick et al (2009) identify the friction that can be caused by competing demands and objectives on WIL between the student, industry and academia.

How did the theme present in the literature?

This theme was evident in the literature related to the importance of feedback to manage the expectation gap created through the misconceptions students have about meeting their own and industry demands (Eraut, 2011).


Appropriate, timely feedback is an essential component of WIL curriculum development to ensure student expectations are matched with industry and University requirements. A lack of appropriate feedback may lead to motivational crisis and student attrition (Eraut, 2011).

Improving communication & coordination

In the national scoping report Patrick et al (2009) identify the need for efficient communication to ensure an optimal relationship between the University and industry. This is essential in the contemporary environment where the university sector needs to be responsive and therefore engaged in the needs of the employment setting to produce graduates who are industry ready (Patrick et al., 2009).

How did the theme present in the literature?

This theme emerged within the literature related to the need for engaged communication between industry and academia to address the needs of both sectors (Lee et al., 2010).


Engaged communication between all members involved within the WIL model is important (Lee et al, 2010). For the University to bridge the theory/practice divide, open communication with industry representatives is essential. Formal structures and agreements are required to improve communication and coordination (Lee et al., 2010).

Ensuring Worthwhile WIL Experiences

In the national scoping report Patrick et al (2009) identify the importance of creating a shared understanding of the requirements of the WIL experience. This shared understanding of the purpose of the experience must occur between the student, industry and University (Patrick et al., 2009).

How did the theme present in the literature?

This theme emerged from the literature as the need to ensure assessment rigour to maintain academic standards to ensure a worthwhile WIL experience (Brown, 2010).


Processes need to be implemented to ensure all students have a worthwhile WIL experience. This includes consideration to the student driven project approach of assessment and how assessment rigour will be maintained (Brown, 2010).

Adequately Resourcing WIL

In the national scoping report Patrick et al (2009) identify a growing trend towards work-integrated models in higher education and identify the resourcing issues as a result of this trend.

How did the theme present in the literature?

This theme was evident in the literature by the identified need for human resources to ensure supportive supervision to the student is maintained to ensure optimal WIL outcomes for student, industry and University (Stupans & Owen, 2010).


Special consideration to the intense resource requirements of a WIL approach needs to be considered in curriculum design and development. As the student is effectively designing and developing their own projects, the resources required to sustain this level of autonomy can be extensive (Andre et al., 2013).


The mentor has such a pivotal role in the success of this program with what could be viewed as very little reward. Without the supportive supervision of a clinical mentor the program may not meet industry needs and would therefore fail to be an innovative WIL program, but a more traditional university led model failing to address the theory-practice divide. While the needs of the Mentor have been considered in the policy and practice framework of this program, constant evaluation and review of these structures and practices throughout the students WIL experience are essential.

Application of a WIL model in postgraduate nursing education provides an opportunity to build upon the existing knowledge economy whilst acknowledging the contemporary clinical environmental issues (Patrick et al., 2009). The relationship between student, industry and University is the fundamental structure of the WIL framework and requires careful preparation in terms of policy and practice development (Patrick et al., 2009).

Cavelle's research The Examination of the Purpose of a Lifelong Learner

In many of the readings from the unit and though other research, it initially appeared there was much in the literature to support the development of a "knowledge society", whereby the aim was to equip adults with skills that would support them in their long-term employment, rather than exploring their work through interests, passions and choices. The OECD, in particular, asserted that for the economy to grow, indeed even survive, adults needed to produce certain skills in order for countries to participate in a global market. This led me to question, is this all we can look forward to as an adult and lifelong learner? It appeared to me, that only addressing the aspect of developing a "knowledge society," there would be gaps in life satisfaction and ultimate fulfillment. As human beings we often question our purpose in the world and I wanted to explore this further in light of being a lifelong learner.

Since the lifelong movement of the 1960s and 70s emerged, there have been significant 'revolutions' (Cornford, 2009) in learning; that of technology, the growth of economy and the social nature of learning experiences. In particular, the explosion of technology has changed the world forever. We now move at a fast pace, where information is literally at our fingertips, meaning we can access so much more than in years past. This has really changed the "knowledge society" in that countries are exposed to so much more from around the world; the development of markets and economies and how they grow or fail is more readily seen then ever before.

Research looked at OECD countries and how they align in the development of lifelong policies and outcomes for the "knowledge society". I found this to be interesting, as Australia is one of the OECD countries who does not have a lifelong learning policy and doesn't appear to be developing one now or in the near future, leaving me to question, as a country, how will we remain competitive in the years to come in the rapidly-changing, fast-paced world? The research also explored the notion of governments setting an agenda to develop the skills and knowledge they deemed to be important to develop the "knoweldge society" further. This agenda had overtones of prescribing what adults would need to learn, without taking into account social interactions or well-being or looking at each adult individually.

Believing there is more to lifelong learning than just gathering a skill set for employment, I explored the research of authors such as Kwok-Wah, 2011, Su, 2011, Su & Feng, 2008, Williams, 2012, and Bagnall, 2010, who examined the many elements that 'make up' a lifelong learner and in particular the notion of "whole-person development". The understanding that as humans we are social beings and that many of our learning comes from social interactions, researchers highlight the need for humans to have a balance of skills for employment and also personal development. By consistently exposing learners, from the time they are children all the way to adulthood, to qualities that equip them with a diverse range of skills, rather than a 'prescribed' set of skills, the likelihood of adults becoming more 'well-rounded' as a lifelong learner increases.

In searching for the true purpose of a lifelong learner, I found the answer to be multi-faceted and complex. First and foremost, there needs to be the acknowledgement that as lifelong learners we all contribute to the "knowledge society" in some way throughout our lifetime. At the same time, as adult learners there is the need to develop a higher purpose to drive active engagement in the world around us. Lifelong learning from the "cradle to the grave" (Department for Education and Skills, 2002, cited in Williams, 2010, p. 101) is about harnessing the whole person development and seeking out learning that complements the many unique facets of each person's personality. It is about finding the balance of these elements that is the critical ingredient to highlight the inexorable value of the lifelong learner in this diverse and ever-changing world.

Bree's contribution: Improving access from vocational education training to higher education for low socio-economic students.

