Recognising micro-credentials in New Zealand

Closed 13 Apr 2018

Note: NZQA offers a service to recognise micro-credentials. See the Approval of micro-credentials page for more information.

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) consulted on proposals to recognise micro-credentials, alongside qualifications, within New Zealand’s government regulated education and training system, 5 March-13 April 2018.

The proposals were developed in conjunction with a sector working group and informed by three micro-credential pilots July 2017 - June 2018.

The consultation paper, Recognising micro-credentials in New Zealand’s education and training system proposed an approach to recognising micro-credentials appropriate for the New Zealand education and training system.

The paper proposed:

  • recognition and quality assurance of micro-credentials from New Zealand tertiary education organisations
  • changes to the current Training Scheme Rules 2012 to include micro-credentials
  • provisions for micro-credentials from non-New Zealand tertiary education organisations.

The consultation paper is available as HTML or PDF (PDF, 427KB).

Summary of consultation feedback

NZQA received 76 submissions through an online survey and by email, 50 from organisations and 26 from individuals.

The organisational submissions were from:

  • 9 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnic
  • 8 Industry Training Organisations
  • 10 Private Training Establishments
  • 5 university bodies including Universities New Zealand and Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities
  • 18 from other organisations (including professional associations, peak bodies, overseas-based organisations, and agencies).

NZQA has considered the feedback from submissions, amended its proposals and developed a system to introduce micro-credentials in New Zealand. An overview of the system can be found here.

Amendments to NZQA Rules to enable the proposed system have been approved. These will come into effect from 22 August 2018. NZQA will consider applications for approval of micro-credentials from this time.

Further information (including Guidelines for the submission of micro-credential applications to NZQA) will be published shortly.

NZQA thanks all submitters for their feedback. Submissions provided a range of views that helped NZQA to improve its proposals.

Summary of submissions

Recognition of micro-credentials

There is strong support for the implementation of a micro-credentials system in New Zealand. Submitters said micro-credentials could add substantial value to the New Zealand education and training system in a range of ways. This includes:

  • recognising small discrete pieces of learning
  • encouraging portfolio-based approaches to education and training
  • credentialling existing knowledge and skills

Definition of micro-credentials

Submitters said the proposed definition could be made clearer. However, few alternative definitions were proposed.

Some submitters commented that the proposed 10 credits minimum for micro-credentials should be lower as some micro-credentials, particularly for professional learning and development, are likely to be less than 10 credits.

Similarly, submitters also said that there should be a cap on the size of micro-credentials because large micro-credentials (for example, 60 credits) overlap too much with qualifications.

Some submissions asked if micro-credentials should not be regarded as comparable to unit standards rather than training schemes.

Duplication and proliferation of micro-credentials

Many submitters agreed with NZQA that the risk of duplication and proliferation of micro-credentials should be managed. They noted that duplication and proliferation could lead to confusion for employers and a less valuable education product for learners.

Submitters supported an NZQA maintained register of approved micro-credentials and strong quality assurance settings to manage the risks and maintain the credibility of any future micro-credential system. Some submitters observed that while quality assurance was important, this should be balanced with ensuring that micro-credentials are able to respond with speed and agility to employer, industry and community needs.

Submissions observed the possibility of ‘New Zealand micro-credentials’, that could fulfill a similar function as New Zealand qualifications but within the concept of micro-credentials.

Training Scheme Rules as a mechanism for micro-credentials

Submissions supported the use of the Training Scheme Rules to quality assure micro-credentials. However, submitters from the Industry Training sector were concerned about whether these Rules would enable micro-credentials in an industry setting.

Some submitters suggested that NZQA should consider new and alternative quality assurance and regulatory settings for micro-credentials.

Equivalence against levels and credits on the NZQF

Submitters agreed there was value for learners and employers in NZQA providing an equivalence service for micro-credentials from non-Tertiary Education Organisations (domestic and international).

However, submitters observed that equivalence could imply approval and that NZQA should make it clear to learners and employers that establishing the equivalence of a micro-credential to levels and credits on the NZQF does not mean approval of the micro-credential.

Listing approved micro-credentials on the NZQF

Submitters did not agree that approved micro-credentials should be listed on the NZQF.

Some submitters said that doing so would devalue the status of qualifications, while other submitters said that NZQA should consider a New Zealand credentials framework that could sit alongside the NZQF and the Directory of Assessment Standards.

Micro-credential system

NZQA has considered the feedback from submissions, amended its proposals as appropriate and developed a system to introduce micro-credentials in New Zealand.

