Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2011

Summary of projects

Project title

Development of the Associate Degree in Business

Project leaders

Vicki Molloy

David McLean

Project team

Pauline Porcaro

Project summary

This project was undertaken to review and develop the Associate Degree in Business to ensure that it aligned to the AQF 2011 and to the RMIT Associate Degree policy which specifies that RMIT Associate Degrees should offer vertical articulation into one or more degrees, horizontal articulation with diplomas and advanced diplomas, and be mapped against relevant national and state vocational qualifications, with clearly identified entry and exit points.

It was also charged with reconsidering the structure of the current Associate Degree in Business to ensure that the pedagogy is appropriate to the learning preferences and backgrounds of diverse learners, and able to support greater level and range of articulation to higher education in support of national goals to extend the percentage of degree graduates.

At the direction of the College of Business, it was agreed that the program architecture would offer sufficient scope that students of the Associate Degree would be able to transition into the final year of all specialist areas of the Bachelor of Business. The existing program allowed full articulation into only one Bachelor Degree after second year – the Bachelor of Business (Management). Financial viability and efficiency of delivery were to be underlying requirements of the new design. A convenor was appointed, and a project manager was assigned to the project. A steering committee was organised to provide feedback and direction to the project manager. The convenor and BTS Head of School participated concurrently with an RMIT working party on Associate Degrees which was involved in assessing and developing University-wide principles for RMIT Associate Degrees, building on existing University policy and guidelines. During the course of the project several tools were developed to assist in estimating costs of establishing and maintaining new programs, forecast student numbers, estimate staff workloads and pathways into Bachelor of Business programs and to and from Business TAFE School Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas.

After considering structural and financial models a preliminary remodelled Associate Degree in Business offering increased course options to campus based students and potential industry clients was drafted. Questionnaires were provided to several volunteers occupying positions in industry and identified as potential employers of Associate Degree students. Information from the questionnaires provided some insight into the skill sets and knowledge expected in graduates of a generic Associate Degree in Business. Comment was also provided on where they thought an Associate Degree in Business sat within a qualifications market. These responses informed project decisions in developing a model that offered a range of business skills and pathways to other qualifications including postgraduate qualifications, as well as providing equity in credit across a range of Bachelor of Business programs. The choice of courses was heavily aligned to those already delivered in the Degree programs, but the assumption was that these would be designed to achieve ‘equivalent’ but not identical learning outcomes, through a mix of VET and HE pedagogical approaches, both in relation to delivery and assessment (see Appendix 4).

The other part of this project was to explore Associate Degrees in a conceptual way, to be better able to articulate an Associate Degree ‘identity’. This was particularly in regards to defining a pedagogy of an Associate Degree and to what measure the methods of vocational education would influence the design and assessment of Associate Degrees in the RMIT context. This was explored through one aspect of the program redesign where the inclusion of 4 ‘skills electives’ would be created using materials and methods from vocational education. The skills electives would develop design skills for business solutions (see Appendix 2 and Appendix 3). A précis of the proposed 4 skills elective courses (equivalent to a sub-major or minor) was prepared with a stratified learning pathway that includes design comprehension and capability, lean process thinking, and marketing. A business plan for a multi-pathway Associate Degree in Business with the 4 skills electives was developed for consideration at College of Business level.


The project has achieved a variety of outcomes. These include:

  • a greater understanding across the Business TAFE School (BTS) of what is an RMIT Associate Degree, how it is structured, made operational, reviewed and improved;
  • Input from students and industry via questionnaires and a survey;
  • structural and financial analysis leading to a viable and efficient model for providing pathways into all (bar one) Bachelor of Business specialisms;
  • conversations with industry on what skill sets and knowledge they would expect from associate degree graduates;
  • creation of several alternative Associate Degree models based on adaptation and integraton of high level VET programs and teaching models, as well as pathway options into Bachelor of Business programs;
  • preparation of a business plan for further development and implementation of the approved model;
  • proposal to increase the vocational content in the Associate Degree in Business by introducing 4 skills electives based on the success of existing skills electives at RMIT;
  • embedding design capability and project management skills in the 4 skills electives using Lean Process Thinking;
  • content outlines developed for 4 skills electives;
  • involvement and contribution to RMIT Associate Degree Network and RMIT Associate Degree Forum;
  • peer reviewed paper presented to 2012 Australian Vocational Education and Training (AVETRA) conference (see Appendix 1).

Download Full Report [PDF,564 KB]