The Australian government has defined who needs assistance towards equality of access in higher education (HE) throughout the years and coined the term “seamless pathways” (Pathways Project Report, 2009, p. 2) as the systems and processes identified as a measure to accommodate credit transfer at a national level and represent the ideal outcomes of access and equity (Walls and Pardy, 2010). However, “the recognition of formal learning previously undertaken, which is deemed equivalent through a set of administrative procedures” (Bateman & Knight, 2003, p.4) has been hampered for low socio-economic status (SES) groups because there is a lack of implementation towards initiatives to improve the processes and amount of credit to be granted from vocational education training (VET) and HE. Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System (2009) dictates “To enhance this interconnection we need an education system that is less fragmented and easier for students to navigate. It should be straight forward for students to enter post-school education and move between vocational and higher education as appropriate to enhance their skills and qualifications” (p. 43). Although government policy and directions have identified intentions of seamless pathways for the transition from VET to HE, there is inefficiency to the implementation of recommendations provided by the many reviews. “Roles and responsibilities for credit transfer in the sector are ambiguous and involve differing industrial relations approaches. To date credit transfer has involved skills, as well as commitment and good will, from academics, teachers, department heads, customer relationship managers and administrators” (Walls and Pardy, 2010, p.15). The Australian government needs to improve access from Vocational Education Training to Higher Education through credit transfer for students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. The purpose of this report is to shed light on the background of low SES groups and the barriers of government policies, funding, insufficient national data and strategies to accessing credit transfer from VET to HE. Improving pathways for low SES groups is believed to act as an equity mechanism and readdress the disadvantage for these groups, however the Australian government needs to improve these pathways (Wheelahan, 2009).

Low socioeconomic groups are more likely to continue to have lower perceptions of attaining a higher education if the Australian government does not develop pathways that support disadvantaged groups. The government needs to consider implementing strategies that review the different needs of this disadvantaged group and appreciate the barriers that disenable them from accessing educational opportunities (Wheelahan, 2009). Research indicates vocational education training pathways are successful in facilitating access into Higher Education for low socio-economic status students. However, “Students moving between educational sectors do not perceive their pathway journey as seamless” (Catterall & Davis, 2012, p.4). The Bradley Review (2008) illustrates credit transfer from vocational education training to higher education is still requiring persistence to improve effectiveness in operating effectively. The government has control and influence towards improving access and readdressing disadvantage for low SES although the pathway is described by Harris et al. (2006) as “observed, overlaid with a number of policy and institutional barriers and rarely perceived as straightforward” (Bandias et al., 2011, p. 584). Significant changes in funding, policies, data collection and implementation of recommendations and strategies for the government will result in improved connections and social needs of low socio-economic status students being addressed. A nationwide collaboration between vocational education training and higher education is paramount in achieving a seamless pathway. However, the discordance between the government’s policy and action means that currently there is an entrenchment of separation for low socio-economic students navigating and accessing higher education through vocational education training.

Helen's contribution: Equity in obtaining a higher education.


The social concept to acquire education at any level independent of his or her background is the topic of discussion and this is portrayed as equity in obtaining a higher education. There has been research to link socio-economic status of parents and the generational inheritance of this situation. Gofen (2007). The paper reviews Government policy and rationale for the need of more educated and qualified people to meet the demands of the global economy. The requirement of the rapid change in future requires the availability of a highly skilled and qualified population. The government’s development of policy to address these needs and the Bradley Review 2008 examined methods and listed recommendations by the Professor Denise Bradley. There has been evidence that higher education is a part of the social status of a population. With the promotion of government policies to improve the social divide by recognising marginalised and under-represented groups. The cost sharing payment schemes in the form of Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) in 1989, allowing the shift of the cost burden from the Government and the taxpayers. What factors affect sectors of the population seeking higher education and advantages gained? Johnstone (2011) has informed us that a greater demand for higher education will benefit the social, cultural and economical wellbeing of countries.


The research looked at the Government policies and the Bradley Review. The recommendations put forward and the rationale for their need.

The Commonwealth Government in 2008 commissioned Professor Denise Bradley to review Australia’s global position with higher education. The recommendation of this report as follows. That 40% of students aged 25-34 years to be able to attain a bachelor qualification by the year 2020. In the Executive Summary there were many recommendations listed and some are:

-Need to increase OECD status.

-Produce graduates with knowledge and skills to benefit society and economy.

-Provide opportunities regardless of people’s background and meeting their full potential.

The report recommended an increase in participation of unrepresented groups which includes those disadvantaged by birth, indigenous, low SES and demographics of regional/remote areas access.

The development of the HECS in 1989 made available higher education to the sector unable to meet the cost of tuition fees as an up-front payment. Chapman & Ryan (2005) this repayment scheme allowing repayment after graduation and income threshold meet.

Also categorising people into sectors of lower, middle or high socio-economic status. This identity process as stated by Phillimore (2010) through postcode methods. Also surveys obtaining information about students and their parent’s occupation, income, home and their belongings. The locations of regional, rural and/or remote described this sector of society as under-represented.

The paper then delved into the home situation. The strengths of the community were evident and the dislocation of this due to travelling and living in metropolitan areas to obtain a higher education. This has been looked as a part of making the decision, the emotional, social and financial stress obtaining education. The students not only leaving their home, but also their family, also included was community, friends, church and sporting teams.

-Birrell et al. (2009) continues that possession of a degree becomes a minimum entry qualification for management and most professions.

-The Review (2008) states, the increase aimed by the Australia Government for 25-34 years old with qualification of bachelor degree from 29% in 2006 to 40% in 2020.

-James (2004) researched parental influence and their educational level. Parents the main enablers to encourage their children to attain and participate in a higher education.

The paper described some credentials of being able to apply for higher education. Enrolments into higher education either through the success of an ATAR score or the bridging of vocational certification into a bachelor degree curriculum. Birch & Millar (2005)

The aspirations and the dynamics of attending higher education from students from remote, regional and rural was discussed by James (2004) as his paper indicated the barriers relating to enrolment into higher education:

-aspirations of the students to participate

-influenced by year level of school, SES status, gender and geographical locations.

-previous educational attainment,

-not knowing what the long term benefits are of obtaining a higher education.

-need financial assistance, academic and personal support once enrolled

Due to the geographical exclusion of being either, remote, rural or regional causing restricted access to higher education. James (2004) continues to talk about the financial barriers preventing access to tertiary education, this budgeting of funds for higher education not a priority in non-metropolitan location. The emotional burden living away from home without everyday parental emotional, physical support magnifies financial burdens

There are some more factors affecting participation in higher education, as the following will detail:

-The limitation and accessibility to tertiary educational institutions.

