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Credit Transfer Discussion Document Released

Greater cooperation and collaboration in the tertiary sector will be the result of moves to improve credit transfer arrangements between tertiary providers, says Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey.

A discussion paper on credit recognition and transfer, Supporting Learning Pathways, has been sent to secondary and tertiary education providers for comment this week. Improving credit transfer arrangements - the process by which different tertiary education providers recognise learning undertaken with other providers - was a Labour manifesto commitment.

Steve Maharey said clear and agreed credit recognition and transfer strategies are an essential component of the tertiary education reforms.

“Building genuine opportunities for New Zealanders to participate in learning across their lifetimes is essential today’s rapidly changing world. Regular retraining and refresher education is becoming the norm and it is essential that students get credit for the learning they have carried out in the past.

“All parties in the tertiary sector came together under the chairpersonship of Norman Kingsbury to produce Supporting Learning Pathways. Their proposed credit recognition and transfer regime grows out of the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications announced last year to bring order and clarity to the various qualifications offered in New Zealand.

“Supporting Learning Pathways focuses on the learner. It proposes principles, and strategies aimed at supporting the learner and their achievement pathways. It looks at quality assurance, information provision and technology.

“Once agreement has been reached, the credit recognition and credit transfer arrangements will be implemented by the relevant quality assurance bodies as part of their official approval, accreditation and quality assurance roles.

“I congratulate the Credit Transfer Working Party on the development of the strategies covered in the Supporting Learning Pathways document and encourage tertiary providers to read it and provide comment,” said Steve Maharey.

Supporting Learning Pathways:

Discussion Paper on Credit Recognition and Transfer

March 2002

Introduction

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (the Authority) is seeking comment from the tertiary education sector on proposed strategies to support credit recognition and transfer. While credit recognition and transfer policy and procedures are being established for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), secondary schools involved with transition programmes like STAR and Gateway will be canvassed for comment.

This discussion paper has been developed by the Credit Transfer Working Party (the Working Party) established by the Authority. The Working Party comprises nominees from across the education sector, including universities, polytechnics, wananga, colleges of education, and private training establishments. It also includes representatives from the Industry Training Federation, students’ associations, the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission.

The credit recognition and transfer strategies proposed in this paper are predicated on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications and quality assurance requirements under the Education Act 1989. The proposed principles, objectives, outcomes, and recommended strategies, will when agreed, be implemented by the relevant quality assurance bodies as part of their official approval, accreditation and quality assurance roles.

Recognition of learning and credit transfer are not new concepts; both occur currently. The current emphases on lifelong learning, the knowledge society, and export education are, however, catalysts for seeking to enhance ways in which learners are able to obtain formal recognition for their achievements.

Credit transfer is a process whereby credit already achieved is recognised towards a new qualification. This may occur on a case by case basis between providers/qualifications developers and individuals or as a structured agreement between two or more organisations or providers .

Recognition of prior learning and recognition of current competency are both important ways in which credit may be generated towards qualifications. They may also be used for entry or selection. Credit awarded as a result of either recognition of prior learning or recognition of current competency is of equal standing to credit awarded through other forms of assessment.

The Working Party considers that the key focus of credit transfer decisions should be on the benefit for learners and supporting effective learning pathways. A learner should be able to expect that when he/she enrols or is assessed by a quality assured provider, the credit that he/she has already achieved is valued and recognised in a fair and transparent manner.

Credit recognition and transfer are the litmus test of confidence in the quality assurance arrangements for education in New Zealand. Appropriate credit recognition and transfer is critical to support learners along the most appropriate learning pathway and consequently are a core part of education and training provision.

This discussion paper backgrounds the principles, objectives and outcomes considered by the Working Party to be critical to credit recognition and transfer. It also proposes strategies to enhance current credit recognition and transfer practice. The focus of the paper is on supporting the mobile learner of the twenty-first century through quality assurance, information provision and management and use of technology. A set of working definitions of terms used is attached as Appendix One.

The Working Party is aware of the importance of funding drivers and the impacts of these drivers on credit transfer arrangements for learners. These issues need to be addressed in collaboration with the proposed Tertiary Education Commission.

The Authority is seeking comments on this paper, particularly in relation to the strategies and supporting operational processes recommended in the paper. Your written comments are also sought on the principles, objectives, outcomes and some outstanding issues italicised in the report. The working party will also meet with national organisations to discuss the Discussion document if requested.

