Michelle Lee joins Wells Advisory as Operations Manager

It is with great pleasure we announce the appointment of Michelle Lee as Operations Manager at Wells Advisory Australia.

Michelle has over 20 years of experience utilising her commercial business acumen to augment the operations of organisations to facilitate growth and expansion. Her focus is to align our strategic direction with our practices here in Australia by leading the business operations team in managing finance, human resources, communications, marketing and internal projects.

Prior to this, Michelle has worked with large to medium organisations in various industries including legal, accounting, banking and financial services.

“Michelle’s appointment reinforces the calibre of our team and senior expertise that we offer our clients especially during these unprecedented times in the higher education sector. Please join us in congratulating Michelle in her role” Michael Wells, Founding Director.

We have moved!

We are excited to announce that we have moved to 25 Burwood Road in Hawthorn, Melbourne! It is a significant moment for us here at Wells Advisory Australia. Our previous office at 12 Montrose Street has been a great base for us these past four years. It has provided what we needed as a close-knit team by allowing us to be connected to the local community and defining our way of working collaboratively in an open plan space.

Despite these challenging times of Covid-19, we are moving onward and upward to support our business growth. Our new office is modern, inviting, agile, and spacious. It also has more collaborative spaces to not only accommodate our team but also our clients! We look forward to exploring all that the local precinct has to offer and we can’t wait to open our doors to you and the larger community when it is safe to do so.

For further enquiry on how Wells Advisory can partner with you in the dynamic higher education industry, please get in touch with Michael Wells, Director at michael.wells@wellsadvisory.co


Professor Sir Deian Hopkin joins Wells Advisory as Principal Adviser

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Sir Deian Hopkin as Principal Adviser with Wells Advisory.

A historian by profession, Deian has worked in six UK universities over a 45-year career, culminating as Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of London South Bank University and later as interim Vice-Chancellor of the University of East London.  Deian was an early adopter of new technologies in the humanities and co-founder of the Association of History and Computing. He has a long experience of distance learning and the use of technology in pedagogy having spent 18 years working as an associate at the Open University.

Deian currently serves on the Higher Education Commission in Westminster and is a trustee of the Council for Academics-at-Risk (CARA), the Campaign for Learning and the Worshipful Company of Educators in the City of London.  He is a founding Associate Partner of Anderson Quigley Executive Search and since 2012 has been involved in the appointment of numerous senior university managers, including Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of Governors. Deian was founding Chairman of Cityside Regeneration in London, was appointed by the Secretary of State to the UK Learning and Skills Council, the Healthcare Sector Skills Council, and as an Apprenticeships Ambassador. In 2009 Deian was knighted for services to higher education and to skills in the UK.

“With interests and deep experience spanning higher education governance, strategic planning, resource management, income generation and workforce development, Sir Deian is a very strong fit with Wells Advisory and its clients” said Founding Director, Michael Wells. “We share a vision of the fast evolving sector and the important global opportunities that lie ahead. My colleagues and I warmly welcome Deian on board.”

For immediate enquiries for working with Deian and our team, please get in touch with Michael Wells or Roger King.

The Australian Undergraduate Certificate – A new AQF qualification for COVID 19

On 1 May 2020 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Education & Skills Councils approved a new 6 month higher education qualification under the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) in response to the economic impact of COVID -19. The Undergraduate Certificate (UC) has been approved for a limited time with UC’s able to be awarded from May 2020 until 31 December 2021 by registered higher education providers. A review will be undertaken to assess whether the UC will continue to be awarded beyond this date.

The addition of this new exclusively higher education qualification to the AQF has been spearheaded by the independent higher education sector led by peak body IHEA over the last month. This initiative is part of broader government measures including extending Commonwealth funding to independent providers with FEE-HELP approval offering short courses in national priority areas. It is also consistent with the direction set by the The AQF Review (Noonan) in 2019.

UC can be at AQF 5, 6, or 7

Unlike other qualifications under the AQF, the Undergraduate Certificate (UC) is not located at a single qualification level, but is rather covered at any of Levels 5, 6 or 7. The UC has been conceived as a short award course of 6 months equivalent full-time duration that upon completion allows students the option of an exit point or articulation into an existing qualification located at AQF levels 5, 6, or 7. It is a pre-requisite that the course must articulate at one of these levels. In this sense, the intended learning outcomes achieved by students must align to the relevant outcomes for which the course articulates into at AQF level  5, 6 or 7.

Practically, the UC will be comprised of units already part of an accredited qualification at AQF level 5, 6 or 7 that represents six months of full time study. However, as a stand-alone qualification the design will need to be coherent and align to the AQF specifications for skills, knowledge and application of skills and knowledge as set out in the AQF addendum. Importantly the UC will need to be designed to qualify students with knowledge and skills for further study, professional up-skilling, employment and participation in lifelong learning.

The AQF award received by students would be Undergraduate Certificate (Field of study/discipline)’.