-The choice of courses and the information of financial assistance required.

-The separation from family and community, financial support, transport, distance to university, lack of close family support, move to a large city centre, moving away from family and friends.

-The financial requirement for board and lodging, and where will this money come from, the informed knowledge of HECS. The financial and emotional support a long term requirement due to length of course, limitations of curriculum choice at local university.

-The effects on the student and their family about the relocation from community and social network

Teese (2007) wrote about the community service, social and cultural diversity for the successful characteristics for the student cohort. Wilks and Wilson (2012) suggest that the lower participation rate in the low SES due to the education of family. The family’s influence plays a role on individual choice of life and education also cited in James (2004).

Gofen (2007) suggested equal opportunity regardless of backgrounds. Research has given evidence that large extent of children inherit their parent’s SES. The ability to break this cycle can be created by educational and social mobility.

Choy (2001) suggests that this breaking the cycle introduces a need to break the low education levels of low SES families. This can be encouraged by the following: supplemental institution programs; mentoring programs and culturally conscious progress.


The research has included many aspect of the class distinction within society. The identity of student’s through their residential postcode, where their father works and process of enrolment varied according to course selection. This enrolment process maybe straight forward as a student’s ATAR score or compliment a certificate three obtainment in the vocational educational system. The identity of the class system through means testing income and also ownerships of home and contents. This displayed the disparity between lower, middle and upper socio-economic groups. This being due to many aspects including financial, emotional and availability of resources close to community. The labelling of rural and regional people as lower socio-economic did not prove to be reliable. The broadness of this research did not routinely address an individual obtaining merit and wishing to enrol in a higher education course. The importance of an education enforced in the early formative years of school. This promotion both required within family, community and the workforce. With the research of this topic of the equity of obtaining higher education in Australia there were many societal aspects commented on. It has been explained that the achievement and attainment of obtaining a higher education is biased by socio-economic class. This may be displaced by family home location, income, the home dwelling and profession of the father. The availability of sound advice and counsellor type information whilst undertaking compulsory secondary schooling pivotal for the student and their parents to obtain information about the means of obtaining a higher education with all the dynamics that involves. There is an indication that a student who is a part of the lower socio-economic status deserves the same opportunity as their peers from the middle and upper class sectors. The research showed a form of society identity with the white collar, the higher income earnings and the disparity between people. The true identity of who is able to succeed at higher education could be more individualised. Every child is allowed to dream and have the support of society through family and government policy, advertisement and encouragement to meet this wish. This may be a true measure of economic/capital resources. The introduction of the HECS in 1989 allowed students to attend higher education and pay the tuition fees once meeting threshold earnings in their post graduation. The encouragement, motivation, attainment and participation of students within the higher education system require a positive social and community outlook. ‘As a society we are all poorer when we only educate those who are born with money,’ as stated by Schmidt, Leland, Cogan and McKnight (2010). The equality in education has also being discussed by Lynch and Baker (2005). There are steps being made to make it fairer by giving people the equal opportunity of information to seek and have an idea of outcome from higher education. The strength of an economy is assessed by employability which is from skills and qualifications obtained through the higher education system. The reality of obtaining an education can improve an individual’s socio-economic. Gofen (2007) continues to state that students succeed despite their family socio-economic background. This research suggests that although they face many material challenges, their families are often a key resource, rather than a constraint.


Birch, E. R., & Miller, P. W. (2005). The determinants of students' tertiary academic success. The University of Western Australia Department of Economics Discussion / Working Papers, 5(24).

Birrell, B., & Edwards, D. (2009). The Bradley Review and access to high education in Australia. Australian Universities Review, 51(1), 4-13.

Bradley, D., Noonan, P., Nungent, H. & Scales, B. (2008). Review of Australia Higher Education. Http:// nhighereducationreport.aspx.

Chapman, B., & Ryan, C. (2005). The access of income-contingent charges for higher education: lessons from Australia. Economics of Education Review 24. 49a-512

Choy, S. 2001. “Students who are Parents Did Not Go to College: Postsecondary Access, Persistence, and Attainment, Findings from the Condition of Education.” National Centre for Education Statistics, Washington, DC/Berkeley, CA: MPR Associates.

Gofen, A. (2007). Family Capital- How First Generational Higher Education Students Breaks The Intergenerational Cycle.;ication/dps/dp.132207.pdf.

James, R., Baldwin, G., Coates, H., Krause, K. & McInnis, E. D. (2004). Analysis of Equity Groups in Higher Education 1991-2002. Canberra: Department of Education,Science, and Training.

Johnstone, D. B. (2004). The economics and politics of cost sharing in higher education: comparative perspectives. Economics of Education Review 23. 403-410.

Lynch, K. & Baker, J. (2005). An equality of Condition Perspective. Theory and Research in
Education. 3 (2).131-164. Equality Studies Centre, University College Dublin.‎

Palmer, N., Bexley, E., & James, R. (2011). Selection and Participation in Higher Education: University selection in support of student success and diversity of participation.

Phillimore, J. & Koshy, P. (2010). Implications of the Proposed Low SES Participation Target for Australian University Enrolments. Perth, Western Australia: The John Curtin Institute of Public Policy Curtin University of Technology for Australian Technology Network of Universities.

Schmidt, W. H., Cogan, L. S. And C. C. McKnight. ( 2010-2011). Equality of Educational Opportunity. Myth or Reality in US schooling. American Educator.

Teese, R. (2007). Structural inequality in Australian education: Vertical and lateral stratification of opportunity. In Teese, R., Lamb, S. & Duru-Bellat, M. (eds.)International Studies in Educational Inequality: Theory and Policy. Netherlands:Springer.

Transforming Australia’s Higher Education system-Department of Education.

My contribution: Title: The Provision of Free and Open Source Tertiary Education Content

0. Thesis and Motivation

The concern of this paper was to explore the potential of providing free online tertiary education content, particularly in references to economic benefits, institutional limitations, and in comparisons to international examples. It has particular importance in tertiary education policy, especially in regarding to total economic wealth, funding, and adult education theory. The following (except for items 0 and 7) is a summary of the content of section headings of the research paper, highlighting the most important points.