The table provides an overview of the system and its characteristics:

Micro-credentials Characteristics
Educational elements
  • Certifies achievement of a set of skills and knowledge
  • Coherence of the skills and knowledge required
  • Purpose statement required
  • Learning outcomes required
  • Strong demonstrable evidence of need by industry, employer and/or community required
  • Does not typically duplicate current quality-assured learned approved by NZQA
Credit values            5 to 40 credits
Entities who may deliver or arrange training
  • Tertiary education providers and Industry Training Organisations can seek approval of micro-credentials through the training scheme rules and consent to assess rules
  • Non-Tertiary Education Organisations (TEOs) - Equivalency service only
  • Yearly review of quality-assured micro-credentials
  • Quality-assured micro-credentials published on a public register
  • Micro-credentials with an equivalence statement (delivered by non-TEOs) published on a separate register

Following feedback received through consultation and afterward, NZQA will approve micro-credentials through amendments to the Training Scheme Rules 2012 (PDF, 1.3MB) and the Consent to Assess Rules 2011 (PDF, 1.3MB).

The amendments to the Training Scheme Rules are intended to approve micro-credentials delivered primarily in blended, online and classroom-based settings, while the amendments to the Consent to Assess Rules are intended to approve micro-credentials delivered primarily in industry and workplace-based settings.

Tertiary education providers and Industry Training Organisations seeking NZQA approval of micro-credentials will be required to meet the minimum criteria for training schemes or assessment standards, as appropriate, together with additional criteria for micro-credentials.

NZQA considers that the proposed system provides two quality-assured and equivalent pathways for the approval of micro-credentials in New Zealand.

An equivalence service will also be provided.

Next steps

Amendments to NZQA Rules to enable the proposed system have been approved. These will come into effect from 22 August 2018. NZQA will consider applications for approval of micro-credentials from this time.

NZQA expects that there will be considerable interest in and demand for micro-credentials and is looking to proceed carefully, setting the highest benchmarks for approval. Therefore, NZQA considers it necessary, especially in the early phase of implementation, to quality assure the learning included in each micro-credential. Our recent experience in monitoring programme delivery and assessment practices indicates it is prudent to incorporate micro-credentials into the overall quality assurance framework.

Further information (including Guidelines for the submission of micro-credential applications to NZQA) will be published shortly.

The equivalency service for micro-credentials from non-TEOs will come into effect from 31 October 2018.

Questions from submission and NZQA's view

Flexible learning

Some submitters said that micro-credentials could enable more flexible approaches to learning through portfolio approaches to learning, and the ability to take components of learning (e.g. modules, papers, assessment standards) that could be stacked over time toward a learner’s specific goals such as a qualification.

NZQA’s view

NZQA expects that micro-credentials will augment the formal qualification system, but also anticipates that over time employers and learners may well become increasingly comfortable valuing shorter modules of learning.

While it is possible to use micro-credentials to enable stackable learning, NZQA considers it important to avoid a situation where every programme currently delivered is disaggregated into its components and offered as micro-credentials. This will help to avoid duplication of learning, fragmentation of qualifications, and employer confusion.

Micro-credentials can contribute over time toward a qualification where appropriate. This would be achieved through TEOs using recognition of prior learning and credit recognition transfer processes when a learner presents with multiple micro-credentials, or potentially through TEOs incorporating micro-credentials into the design of new programmes.

Micro-credentials should, in the first instance, focus on responses to skill and knowledge gaps not currently catered for in the tertiary education system.

Micro-credentials on the NZQF

Submissions consistently expressed the view that approved micro-credentials should not be listed on the NZQF.

Some submissions said that listing micro-credentials on the NZQF could devalue the status of qualifications in New Zealand.

Other submitters observed that it may be more appropriate for NZQA to consider a credentials framework alongside the NZQF.

NZQA’s view

Approved micro-credentials will not be listed on the NZQF at this point. NZQA is currently reviewing the NZQF. This work will be completed in 2019 if no legislative changes are required, or later if legislative changes is required. One aim of the review is to ensure the framework allows for the recognition of regional qualifications, international qualifications and micro-credentials.

The introduction of the micro-credential system outlined above does not require an immediate update of the NZQF. But, incorporating micro-credentials as part of the NZQF review ensures that the new framework will better reflect the evolving New Zealand education and training system.

NZQA will publish and maintain a list of all approved micro-credentials on the NZQA website.

Professional associations and micro-credentials

Submissions from professional associations (e.g. engineering, teaching, nursing) indicated strong interest in the use of micro-credentials to maintain the competency of their members in their profession.

NZQA’s view

There will be opportunities for professional associations or regulatory bodies to develop micro-credentials that provide and assess required professional skills and knowledge. Tertiary education providers would be expected to deliver this micro-credential if they wish to deliver micro-credentials against these skills.

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