Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Levels 8 to 9 and Research Skill Development

I have recently been working with some groups that are concerned about:

  • The Honours (4th) Year in Engineering satisfying AQF Level 8 eg ‘design and use research in a project’
  • Masters by coursework in various faculties satisfying AQF Level 9 eg ‘technical research skills to justify and interpret theoretical propositions, methodologies, conclusions and professional decisions to specialist and non-specialist audiences.’

The AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework) is a National framework for all post-schooling qualifications, where university study falls between Level 7 (undergraduate) and Level 10 (PhD).

There are two major issues for those in the above contexts to be concerned about. The first is that the research components are sufficiently comprehensive. However, the effectiveness of a curriculum that is sufficiently research comprehensive is contingent on the second issue, which concerns the preparedness of students to engage in research.  The University of Adelaide’s new strategic plan (the ‘Beakon’) addresses this issue quite nicely:

For many undergraduate students, this will take the form of an individual research project in their final year, for which the preparatory research skills and experience necessary will be built through smaller exercises in the earlier years of their course.’

Substantial time and thought needs to be given to the coherent and explicit development of research skills from First Year towards these final year research projects. So, while AQF Level 7 does not specify requirements that use the term research, it does require many of the cognitive skills associated with research, such as ‘review critically, analyse, consolidate and synthesise knowledge’, ‘exercise critical thinking and judgement in identifying and solving problems with intellectual independence’ and ‘present a clear, coherent and independent exposition of knowledge and ideas’. The incremental, coherent and explicit development of research skills is a logical way to both nurture the AQF Level 7 skills and prepare those students who are progressing towards Levels 8 & 9. Academics in a number of disciplines have found that the use of the Research Skill Development framework ( is a realistic way to enable and, importantly, assess this development.

Given the above preparation for Australian students, this suggests the vital place of bridging programs for international masters students first studying at an Australian University. University of Adelaide’s Introductory Academic Program for AusAid students, for example, devotes five weeks of intensive learning to the development of student academic literacies and research skills, with as much discipline nuances as resources permit.

What issues are you facing in regards to the development of research skills required by AQF levels 8 & 9 (or equivalent issues in other countries) at your institution? Give your perspective in ‘comments’ on this blog, and/or participate in the Webinar on this topic on Friday 24 May.

The webinar on this topic ran on 24th of May and the recording is available

Author: johnwillison

Senior Leturer, Discipline of Higher Education, School of Education, University of Adelaide.

2 thoughts on “Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Levels 8 to 9 and Research Skill Development”

    1. Uni of Adelaide is seeing different things emerging depending on context. Engineering degrees are working to demonstrate the Level 8 research aspects of the 4th year, while maintaining requirements for accreditation. Medical Science and Psychology, with large honours cohorts, are maitaining the current format. Many other Schools are moving to a 3-2-3 model. This latter case means that students jump from Level 7 to level 9 in terms of AQF. Thats a problem if students have not encountered some from of explicit development of their research skills in the undergrad years, in advance of Level 9 research requirements.

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