Please send your comments by 30 June 2002 to:

The Chairperson

Credit Transfer Working Party

NZQA

P O Box 160

WELLINGTON.

Principles

The Working Party considers that the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications (the Register) and quality assurance requirements provide the foundation and mechanism for credit recognition and transfer.

The New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications

The Register, which provides a common credit currency, a system of levels, learning outcomes and a subject classification for all quality assured qualifications in New Zealand, provides the basis for credit recognition and transfer.

The key purposes of the Register are to:

- clearly identify all quality assured qualifications in New Zealand;

- ensure that all qualifications have purpose and relation to each other that students and the public can understand;

- maintain and enhance learners’ ability to transfer credit by the establishment of a common system of credit; and

- enhance and build on the international recognition of New Zealand qualifications.

The Register provides a common credit currency, a levels system, learning outcomes and subject classification system for all qualifications quality assured in New Zealand.

The following principles embodied in the Register are particularly relevant to credit recognition and transfer:

- The level, outcome statements and subject classifications associated with approved qualifications and their components provide key information regarding the relevance of the achievement for which credit might be transferred.

Learning outcomes are an important source of information and should be significant factors in supporting transparent decisions about credit recognition and transfer.

- The common credit system provides the basis for a fair quantum of credit to be transferred.

In general, the credit value as indicated by the Register (along with publicly available information about components) should be the basis for making judgements about the amount of credit to be granted.

- The quality assurance processes underpinning the Register provide confidence in the quality of the delivery and assessment leading to the award of credit.

Acceptance of credit transfer in effect becomes a test of the extent to which there is confidence in the quality assurance arrangements across the tertiary sector.

Principles

The following principles (both overarching and operational) support the above foundations. These principles are intended to apply across sectors and cultures and complement government obligations to Maori under the Treaty of Waitangi.

- The key focus of credit transfer decisions should be on the benefit for learners and supporting effective learning pathways.

- Transparency in credit recognition and transfer decision-making across the education system is a critical factor in supporting and encouraging the ongoing involvement of learners in education and training.

- Credit transfer and recognition should be able to operate across different cultures and national borders and robust policies and procedures need to be in place to support this.

- Credit awarded as a result of either recognition of prior learning or recognition of current competency is of equal standing to credit awarded through other forms of assessment and should be able to be carried with the learner once awarded.

Objectives

The Working Party has identified and agreed on the following high level objectives. These objectives underpin an effective and productive credit transfer system based on fair and transparent decision-making and are considered essential to ensuring that the interests of learners are paramount, and maintaining the distinctiveness of qualifications.

- Credit transfer decisions should be fair and recognise learning in an appropriate way.

- Credit transfer decisions should be defendable, consistent and open to scrutiny.

- Credit transfer decisions should be timely so that a learner’s ability to access programmes is not unnecessarily inhibited.

- Credit transfer processes should facilitate access and promote new learning opportunities without compromising the quality or standards of qualifications.

- Clear and coherent information should be readily available on the types of pathways that a learner may expect to progress following the awarding of certain types of qualifications (i.e. through the Register, credit transfer and formal articulation arrangements).

- Learners, providers and assessors should have a clear understanding of what may be expected in relation to the application for credit transfer.

- Learners must have recourse to appeal.

Outcomes

The Working Party believes that the following outcomes should result from applying the above principles and objectives:

- Credit will be granted for recorded success, whether or not it forms part or all of a complete qualification.

- Credit will be granted at the highest level consistent with the learner’s demonstrated level of competence.

- Credit transfer arrangements will recognise the distinctive differences among qualifications.

- Where credit is not granted, providers will provide a full explanation as to the reason(s) for the decision.

- Where possible, National Qualifications Framework (NQF) qualifications will be awarded by the provider that assesses most of the credits contributing to the qualification (the provider is expected to specify the amount and level of credits required).

- Each institution will have procedures in place to enable learners to seek a review of initial decisions on credit transfer matters.

- Information about credit transfer arrangements will be readily available to all learners.

Please provide feedback on the above principles, objectives and outcomes.

Strategies

There are a number of strategies available to support the principles, objectives and outcomes previously outlined. The strategies proposed in this discussion paper focus on enhancing credit recognition and transfer through quality assurance, communication, technology and information management.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is a key tool for achieving the credit recognition and transfer outcomes outlined in this paper.