1. The Internet and Knowledge Access

The research began with a review of the technical capacity and trends based on network speed with comparison of user experience over the past decades. A combination of factors, including the standarisation of network protocols (TCP/IP) into a global network, the development of the HTTP protocol and GUI additions to operating systems for easier user access, and the increasing downstream network capacity (from 64 kbit/s (dial-up) in the late 1990s, 20 Mbit/s (xDSL) and up to 100 Mbit/s (cable) in the 2000s and with FTTx technologies (up to 1Gbit/s) were seen as the technical improvements and limits of a production possibility frontier.

2. The Economics of Education and Knowledge Provision

Recognising that education is typically represented as a "human capital" investment, the paper distinguished between social and individual benefits from education and knowledge providion using the model of externalities. It is recognised that a free market in education does not account for the total benefits (or costs, for that matter) and as a result the quantity provided is less than optimal. The usual method of dealing with externalities is the provisions of taxes (negative externality) or subsidies (positive externality) as appropriate.

With regards to this model and the approaches it was noted that the EU spends an avereage of 5% of GDP in direct costs on education, that approximately 65% of salary returns from educational benefits, and that there is an extremely high correlation between GDP per capita and average years of schooling. With such metrics the importance of education provision is illustrated; with the addition of the technologically-mediated potential reduction in transaction costs and provision becomes evident. Such a provision also contributes significantly to resource allocation questions, allowing for improvements in labour-centered activities such as the design of structured content, provision of scaffolding, guidance, and supervision.

3. Social Barriers and Failures

The technical potential of the provision of content faces institutional and systematic limits, firstly through exclusive copyright mechanisms and secondly by lack of social funding. With regards to the first, a double-cost is involved, firstly from the cost of law enforcement and secondly because the cost of preventing the distribution of the material. Nevertheless the historically positive justifications for copyright are recognised, providing authors and inventors a temporary monopoly for original work, especially given that information goods have may have a high cost of initial production, they also have a comparatively low cost of reproduction. However the establishment of such a monoplistic barrier of entry has encouraged the extension of these exclusions from an initial 14 years to a contemporary lifetime of the author plus 70 years. This level now represents an impedement to research, rather than an protection.

In the field of academic publishing this use of copyright barriers is particularly prevalent in journals, where there is an oligopolistic market structure with three for-profit companies accounting for over forty percent of published academic literature with very high margins. At the same time, funding cutbacks have led to U.S. libraries to now spend 72% of their purchasing budget on journals rather than books, a result of long-term contractual obligations. As a reponse, a number of academics have started promoting open-access peer-review journals in a variety of more permissive licenses. Such journals are now more likely to be cited, have high public review standards and rapid response times. These open-access journals are acting like the academic equivalent of the free software movement.

4. Contemporary Examples of Free Content Provision

A number of examples of free content provision of tertiary education material were provided with with increasing levels of structured content i.e,. (i) a repository of information in an semi-structured manner (e.g., Rice University's Connexions), or (ii) structured course content (e.g., the Netherlands Free Knowledge Institute (FKI), MIT's OpenCourseWare), or (iii) actual provision of a course with content (MIT and Harvard's edX Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) projects). Of particular note is how free content provision historically developed in terms of increasing degrees of structured content.

5. Educational Theories with Free Content Provision

An important factor in free content provision is the recognistion of how much learning - especially adult learning - occurs oustide formal educational processes. Open content provision offers the possibility of providing quality material and minimal cost but with from accessible and user-driven choices. However provision itself will be, in many cases, insufficient. Constructivist approaches to knowledge are necessary to maximise learning across all levels with understanding achieved when knowledge exists in an embedded organised structure with other knowledge. With automated self-testing the learner can evaluate their capacity of autonomy and their self-efficiacy, but expert feedback is needed for accuracy. Learning is recognised as a social process, where understanding is acquired through a gradual process of scaffolding and modelling, and evidence exists that online students do not fare as well as face-to-face students. Content provision is simply the information side of ICT; as communications technology from the simplicity of mailing lists to web forums to wiki spaces, collaborative learning between learners necessitates only occasional inputs from course co-ordinators.

6. A Local Implementation and Future Trajectory

A review of the literature suggests that some form of online content provision be made available, with strong economic and moral arguments. It seems most beneficial if that maximum content provision be offered through a single national portal, of which China's Open Resources for Education is an illustrative example, for cost-efficiency, for quality control, and to improve student decision making. Whilst some content remains problematic to provide in an online format advanced video conferencing software (e.g., Access Grid) and sufficient bandwidth real-time tutorials for geographically dispersed individuals can be conducted effectively. With regard to research journals, it is difficult to justify why the research outcomes of public funded institutions should not be easily available to the public.

The provision of free and open-source tertiary education content can provide the opportunity for university academic staff to provide the sort of content that is less subject to mechanised manner (the generation and understanding of new research, scaffolding, guidance and supervision, and advanced accreditation, etc). This can provide a qualitative improvement in education provision and a quantitative improvement in qualification levels. This also howeevr requires a societal commitment to the concept that university-level content should be provided at the lowest possible cost and widest possible availability, not just because of the substantial benefits it brings but also because it is the right action to take.

7. Post-script to the Research

Whilst long-term familiarity with network bandwidth performance, and future elaborations, were not a particular surprise, the degree of correlation between average education and years of schooling was unexpected, as was the degree with which university libraries are effectively caught between shrinking budgets and contractual obligations with the journal publishing oligopoly.

The paper was shared and discussed with a number of researchers, both those in formal education systems and those who are not. The latter group was particularly enthusiastic with open-access journals, often expressing how their own research is hampered by exhorbitant journal article prices demanded prior to review.

Initially the research project was considered to concentrate on technical potential, positive externalities, and systematic barriers to distribution. As further investigations were conducted, differences in effectiveness became significantly more pronounced with considerations of resource allocation among educators, and the structured implementation of free tertiary education content to improve results. Further elaborations of the paper are currently being considered, including publication in the Australian Universities Review.

Erin's contribution

My research topic looked at whether replacing TAFE's competency-based grading with a stricter marking system will motivate students to aim higher than just a 'pass'. Originally studying at TAFE myself, I found the current competency based grading system very frustrating. I wanted to take this opportunity to research the topic in-depth, analyzing the research and looking at the statistics of the university system against the TAFE marking criteria to see which one is more beneficial to student’s development.