Fields and fee-types

Whilst the initial impetus for this award came from the Commonwealth Government’s COVID-19 sector stimulus package, in particular, the allocation of 20,000 discounted CSP places in national priority areas, the subsequent recognition of the qualification in the AQF means that there is no longer a restriction on the disciplines in which such courses can be offered. A registered provider, subject to the usual accreditation, can offer a UC in any field of education, subject to being able to articulate graduating students into a connected award course at either AQF 5, 6 or 7.

We also understand that the course can qualify in the usual way for HELP loans, with FEE-HELP being the most obvious. It is possible that Commonwealth Supported Places may also be allocated, beyond those offered in the Stimulus Package. The details of the funding arrangements and changes (if any) have not yet been released but it is envisaged that UC places will be managed as part of Table A universities existing allocation for enabling, sub-bachelor and postgraduate CSPs. The current arrangements  allow for internal redistributions with the exception of reallocation of sub-bachelor or postgraduate CSPs to enabling programs. https://www.education.gov.au/allocation-enabling-sub-bachelor-and-postgraduate-commonwealth-supported-places. As UC can be located at Level 7 AQF there may be a question as to whether such programs may attract undesignated Commonwealth Supported Places within Table A funded profile.

Subject to appropriate clearances by / notifications to TEQSA, there would also be no restriction in offering this award course online to international students located overseas, or on the ground overseas.

TEQSA Accreditation 

For non-self-accrediting providers, UC’s must be accredited by the national higher education regulator, TEQSA. While there is some indication that TEQSA may have an expedited process for the accreditation process of these qualifications, at the time of writing, no specific advice or guidance has been publicly issued by the regulator.

Of note, and perhaps requiring rapid clarification by TEQSA, are the following key characteristics of the UC:

  • All TEQSA registered providers with an existing AQF 5, 6 or 7 qualification can design a 6  month UC from existing units;
  • The AQF Specification (among others) explicitly includes generic learning outcomes (fundamental skills, people skills, thinking skills and personal skills), the requirement for coherent learning outcomes for the qualification type, and the requirements of the Qualifications Issuance Policy including as to nomenclature. These stipulations will have implications for design of a four subject course.
  • It should be possible for two providers to enter into a pathway agreement whereby Provider A offers the UC course and award, and students can then articulate – with credit – into Provider B’s accredited course located at AQF 5, 6 or 7. The AQF qualification specification does not dictate that the pathway course must be offered by the same provider.
  • While the design of the UC should facilitate articulation and credit into an existing qualification, there does not appear to be any restriction on UC being a stand-alone exit  qualification. Indeed this is desirable.
  • If accredited as such, like all other AQF qualifications, the UC could be delivered onshore, offshore or online, subject to appropriate disclosures to TEQSA;
  • It remains unclear whether on-shore international students will be able to enrol in the new qualification – this will require inclusion in the visa regime, and CRICOS approval of the course by TEQSA.
  • All non-self accrediting providers will need to submit an application for accreditation of the UC to TEQSA for approval before delivery. Given the intention is that the qualification be responsive to the COVID-19 context, and that the course will be based on largely or wholly existing accredited units, it is anticipated that TEQSA will develop a streamlined process for accreditation.
  • Taking into consideration the limited date range for the UC, providers will need to ensure that all students cohorts intended for the UC complete and are issued certification by 31 December 2021. This means that the last cohort will need to commence the 6 months of study by July 1 2021, or potentially later if a trimester or intensive delivery models are being used. An earlier date may need to be set to cater for students not passing subjects and requiring repeats.
  • Clarification about the form of application and processing time for TEQSA accreditation will be critical in determining the value and potential reach of the UC for independent providers relying on TEQSA approval.

Strategic Value and Potential

While technical details still require greater clarification including TEQSA’s role and the potential for the UC to be extended past 2021, the UC signals a potentially more flexible and innovative approach to curriculum design in Australia.

Over the last decade, Australia has struggled to grapple with the how MOOCs, micro-credentials and cross border credit arrangements fit within the parameters of the national qualification framework. The tension between maintaining the reputation of Australia’s higher education sector  internationally through regulatory and accreditation controls and the need to be more responsive to the demand for more flexible, less traditional and more “bite-sized” tailored educational products has not easily been resolved. Unlike other jurisdictions, such as New Zealand that recognise micro-credentials as a formal qualification, Australia has been slow to renovate its qualification architecture to adapt to the changing demand, context and global nature of higher education.

The recent review of the AQF (yet to be implemented) in part sought to address some of these issues by recommending that revisions via the AQF Pathways Policy “to broaden guidelines for credit recognition across AQF qualifications and to define and provide for recognition of shorter form credentials, including micro-credentials, towards AQF qualifications”. However, if successful and adopted as part of Australia’s AQF past 2021, the UC has the potential to provide greater certainty about the status of a shorter, six month course to the market and provide Australian providers more opportunity to be responsive to international trends and demand for recognised short courses that upskill quickly and efficiently without compromising quality.

