In a sector first, the ‘Credit, Where Credit is Due’ initiative enables Australian Defence Force veterans to have their skills and qualifications obtained during service assessed for credit (RPL).

It extends the service and support provided by ACU to veterans by both encouraging them to pursue further studies and recognising their formal training in the ADF and service to the common good.

“This really gives veterans a step forward in the next step of the journey,” said Student Veteran Services Coordinator Mr Aaron Cornwall, a member of the project team alongside Student Administration’s Associate Director, User Experience Ms Liz Moon and Project Manager Mr Nik Linnell, the Peter Faber Business School’s Associate Professor Wendy James, and the Faculty of Law and Business’s Partnerships and Course Administrator Mr Eduardo Almeida.

“They’re coming out of the defence force at a point in their life where they don’t really have time to throw around, so being able to transition out with some sort of advanced standing gives them an opportunity to find meaningful employment.”

Tertiary education provides an avenue to obtain such employment, which research shows serving members can struggle with when they leave the armed forces.

Hitting the books

It all started in 2020, when ACU and its project partner Australian Student Veterans Association (ASVA) received a grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to develop a recognition of prior learning framework for transitioning veterans of the ADF.

Project Manager Nik Linnell, himself a veteran, worked with the ASVA and other partners to gain access to previously classified ADF learning management packages (LMPs). The ADF is a registered training organisation, and these packages are laid out like unit outlines.

Associate Professor Wendy James and Eduardo Almeida, both from the Faculty of Law and Business, then undertook a painstaking academic assessment of the LMPs – jargon-rich documents, some over 200 pages long – to check the equivalent standing in courses and units at the Peter Faber Business School. They shared the assessment with ACU’s other faculties, which have also applied equivalency.

This assessment was documented into a shareable database that transitioning ADF veterans could use to search for keywords and courses, making it easier for them to understand the RPL to which they’re entitled.

“The goal was not so much to look at what they hadn't done, but what had they done,” Wendy said. “These personnel had served so that we would have a future, so our goal was to help them have a pathway to their future, so to speak.”

To date, more than 40 degrees have been identified as containing course rules which will allow the application of RPL. ACU is also in the process of approving two minors for arts and business.

Serving those who’ve served

The team behind this ground-breaking project is proud that their work will deliver positive social impacts across the Australian veteran community.

“What makes this project so unique is the fact that it’s recognition, and recognition is one of the areas that members feel hard done by – particularly after spending so long in defence force,” said Aaron, also an ADF veteran.

“It’s not so much that service doesn’t transfer, it’s that no one has sat down and mapped it out and said, ‘This is how it transfers across.’ So this really provides a massive step in that process.”

ACU students are already benefiting, with the framework being used to assess the service records of all enrolled student veterans and award credit.

According to Nik, the project team is also starting to assess how LMPs can be mapped to courses they haven’t yet looked at; for example, the Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice. It’s projected that, by 2023, a sizeable cohort of veterans will graduate from an ACU course after receiving credit on entry.

There is also the potential for thousands more veterans to benefit Australia-wide.

ACU is working with partner organisations to promote the credit precedents to transitioning veterans, and the RPL assessment process will be shared with other institutions to fast-track the widening of the framework across the higher education sector – one of the project’s aims all along.

“We’re going through that process now to make sure that veterans who choose universities other than ACU still benefit from the work that Wendy and Eduardo undertook,” explained Nik. “It really is an extension of the mission beyond the university.”

Work with impact

The ‘Credit, Where Credit is Due’ Project Team worked beyond their day-jobs to deliver a highly impactful outcome that promises to help a great many more people in the future.

Eduardo Almeida echoed the sentiments of the other team members when he said it was a privilege to be part of the team and the project, regardless of the work and effort involved.

“I migrated to Australia and I didn’t have the understanding that I have now of the Australian Defence Forces and its veterans,” he said. “We are giving them possibilities at ACU to continue their studies and move on with their lives after their service.

“And knowing we are bringing benefits and value to a whole lot of people that otherwise wouldn't have that chance … it warms your heart.”

 Aaron  CornwallLiz Moon Nik Linnell  Associate Professor Wendy James Eduardo Almeida
Page last updated on 22/11/2021

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