University degrees provide specific professional outcomes while TAFE courses are more focused on practical learning for the workplace. University courses spend more time on theory based learning, so that students have a framework for analysing and solving problems in their field of study. University study is self-directed; therefore the student is responsible for the amount of effort and time that goes in to their work. As a result the grades they achieve are generally a reflection of the effort they put in, separating and rewarding the exceptional students from the average. On the other hand TAFE learning is based on supporting students to gain specific skills; skills learnt are directly relevant to performing tasks in the workforce and are aimed at improving employability, and the ability to adapt to changing work. This form of study takes a more hands-on approach.

Grades are used extensively through university education to provide incentive for learning. Students are graded anywhere between a fail to high distinction depending on the percentage achieved. At TAFE, you are assessed based on your competency. Student’s competency is based on whether or not they can perform specific tasks and duties to the standard expected in employment. They use a pass/fail grading system, which does not give students a percentage or grade; the student is either competent or incompetent. This is un-motivating for students because no matter whether the student is the highest achiever in the class or are on the boarder of failing they are graded equally. Students become very dissatisfied when a lot of effort and energy is put in to an assignment and a lecturer ignores their effort. “One of the most common complaints students make is about unmarked assignments” Brown, S. and Knight, P. (1994). Clear curricular, assignment guidelines and specific outcomes should be clear and concise for the student. Without a grading system there is no benefit for the student to put in extra hours of study because in the end they are given no extra credit or reward for their efforts.

From my research I found that having a strict marking guide has a number of positive uses, including:

Being a measure used to select students for prizes and scholarships;
Providing the basis for eligibility for awarding degrees with honours;
Setting minimum entry levels for students articulating from TAFE to higher education programs;
As a selection criterion or ranking tool;
Gives the student intense feedback on their work, that provides motivation to achieve better marks in the future;
Allows the student to see how they are tracking compared to their peers;
Gives teachers an indication of whether or not their teaching methods are successful;
Allows the institution to review their grades through all subjects and make sure they are keeping up with national and international standards; &
A student’s grade provides an overall view of student performance in a program and is a leading indicator of student achievement. A GPA is an internationally recognised measure of a student’s performance.

My research also suggests that university students take a deep approach to learning. Deep learning promotes understanding and application for life, which is a key importance to young adults. These skills help to prepare the student for work after graduation. Such students:

Actively seek to understand the material / the subject;
Interact vigorously with the content;
Make use of evidence, inquiry and evaluation;
Take a broad view and relate ideas to one another;
Are motivated by interest;
Relate new ideas to previous knowledge;
Relate concepts to everyday experience; &
Tend to read and study beyond the course requirements.

In contrast, TAFE students adopt a surface approach, which means they only intend to meet course requirements at a minimum level and with minimum effort. Students who take a surface approach:

Try to learn in order to repeat what they have learned;
Memorise information needed for assessments;
Make use of rote learning;
Take a narrow view and concentrate on detail;
Fail to distinguish principles from examples; &
Tend to stick closely to the course requirements.

Other issues I came across include:

Transition problems between educational institutions

Many students choose to start their studies at TAFE then apply for university entrance towards the end of their Diploma/Advanced Diploma studies. Students are credited for their previous work, which in turn shortens their university studies significantly and saves the student in expensive university fees. Finishing their studies with a degree increases the student’s prospects of employment.

A report by Richard Fuller and Denise Chalmers titled Approaches to learning of TAFE and University student’s reports that “students admitted to university on the basis of TAFE studies were more demanding of their time than traditional entry students, and sought more individual help.” Their report suggests that students also seemed to be less willing to engage in higher level cognitive processes such as critical thinking analysis and problem solving were more inclined to direct their learning intentions towards acquiring knowledge rather than engaging in higher level thinking processes.

Low student motivation

Grades reflect motivational qualities, such as self-discipline and competitiveness, in addition to academic achievement. Assessment tasks should mirror and reward the objectives, not merely reward recall. Grades speak to the world, not just classmates, parents or a campus, performance shows and counts, and must be competitive on the merits.

Talent is essential, but energy, hunger and tenacity are also of paramount importance. Few topics in psychology have received as much empirical attention as motivation. “In order to remain interested in learning, students must feel challenged and must receive feedback on their progress” J. Lowman (1990). “There are three general indices of motivation: choice, effort, and persistence.” Gross Davis, B (1993). While it may be ideal to have a room full of intrinsically motivated students, it has been proven that students are driven by the desire for high grades, approval and other rewards. Student motivation is driven by fear of failure, based on the belief that grades amount to a judgment of their personal ability or intelligence rather than their performance on a specific learning task. This is part of what drives intense student interest in achieving high grades, in addition to beliefs about how their grades may influence future job prospects.

Having a grading system rather than simply giving students a pass or fail will give them a thorough analysis of their work allowing them a better chance for improvement and success, therefore creating student motivation. Assessment is typically a formal process, it is however important for students to discuss their assignments, reports, or examination answers with academic staff. This lets the student know that their teacher has an interest in their learning which in turn will motivate the student push for a higher grade with the next assessment.


Often a great business decision is choosing to hire a recent university or TAFE graduate. The positive factors are endless; from lower salary costs to having a young, eager employee that doesn’t bring bad habits from other businesses in to the office.

When a graduate compiles their resume they do not have experience to fall back on to. Therefore, employees often ask to see their university or TAFE transcripts. One reason for this is due to the relatively large number of applications that apply for any given job. Human Resources will use these grades to filter out as many candidates as possible. The recent graduate may coast through a technical interview and aptitude test but grades are known to count to employers.

If a students transcript does not indicate any grade percentages the employer cannot see their strengths, weaknesses and how they rank compared to other graduates. This could therefore be a disadvantage for the student when applying for a position, as the employer has no indication of the talent the recent graduate has.

In Summary

The evidence from my studies suggests that stricter grading standards will lead to better student performance. Having a strict grading system in place will appeal to the student’s sense of fairness and therefore create student motivation. Perhaps it is time for a significant reassessment of the current pass/fail grading system.

Although changing grading systems is a challenging task, the benefits will be so beneficial that it is worth doing. We need to think carefully about the assessment and assessment processes, as it is this part of the curriculum that affects the students' approaches to learning most. We need to construct assessment that gives students opportunity to receive feedback, but also must make the assessment relevant to the real world and prospective employers. We want to facilitate students to become self-directed learners. This will help them to achieve their career and personal goals.


