Cyber security subjects factor heavily in a list of 28 microcredential courses whose design and delivery will be directly funded by the Commonwealth government, which will provide $18.5 million to further its support of short, focused courses in priority STEM fields.

The courses – which were chosen from more than 90 applications submitted for consideration under the government’s Microcredentials Pilot in Higher Education – have been listed on the government’s MicroCred Seeker portal and are expected to be undertaken by up to 4,000 students.

Already featuring 425 courses from 56 registered providers – including more than 80 technology, engineering, and IT courses – the portal was launched in December as a central directory of the short, focused microcredential certifications already recognised by industry bodies such as ACS.

Microcredentials have enjoyed growing support since last year’s release of a formal National Microcredentials Framework, which standardised the definition of what the courses should comprise and laid the foundation for the pilot program to be announced in November.

The newly recognised courses have been designed by 18 universities, with tech-related topics including:

  • Maths iSTEM (Australian Catholic University)
  • Science iSTEM (Australian Catholic University)
  • Infonet Security (Curtin University)
  • Cyber Security Foundations for Business Professionals (RMIT University)
  • Professional Certificate in IT and Cloud Fundamentals (University of South Australia)
  • Drone Mapping and Navigation Systems (University of Southern Queensland)
  • GIS for Professionals (University of Southern Queensland)
  • Cyber Security for Digital Health (University of Tasmania)
  • Digital Management for Health and Social Care (University of Tasmania)
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) course (University of Technology Sydney)
  • Inclusive Digital Design for Business (University of the Sunshine Coast)

Other courses cover areas such as nuclear science, food science, rural nursing, decarbonisation, hydrogen production, environmental sustainability, disease outbreak management, and more – touching on priority fields that the government has already designated as targeted areas for investment.

“Microcredentials can help Australians upskill and reskill to prepare for the jobs of the future,” Minister for Education Jason Clare said as the first round of recipients was announced.

“This pilot means more Australians can get the skills in areas we need, such as teaching, nursing, and engineering.”

Partnering with industry

The pilot program has grown out of the University-Industry Collaboration in Teaching and Learning Review, which delivered its final report in late 2021 with recommendations including development of skills and qualifications frameworks, establishment of a unified credentials platform, and partnerships with course providers and industry “to build a stronger culture of partnership in the delivery of industry-focused micro-credentials” backed by targeted funding.

The government will work directly with the newly announced recipients to finalise the grant conditions, with $2 million of the funding – up to $100,000 per microcredential – to support the design of the microcredentials in partnership with industry.

The remaining $16.5 million has been earmarked to support delivery of the courses between this year and 2025-26.

While the first funding round was restricted to larger ‘Table A’ universities, a second round of funding – to be announced within the next 12 months – will expand this to include ‘Table B’ private universities, ‘Table C’ overseas institutions operating in Australia, and non-university higher education providers.

The Commonwealth government has committed $32.5 million through 2026 as a shot in the arm for microcredentials, which have been flagged as a key way of reinforcing Australia’s domestic skills base in a range of national priority areas.

The funding – which is part of a broader effort to overhaul Australia’s skills classification system – also includes $8 million for development of up to 70 “globally relevant” microcredentials, which will be targeted at international students and developed and delivered by licensed vocational education and training (VET) and higher education providers.