Good practice in relation to credit transfer is an important part of quality education. Such practice will help to provide and facilitate appropriate learning pathways and protect the credibility of qualifications and learning outcomes.

Current quality assurance procedures expect providers to have policies and procedures for credit recognition and transfer; however, no specific requirements in relation to good practice.

There are a number of ways that current arrangements could be strengthened. This includes the requirement that, as part of course approval and accreditation processes, providers have credit recognition and transfer processes that meet specified objectives and are consistent with good practice.

The effectiveness of credit transfer policies could be monitored through quality assurance during the existing initial course approval and accreditation processes, as well as through existing external audits undertaken by quality assurance agencies or audit bodies. The results of monitoring should also be made public.

Credit transfer agreements help increase the transparency of learning pathways for learners. Formal agreements between qualification developers and providers regarding credit recognition and transfer will also help to provide certainty and clarity for learners.

Information on possible learning pathways needs to be readily available and accessible for learners. This may be through publishing credit transfer arrangements that recognise credit from components of qualifications or through more formal articulation arrangements which identify linkages between whole qualifications.

RECOMMENDATIONS

It is recommended that:

1. the principles, objectives, and outcomes outlined in this discussion paper inform the development of a guidelines and good practice document;

2. existing course approval and accreditation requirements be enhanced to ensure that all providers have credit recognition and transfer processes in place that support the principles, objectives and outcomes outlined in this discussion paper;

3. compliance with course approval and accreditation requirements is monitored through initial course approval and accreditation processes;

4. ongoing compliance and effectiveness is monitored through quality audit;

5. providers and qualification developers be required to publicise information regarding formal articulation and credit transfer arrangements with other providers and qualification developers;

Information and communications

The provision of clear information to learners is central to effective credit recognition and transfer processes. This information needs to be readily available to people actively involved in the education system and those contemplating further learning.

The information also needs to be easy to understand and recognise the diversity of learners. Information about recourse to appeal processes should detail how and to whom any issues, complaints, or appeals should be made both internally and externally, including the Office of the Ombudsmen as a last resort appeal mechanism.

There are various options available to ensure learners have access to information about credit transfer arrangement. These include:

- the requirement that providers inform all learners of their rights as part of their enrolment;

- the development of web site/s - provider-based or central;

- a combination of both enrolment information requirement and provider web site/s; and

- a central web site informing providers and assessors of their obligations.

The information should be managed, updated and checked for accuracy regularly.

It is recommended that:

6. comprehensive information on credit recognition and transfer including any appeal procedures is readily available for learners;

7. providers/developers and assessors of qualifications on the Register are required to have information about credit transfer processes and arrangements readily accessible to all learners who enrol with them;

Certification and Recording of Credit

Records of learning and academic transcripts are important sources of official information about learner achievement of credit and certification and providers have a duty to provide such information to their students.

Changing organisational arrangements occurring currently within the educational sector may affect the ability of students to gain credit recognition and transfer. In particular, mergers of tertiary institutions and the de-registration or lapsing of registration of private training education providers create risks to the ongoing maintenance of records of learning and academic transcripts. In a dynamic and changing tertiary sector, both providers and employers need to be alert to the falsification of records of learning.

In New Zealand, the Register provides the mechanism for recognising credit and qualifications. Credit is recorded on the Authority’s Record of Learning for learners who have achieved credit on the NQF.

While the Record of Learning mitigates some of the above risks, it only records learning in relation to unit and achievement standards on the NQF. Since there is no overall national comprehensive record of learner result, tertiary institutions and private training establishments should manage their own academic transcripts and records.

While institutional autonomy must be respected, modern information technology may provide an opportunity for the development of a centralised database of records of learning and qualifications. The National Student Identifier (NSI) may be an important first step in the development of a future information recording and maintenance system.

It is recommended that consideration be given to:

8. the development of a central collection of credit records for all learners studying towards qualifications on the New Zealand Register of Quality Assured Qualifications;

9. using the National Student Identifier as a core component of the proposed centralised database of records;

Information sharing and use of technology

The increasing mobility of learners creates significant challenges for providers and assessors when it comes to evaluating the quality and authenticity of qualifications.