Brown, S. and Knight, P. (1994) Assessing learners in Higher Education. (pp. 30-41) London: Kogan

Fuller, R. Charlmers, C. (1999) Advancing International Perspectives: Approaches to Learning of TAFE and University Students. (pp 292-300) Edith Cowan University & The University of Queensland

Gross Davis, B. (1993) Tools for Teaching. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass

Lowman J. Promoting Motivation and Learning (1990). Vol 38, Issue 4 (pp.136-139) Taylor & Francis LTD.

My response
Did you look at the narrower comptency criteria used in TAFE courses? For example, what would constitute a single university course would constitute a dozen or so assessed TAFE comptencies. Is there not an argument that a test of many ungraded competencies is, in practical tasks, a better form of evaluation rather than a more general graded mark?

Also, given that TAFEs are state-based, is there evidence of motivational differences in those states that offer graded marks in TAFE (e.g., Victoria)?

Finally, what about courses which can only be offered on a pass/fail basis? e.g., to quote from the Murdoch policy on assessment: "UPs are most likely to be awarded in the following types of units: research studies units, units where students spend a semester in another country, study abroad units, work placement units, the units of other universities and equity units."

Natalie's paper

Research Proposal: Does online health education programs provide a superior choice compared with face-to-face health education programs for the general public?

The purpose of my paper was to review the research on health intervention strategies and health behaviour models to determine if, online health education programs provide a superior choice compared with face-to-face health education programs for the general public?


Health costs and demands on resources are spiralling. Health prevention and self-management strategies have become a recognised platform in health management. Web-based intervention strategies are proposed as a cost-effective, time efficient means to supply health intervention programs to the masses.

Review of the Evidence

A review of the available research was undertaken to determine if the evidence supported the use of online health education as a viable and superior choice, compared to face-to-face programs. In total, 191 peer reviewed, published articles, spanning the last 25 years with over 85 000 participants were incorporated into the review.

Only one pilot study (Rosal et al. 2012), was identified as a stand-alone, randomised controlled trial, comparing online intervention with a face-to-face intervention and a no-intervention control group. The face-to-face and online programs provided the same program, time frame, population group, and environment to target the same health outcomes, assessed in the same way. The results are yet to be published. The creator was contacted and the results are currently being analysed and written up into a manuscript to be published shortly.

Many of the conclusions behind the effectiveness of web-based interventions were misleading. Citing web-based intervention as more effective than non-Web based interventions, a significant proportion were a no-intervention control group. Portnoy et al (2004, p.12), cites research that shows any intervention provides superior results to a no-intervention control. Even providing participants with irrelevant material provided a small but superior results to a no-intervention control.

Another misleading aspect - a large proportion of the Web-based programs contained a human element. Or were provided additional materials, or skill building activities when compared to a face-to-face delivered intervention. The overlap of methodology undermined the results for the purpose of this investigation.

Summary of Key Points

Due to the lack of quality direct comparison data, a review was undertaken to determine those elements of both programs shown to be most influential in providing positive behavioural health outcomes in the short and long term. This was extrapolated to determine if online health education was a superior option.

Upon analysis, face-to-face to programs yield the greatest benefit in health behavioural outcomes, particularly in the intermediate to long-term.
Those elements demonstrated as advantageous towards face-to-face health intervention programs: increased personalised interaction, tailored feedback, tailored interventions, social contact, interactive discussions, cognitive support, development of self-efficacy, motivation and higher thinking processes are all `virtually’ accessible in the new wave of computer sophistication, and sociocultural landscape.
Although online health interventions experience a higher attrition rate, especially open-access online health programs, any intervention is superior to no intervention. Online programs provide a cost-effective means to target the masses who may otherwise not be exposed to a health intervention program (Christensen, 2007, p. 113, Poirer & Cobb, 2012, p.37
Other favourable features for online CDIs include: anonymity, increased access, cost-effectiveness, objective mode of delivery, flexibility, continuity of intervention, opportunities for sophisticated tailoring of intervention, information retrieval and dissemination.
The context of the health condition and target group had a bearing on the outcome. Well-educated, younger participants, on a higher income are more likely to utilise Web-based health programs (Portnoy et al. 2008, p7; Chou 2003, p.107).
Blended human and online intervention delivery increased the effectiveness of Web-based programs.
Those engaged in web-based interventions rather than face-to-face were less likely to engage in help seeking strategies, and utilise personal networks as a resource. Exposing a risk for online health interventions (Chou, 2003, p.106).
Personalised feedback and customised health programs increased engagement and duration with online derived interventions (Lustria et al., 2009, p.171).
Components that enhanced the development of, social online networks enhanced the effectiveness of programs and increased participant satisfaction (Poirer, 2012, p.36).


In the current paradigm, the evidence stacks up towards face-to-face health interventions as a more effective mode of delivery, for longer term, positive health behaviour outcomes. However, demands on resources, increased internet access, growing sophistication of personalised tailoring online intervention strategies, 3-D interactive virtual programs, social networking and the growth of online social interactions support the implementation of online health intervention as a superior option for the future. Particularly for intervention programs targeting younger participants.


Anasari. E. W, (2003), Educational Partnerships for Public Health: Do Stakeholders Perceive Similar Outcomes?, Journal Public Health Management Practice, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 136- 144

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2013, The Australian Government, viewed 14th October, 2013,

Carey, KB, Scott-Sheldon, LAJ, Elliott, JC, Garey, L & Carey, MP, 2012, `Face-to-face versus computer-delivered alcohol interventions for college drinkers: A meta-analytic review, 1998 to 2010’,Clinical Psychology Review vol. 32, pp. 690 – 703.

Celio, AA, Winzelberg, AJ, Eppstein-Herald, D, Wilfley, DE, Springer, EA, Dev, P & Taylor, CB, 2000, `Reducing Risk Factors for Eating Disorders: Comparison of an Internet and a Classroom-Delivered Psychoeducational Program’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, vol. 68, no. 4, pp. 650-657.

Chou, FY, 2003, Symptoms and self care strategies in HIV/AIDS: Application of a Web-based survey, San Francisco: University of California, San Francisco.

Christensen, H, 2007, `Computerised therapy for psychiatric disorders’, The Lancet, vol.370, pp. 112-113.

