Signed, sealed, delivered: a review of articulation agreements in Australia

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For decades, Australian universities have developed partnerships with institutions located in Australia and worldwide to facilitate and formalise the transfer of international students to higher education programs.

Through an impressive range of articulation agreements and recognition of prior learning (RPL) arrangements, universities have created effective models to engage with international institutions and candidates and offer diverse admissions channels to higher education programs.

These agreements are particularly important for universities as they can implement initiatives that benefit students and ensure their previous studies and hard work is recognised and rewarded, therefore reducing the time to complete a qualification and related costs.

However, the development of articulation agreements and RPL arrangements can be quite complex and resource intensive. Universities invest numerous resources in seeding new articulation agreements and finding potential partnerships that will enable them to reach their institutional goals. The range of models that universities can follow is enormous and finding the right institutional partner for successful engagement can be quite a difficult task.

With the aim of facilitating the development and assessment of current and future agreements, Studymove has researched and analyzed an impressive amount of data to obtain a better understanding of how and where Australian universities are developing these agreements.

We know that articulation agreements and RPL can promote and encourage effective pathways … the agreements can also represent an opportunity to diversify recruitment channels and engage in other countries.

The data collected

To understand the complex world of articulation agreements and RPL arrangements, Studymove researched the websites of all Australian universities and identified relevant information from 32 universities.

Universities presented information relating to their articulation agreements and RPL with varying levels of detail. Some universities provided a comprehensive calculator that allows international candidates to identify the credit they may obtain based on current RPL arrangements or an articulation agreement. Other universities provided a more basic listing of information that had to be categorized and included in the analysis.

Overall, Studymove captured information for over 77,000 agreements and RPL arrangements across these 32 Australian universities. This massive dataset enabled them to classify and identify 9,473 unique articulation agreements and RPL arrangements that were considered for the final analysis.

Where are universities actively engaging?

We know that articulation agreements and RPL arrangements can promote and encourage effective pathways with the aim of providing a smooth transition for students and improving academic performance.

The agreements can also represent an opportunity to diversify recruitment channels and engage in other countries. So, our initial analysis was focused on identifying where Australian universities are establishing these agreements.

From a total of 9,473 unique articulation agreements or RPL arrangements, 75.3 percent were with institutions outside of Australia and 24.8 percent with institutions operating in Australia.

From the total of unique articulation agreements and RPL arrangements offered outside of Australia, 85 percent were with institutions from the following 10 countries: China, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Hong Kong, United States of America, United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

Interestingly, the initial figures collected for the analysis of articulation agreements in Australia show that Australian universities are using these agreements to support the international admissions strategies in traditional markets and not as much for diversity purposes.

Agreements by study level

Traditionally, the focus of articulation agreements has been on undergraduate programs. However, there is evidence of successful models at the postgraduate level that could assist universities to attract international students from prospective student markets such as Europe or Latin America.

To better understand this level of engagement, Studymove also considered the number of unique articulation agreements or RPL arrangements by study level.

From the total of 9,473 unique articulation agreements or RPL arrangements, they classified 7,334 agreements/arrangements by study level. From the total, 95.2 per cent were for undergraduate programs and only 4.8 per cent for postgraduate programs. Are we missing an opportunity for further postgraduate engagement?

Agreements by field of study

Articulation agreements and RPL arrangements can also promote collaboration, encourage ongoing cooperative partnerships and strengthen existing partnerships at a faculty level. For that reason, during the analysis Studymove looked into the broad fields of study where Australian universities are engaging through these agreements.

As expected, business (41.2%) was the number one field of study but interestingly it was followed by science (13.8%) and engineering (11.7%). The analysis also shows that the level of engagement by field of study varies significantly in each country. For instance, agreements in the area of creative arts are as popular as engineering in Malaysia and a significant proportion of agreements in China are for engineering programs.

Final thoughts

Strategic partnering with overseas institutions and the recognition of their study programs can be complex. However, if they are successfully executed, they will help grow the number of well prepared and qualified prospective students who wish to continue their studies in Australia. These partnerships also can create new diverse channels to engage with non-traditional markets for Australian universities.

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For more information about this report and the delivery cost, please contact Keri Ramirez at keri@studymove.com.