Offered across the full entry catchment to higher education, AQF 5 (diplomas), AQF 6 (advanced diplomas and associate degrees) and AQF 7 (bachelor), the UC has significant potential:

  • To further extend accessibility for the majority of the population that does not already hold a bachelor degree – this qualification halves the entry hurdle (time and money) of enrolling in a 12 month full-time course;
  • For those that want to ‘try before they buy’ higher education, this qualification allows a more efficient mechanism, with an AQF-recognised exit point’
  • For international students in offshore locations, this short course may help manage significant uncertainty about the date by when students may come to Australia to study – a course that can be commenced offshore online, and then articulate potentially into a diploma if more time is required, and then into an on-shore bachelor program under a student entry visa.
  • In time, it may be that sequences of certificates can be designed, to allow the stack-ability that some market segments want, potentially allowing students to enrol in a series of certificate courses of between 4-to-6 months duration, and taking out a bachelor degree upon sufficient study.
  • To provide a pilot of micro-credentialling within the AQF system.
  • To pilot the use of a qualification type that is more independent of qualification level.

Wells Advisory was advisor to IHEA in advocating this new qualification to the Australian Government.

Professor Andrew Flitman joins Wells Advisory as Principal Adviser

It’s with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Professor Andrew Flitmanas Principal Adviser at Wells Advisory. A former DVC Research and Acting VC (Swinburne), Dean Science and Technology (Deakin), and Head of School Business Systems (Monash), Professor Andrew Flitman has over a decade of Australian higher education leadership and governance experience and has worked across both public and private sectors.

In addition to his distinguished university leadership career, Andrew is an internationally recognised expert in financial and strategic modelling with extensive commercial consulting experience. Andrew has held senior positions Deloitte Haskins and Sells (UK), Coopers and Lybrand Deloitte (UK), and Price Waterhouse (Melbourne). Andrew also runs his own specialist advisory firm, iMORSE.

We are delighted Andrew is partnering with Wells Advisory, where he will bring his extensive experience in research and education strategy, governance, modelling and analytics to our national and international engagements.

Dr Glenn Swafford joins Wells Advisory as Principal Adviser

It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Dr Glenn Swafford as Principal Adviser at Wells Advisory. Glenn has more than 20 years of significant achievement in research management and administration, including 15 years in senior research and innovation roles at the University of Melbourne and 10 years as the Director of Research Services at Oxford University. At both Oxford and Melbourne, he led and built research organisations which delivered outstanding service quality and support for world-leading researchers in large, complex institutions.

Glenn continues to be a strategic advisor to Research, Innovation and Commercialisation at University of Melbourne and also has international experience at board/committee levels. Glenn is an executive consultant to a number of international clients and is a highly involved community volunteer.

We are delighted Glenn is partnering with Wells Advisory on key projects in research and innovation, service organisation design, technology-enabled transformation and complex project / program management.

New Deal for a New Age

This week a remarkable deal was inked in the middle of tumbling markets and closing doors. The leading private higher education company in China, Hong-Kong listed China Education Group Holdings Ltd (CEG) became a long term partner of Richmond, The American University in London.

Richmond is – and remains – a not-for-profit liberal arts university, the only one of its type to offer dual accredited US and UK degrees. CEG will share its global resources, expertise and capabilities to support Richmond to further expand its international vision, making the University’s unique UK and US dual degrees even more accessible to students across the globe. Equally, Richmond provides CEG, with its 180,000 students across a network of 10 universities and colleges in China and Australia, a keystone partner in US and English higher education.

This partnership represents the future, one with deep channels and deep relationships across global markets, between organizations committed to quality education, and bringing old and new world assets to the table. Wells Advisory was lead commercial advisor to CEG on the deal.

Emeritus Professor Mike Calford joins Wells Advisory as Principal Adviser

It is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Emeritus Professor Mike Calford as Principal Adviser at Wells Advisory. Over the last 15 years, Mike has held a number of esteemed roles in Australian universities, including Provost at the ANU, Provost at the University of Tasmania, DVC R at Newcastle and PVC (Health & Medical Research) at Wollongong.

In addition to his distinguished university leadership career, Mike has been an eminent researcher in the field of neuroscience. After receiving a doctorate at Monash University, Mike held research and teaching roles at the Universities of Queensland and Melbourne and at the ANU. He also worked overseas at the University of Oxford, the University of California Irvine and City University of New York.

We are delighted Professor Calford is joining Wells Advisory and we look forward to new opportunities to partner with the higher education sector nationally and internationally, drawing on Mike’s extensive experience in research, education strategy and management.

Strong HE market supports continued team expansion

HNY everyone! Looking to the year ahead, we are seeing strong regulatory activity for existing and new higher education providers, increasing M&A deals across the Australia-UK axis, post-Brexit changes impacting UK and indirectly Australia, and continued evolution of the ‘deep channel’ model of private HE.

In this context, we are pleased to announce that Ms Kha Yen Prentice has been appointed Regulatory Consultant in our Australian team. Kha Yen has a wealth of regulatory experience having spent the last 20 years of her professional career working with Commonwealth and Victorian government agencies across diverse sectors, including telecommunications, energy, and most recently, higher education regulation.

“Kha Yen’s appointment reflects the growth of our firm and reinforces the senior expertise we offer our clients in the complex evolving higher education sector. Please join us in congratulating Kha Yen in her new role” – Michael Wells, Director.