Dilles, A, Heymans, V, Martin, S, Droogne, W, Denhaerynck, K & De Geest, S, 2011,`Comparison of a Computer Assisted Learning Program to Standard Education Tools in Hospitalized Heart Failure Patients’, European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, vol. 10, pp. 187 – 193.

Glanz, K, Rimer, BK & Viswanth, K, 2008, Health Behaviour and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, 4th ED, Jossey-Bass Wiley Imprint, San Francisco

Hansen, MM, E2008, ` Versatile, Immersive, Creative and Dynamic Virtual 3-D Healthcare Learning Environments: A Review of the Literature’, Journal Medical Internet Research, vol.10, no.3, pp. 1-19, viewed 26 September 2013, Murdoch University library database.

Kerwin. ML, 2006, `Evaluation of a computer-based instructional package about eating disorders’, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 22, pp.1059-1066

Lustria, MLA, Cortese, J, Noar, SM & Glueckauf, RL, 2009,`Computer-tailored health interventions delivered over the web: Review and Analysis of key components’, Patient Education and Counselling, vol.74, pp.156-173.

Rosal, MC, Heyden, R, Mejilla, R, DePaoli,MR, Veerappa,C & Wiecha,JM, E2012, `Design and Methods for a Comparative Effectiveness Pilot Study: Virtual World vs. Face-Face Diabetes Self-Management’, Journal of Medical Internet Research, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 24 – 37.

Palmer G & Short S, 2010, Health Care and Public Policy: An Australian Analysis 4th ED, Palgrave Macmillan, South Yarra

Poirier, J & Cobb, NK, E 2012, `Social Influence as a Driver of Engagement in a Web-Based Health Intervention’, Journal Medical Internet Research, vol.14, no.1, pp. 36 -51, viewed 11October, 2013, Murdoch University library database.

Portnoy, DB, Scott-Sheldon, LAJ, Johnson, BT & Carey, MP, 2008,`Computer-delivered interventions for health promotion and behavioural risk reduction: A meta-analysis of 75 randomized controlled trials, 1988-2007, vol. 47, pp.3-16.

Uchino, BN, 2006, `Social Support and Health: A Review of Physiological Processes Potentially Underlying Links to Disease Outcomes’, Journal of Behavioural Medicine, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 377- 387.

Wantland, DJ, Portillo, CJ, Holzemer, WL, Slaughter, R & McGhee, EM, E 2004, `The Effectiveness of Web-Based vs. Non-Web-Based Interventions: A Meta-Analysis of Behavioral Change Outcomes’, Journal Medical Internet Research, vol.6, no.4, pp. 40 -68, viewed 11October, 2013, Murdoch University library database.

Sonia's paper

The effectiveness of mandatory continuing professional development for improving nurses' job performance, promoting retention and improving job satisfaction: key findings and conclusions

Introduction: Currently, Australia has a policy requiring that all registered nurses and registered midwives complete 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) education each year in order to maintain their registration, which must be renewed yearly (AHPRA, 2013). Nurses who are dual registered must complete 20 hours per registration (ie. a total of 40 hours for a midwife who is also a registered nurse) and nurse practitioners must complete an additional 10 hours of relevant, documented professional education (ANMC, 2009). This policy, introduced in 2010, seems to have little evidence to support it and rely on a number of assumptions, which I was interested to investigate.

Competence, knowledge and skills: An Australian study conducted on data collected prior to the policy change (Hegney, Tuckett, Parker, & Eley, 2010) found that nurses rank CPD as one of the top five strategies to improve nursing work, which aligns with the perceptions of nurses in countries such as Nigeria (Nsemo, John, Etifit, Mgbekem, & Oyira, 2013), Hong Kong (Lam, 2000), China (Xiao, 2010), Jordan (Jaradeh & Abu Hamdeh, 2010) and Ireland (Gallagher, 2006). Certainly the main point of CPD is to maintain and increase skills and competence (Gosling, 1999); however I was unable to identify a single randomised controlled trial or comparative study of any kind comparing mandatory continuing professional development/education to non-mandatory education for improving the competence, knowledge and skills (or indeed any outcome at all) of nursing staff.

There is a reasonably informative body of research on the effects of CPD programs on nursing practice outcomes and certainly some moderate to large effect sizes are found by meta-analysing the results of quantitative studies (Waddell, 1991), but this merely tells us that education improves practice and not anything about the effectiveness of mandatory CPD and nothing about the "dose-response effect", if you like, of a particular number of hours achieving a particular degree of practice improvement. The idea that education improves knowledge is not a particularly revelatory one; the topic of interest for this investigation was how much education and whether making it mandatory makes it better. Rather than a specific number of hours of CPD, effectiveness seems to be predicted by the characteristics of the healthcare environment, the nature of the change in behaviour required, and the characteristics of the educational activity (Waddell, 1991).

Retention: Retention is an important consideration when examining issues pertinent to nursing. Attrition rates in the nursing workforce are high, as is the cost of replacing staff (Frijters, Shields, & Price, 2007) so it makes sense for healthcare organisations to use strategies such as providing access to CPD opportunities to help improve the retention of staff wherever possible (Cooper, 2009; Drey, Gould, & Allan, 2009). Greater access to and financial support for CPD participation is seen as an indicator of a good quality employer that values and wishes to retain quality nursing staff (Covell, 2011). Access to CPD is sometimes seen as a 'reward' which can boost morale as well as promote retention (Gould, Drey, & Berridge, 2007). The recent Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) submission to Health Workforce Australia (Thomas & Chaperon, 2013) describes CPD specifically as a strategy in retaining staff and as necessary to remain up-to-date in an environment changing as rapidly as healthcare. The research, however, seems less enthusiastic.

Despite assertions that access and employer support for CPD is linked to retention, a study aiming to quantify this association was unable to find a statistically significant link (Covell, 2011). In a qualitative study of Australian rural midwives' perspectives on CPD, although financial and organisational support for CPD were important to participants, they were not explicitly linked to retention (Fahey & Monaghan, 2005). In the absence of high quality data showing a verifiable link between mandatory CPD and retention, it is hard to justify this as a reason for a policy of mandatory CPD.