Further work is needed on the use of modern technology to improve information sharing. This could include investigating ways to encourage and facilitate the sharing and use of existing resources and information e.g. sharing information gathered by individual providers gathered while recruiting overseas students.

At a more general level, there could be some key benefits associated with the generation of precedents across all areas of credit transfer. The ability to electronically track provider decisions has the potential to have significant benefits for consistency and fairness in decision making.

It is recommended that:

10. additional work is undertaken to support the sharing of information domestically, particularly through electronic means wherever possible.

CREDIT TRANSFER IN THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT

The Working Party acknowledges the growth in international education initiatives and the importance of cross border and international credit transfer arrangements.

The Working Party has given some thought to international credit transfer issues, and believes that as far as possible principles, objectives and outcomes similar to those proposed in this discussion paper should apply. At this stage, however, the priority is to agree and implement credit transfer and recognition arrangements internally in the New Zealand education system. The focus, therefore, of this discussion paper is domestic rather than international.

Information on the Working Party deliberations regarding international credit transfer is included for your information in appendix 2.

Conclusion - NEXT STEPS

The Authority seeks your comment on this discussion paper, and recommendations in particular, by the end of June 2002.

Following analysis of responses, the recommendations (and any subsequent amendment) will be forwarded to the Working Party for consideration, the Inter-institutional Quality Assurance Bodies Consultative Group and then to the Authority’s Board for approval. It is anticipated that the Board will consider the results of the consultation in August/September 2002.

Appendix One - Definitions

Articulation involves linking two or more whole qualifications together to create an integrated qualification structure in which one qualification builds on another. Articulation arrangements involve linkages between whole qualifications. Credit transfer arrangements recognise credit from components of qualifications

Credit is the agreed measure of the amount of learning (estimated by a provider or developer) typically required in gaining a qualification. This estimate of learning time includes direct time spent with teachers, time spent preparing for and doing assignments and time spent in assessment.

Credit is awarded when achievement is assessed and meets meet specified standards. Evidence of achievement can be collected from a variety of sources.

Credit Transfer is a process whereby credit already achieved is recognised towards a new qualification. This may occur on a case by case basis between providers/qualifications developers and individuals or as a structured agreement between two or more organisations or providers.

CREDIT EXEMPTION IS WHERE A STUDENT IS EXEMPTED FROM COMPLETING SOME REQUIREMENTS OF A QUALIFICATION WITHOUT CREDIT BEING GRANTED.

Appendix two - International context

There is currently significant growth in the international market in educational services. Many international education initiatives involve formalised credit transfer arrangements across borders. As robust quality is key to this growth being sustainable, it is critical that international credit transfer arrangements reflect similar quality to those required within New Zealand.

In an international context, formal credit arrangements exist in a number of providers. These include, for example, “2 + 1” agreements whereby students in an overseas provider may undertake two years relevant study towards a degree at an overseas provider and the final year at the New Zealand provider resulting in the awarding of a New Zealand degree. This type of arrangement has the potential to create positive educational benefits for learners in respective countries and build on a developing export education market. They may also increase learner awareness of the global context in which New Zealand operates.

Because of the vast array of overseas qualifications, credit transfer from an overseas qualification may be more complex than credit transfer from a quality assured New Zealand qualification. The diversity and variability of quality in some countries creates difficulties for information collection and sharing. Much of the available information about overseas qualifications is also restricted to universities

The Working Party considers that there are a number of important issues to be addressed in assessing credit from overseas qualifications. These include the:

- standing of the qualification that relates to the credit being negotiated;

- quality assurance arrangements that underpin the delivery, the assessment and awarding of the qualification;

- quantification of credit for credit transfer purposes. This may relate to an accepted credit assessment protocol such as the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS); and

- standing of the provider at which the education or training occurred, both in terms of a country of location and from the part of the education sector that it is located.

In an international context, certainty about the underpinning quality assurance arrangements is essential to ensure that learners benefit from the appropriate learning pathway in New Zealand. Additional processes usually required include:

- the preparation of materials to establish the standing of the provider that delivered or awarded the overseas qualifications to a level that would satisfy the relevant quality assurance body within New Zealand;

- the development of additional supporting information, including in-country assessments of the standing of a provider conducted by government or other reputable quality assurance body, and other information compiled by reputable external organisations; and

- gathering of relevant previous experience in terms of granting credit.


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