In this paper, we put diplomas under the microscope, and look at what they are, who does them, how numbers are trending, and how outcomes have fared. Diplomas have an important role as the highest level of qualification offered in VET. They are a very diverse group of qualifications and the student body is also diverse, covering all age groups and all educational backgrounds – from not having completed year 12 to already having a diploma or higher qualification, however the provision of government funded diplomas has declined very significantly. If we exclude health and education, the number of commencements has declined by around 50% between 2004 and 2020. We will attempt to provide an explanation of these very significant changes. The most obvious one is that higher education has expanded at VET’s expense, and in many fields the higher education expansion is mirrored by VET contraction.
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