Job satisfaction: Healthcare organisations derive benefits from providing conditions that increase job satisfaction to nurses, such as lower staff turnover and reduced absenteeism (Upenieks, 2002). Job satisfaction is important to nursing, not only for the personal state of mind of nurses, but because nurses with higher job satisfaction have been found to provide better, safer care (Perry, as cited in Cooper, 2009). Nurses in some studies report that CPD is being used as a mechanism to control and/ or reward staff, and that paid time to attend CPD is difficult or impossible to arrange, or only available to certain staff and not others (Drey et al., 2009; Gould et al., 2007). Nurses who cannot access paid work time to fulfill their mandatory requirements are forced to use accumulated holiday leave or take unpaid leave (Drey et al., 2009). For these nurses and others encountering situations such as these, CPD is not only unlikely to add to job satisfaction, it could possibly add to stress, resentment, and an attitude of only doing the bare minimum of required CPD. Overall, the important variable in the research linking CPD and job satisfaction appears to be the access to and quality of the CPD itself. Nurses who are given access to a range of relevant, appropriate CPD programs to meet their learning needs, which they can attend during paid work time, or during professional development leave time, will be more likely to report being satisfied with their job. The mandatory or non-mandatory nature of the CPD seems to have little influence on job satisfaction otherwise.

Barriers and issues: Access and participation barriers are evident from the research conducted on nurses in Australia (Hegney et al., 2010) and similar countries such as Canada (Penz, D Arcy, Stewart, Kosteniuk, Morgan, & Smith, 2007), despite the relative wealth of the healthcare systems and the resources available to staff within them. Hegney et al.'s (2010) prospective exploratory study investigated issues with access and barriers to participation for nurses in Queensland, prior to the introduction of the mandatory minimum CPD hours policy. Hegney et al. (2010) found that the majority of respondents did not have access to financial support from their employer for attending CPD, although nurses in the public sector were significantly more likely (P < 0.05) to have their CPD funded by their employer due to an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement entitlement (which, it is interesting to note, is currently being eroded in some parts of the sector). The main barriers identified by participants were time, financial constraints, lack of leave and lack of staff to fill their position while away (Hegney et al., 2010). Rural and remote nurses were significantly more likely to report being unable to afford the costs of attending CPD (P = 0.02) and to be unable to attend CPD due to geographic distance (Hegney et al., 2010). It is difficult to imagine that all these issues have all been resolved with the change of policy.

Conclusions: There appears to be no evidence to suggest that a minimum of 20 hours of CPD per year is more or less beneficial than a minimum of 5 or 12 or 15 hours, nor is there any evidence to show why 20 hours per year have been chosen as the minimum requirement for this policy. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council Continuing Competence Framework (ANMC, 2009), which sets out the CPD requirements for nurses and midwives, makes no mention of why 20 hours was selected as the minimum period of time needed for a nurse or midwife to maintain and/ or improve competence. Without research evidence that explicitly links mandatory CPD to improved educational outcomes for nurses and consequent improved health outcomes for patients, it is hard to justify this policy position. Similarly, without a verified association between the 'dose' (hours of CPD) and the 'response' (improved nursing practice) the current policy cannot be shown to be evidence-based and is likely then to be simply to be a political 'placebo'.

Aside from the issues of how much time nurses and midwives need to spend on CPD each year, there remains the question of whether simply mandating that registered nurses and midwives must undertake a certain amount of CPD each year is enough to ensure that beneficial CPD is actually undertaken. The research included in this paper would suggest it is not. Evidence from several sources indicates that employers, who after all are beneficiaries of a competent, well-educated workforce practicing safely, need to contribute, both financially and with the provision of leave and relief staff. Full-time and some permanent part-time nursing staff in Queensland public hospitals already have access to a professional development allowance of up to $1500/ year for staff in urban areas and up to $2500/ year for rural and remote staff (Q-Health, 2010) however this is the only Australian state where this is the case (Hegney et al., 2010). Future policy directions for governing education requirements for nurses and midwives across Australia should incorporate employer responsibilities as well as those of staff and consider measures to address the barriers to participation that many currently experience.


Cooper, E. (2009). Creating a culture of professional development: a milestone pathway tool for registered nurses. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 40(11), 501-508.

Covell, C. L. (2011). The Relationship of Nursing Intellectual Capital to the Quality of Patient Care and the Recruitment and Retention of Registered Nurses. University of Toronto.

Drey, N., Gould, D., & Allan, T. (2009). The relationship between continuing professional education and commitment to nursing. Nurse Education Today, 29(7), 740-745. doi:

Fahey, C., & Monaghan, J. (2005). Australian rural midwives: perspectives on continuing professional development. Rural Remote Health, 5(4), 468.

Frijters, P., Shields, M. A., & Price, S. W. (2007). Investigating the quitting decision of nurses: panel data evidence from the British National Health Service. Health Economics, 16(1), 57-73.

Gallagher, L. (2006). Continuing Education in Nursing: A Concept Analysis. Nurse Education Today, 27(5), 466-473. doi:

Gosling, S. (1999). CPD and Competence: Related but Different: An initial consideration of concepts. Physiotherapy, 85(10), 536-540.

Gould, D., Drey, N., & Berridge, E.-J. (2007). Nurses’ experiences of continuing professional development. Nurse Education Today, 27(6), 602-609. doi:

Hegney, D., Tuckett, A., Parker, D., & Eley, R. (2010). Access to and support for continuing professional education amongst Queensland nurses: 2004 and 2007. Nurse Education Today, 30(2), 142-149.

Jaradeh, M., & Abu Hamdeh, H. (2010). Nurses’ Experiences of Continuous Professional Development. Jordan Medical Journal, 44(3).

Lam, S.-s. (2000). Mandatory continuing nursing education. Nursing, 25(6), 1276-1282.

Nsemo, A. D., John, M. E., Etifit, R. E., Mgbekem, M. A., & Oyira, E. J. (2013). Clinical nurses' perception of continuing professional education as a tool for quality service delivery in public hospitals Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. Nurse Education in Practice, 13(4), 328-334. doi:

Thomas, L., & Chaperon, Y. (2013). Submission to the Health Workforce Australia consultation paper on Nursing Workforce Retention and Productivity. Canberra: Australian Nursing Federation.

Waddell, D. L. (1991). The effects of continuing education on nursing practice: a meta-analysis. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 22(3), 113.

Xiao, L. D. (2010). Continuing nursing education policy in China and its impact on health equity. Nursing Inquiry, 17(3), 208-220. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1800.2010.00495.x