In July 2014 the Community Services & Health Industy Skills Council (CSHISC) announced the removal of the Advanced Diplomas of Western herbal medicine, naturopathy, homoeopathy, and nutritional medicine from the health training package, meaning the new educational standard for these is now Bachelor degree. This was a positive move and an important recognition of the complexity and value of the work we perform as health professionals. This decision was confirmed in November 2014. Read the CSHISC final decision.
Enrolments into the Advanced Diploma courses ceased by the end of 2015. Initially the teach out period was 18 months for those currently studying Advanced Diplomas, but the NHAA lobbied the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to extend this and ASQA approved that the teach out period be extended to 31 December 2018. For more information see the ASQA website.
The NHAA has finalised a set of minimum standards for the education of naturopathy and Western herbal medicine Bachelor and post-graduate programs. The degree standards inform education of the profession for the future and replace the existing NHAA Course Accreditation System.
Will current full members have to upgrade to degree now?
No. NHAA will honour all current and continuing full memberships. You do not have to upgrade to a degree to continue to practice.
What if I am currently studying in an Advanced Diploma?
Does this mean that all RTO’s who teach naturopathy & Western herbal medicine will have to change to degrees?
If the RTO wants to teach an accredited course (accredited by the Government bodyTertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, TEQSA, and by professional bodies such as NHAA), then yes.
Does this mean we’re a regulated profession now?
No. Firstly, industries not people are regulated, so that is not applicable here. Secondly, it does not mean we are now registered professionals with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), however, improving the standard of education is a valuable step towards that goal.
The CSHISC is a Commonwealth Government funded body charged with the establishment of education and training standards across a range of ‘industries’, including the Health Training Packages that have thus far directed curriculums and course development in complementary health.
One of the requirements for all Training Packages were that they meet the standards of the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC). In a national policy context, there is an increased focus on ensuring that qualifications are aligned at the right level. Standard 8 of the NSSC Standards for Training Packages reads as follows:
“Qualifications comply with the Australian Qualifications Framework specification for that qualification type.”
The AQF establishes educational standards and this includes (along with a range of other items) the provision of the right level of education for specific roles, which is what Standard 8 is about. Further, universities are increasingly setting the minimum pre-requisite for entry into post-graduate studies (eg Master’s degree) at AQF Level 7, or Bachelor Degree.
The AQF details are available on the AQF Council website at http://www.aqf.edu.au but the brief comparison between an Advanced Diploma and Bachelor Degree is as follows:
1. Critical thinking requirements: Independent critical analysis skills are imperative for safe practice as an autonomous health professional; these skills are not delivered to the level required within the AQF Advanced Diploma standards.
2. Scope, depth and type of knowledge: The Bachelor prescribes a deeper knowledge with broader and more complex understanding. The typical volume of learning for an Advanced Diploma is 1.5 to 2 years and 3 to 4 years for a Bachelor Degree.
3. Level of autonomy in the workplace (paraprofessional versus professional): The Purpose statement for an Advanced Diploma is to enable someone to “undertake advanced skilled or paraprofessional work”; and the Purpose statement for the Bachelor degree is to enable someone to “undertake professional work”. The AQF Glossary provides the following definitions:
A herbalist or naturopath working in independent practice is clearly aligned with the descriptor for professionals, not para-professional.
As part of the regular review of the Health Training Packages, the CSHISC coordinates the review of the Learning Packages by an Industry Reference Groupand Subject Matter Expert Groups. These groups determined that the professions of Western Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy are aligned with AQF Level 7, or Bachelor degree. The CSHISC distributed two rounds of discussion papers to stakeholders (including all educational institutions, all relevant professional bodies, other professional bodies and interested parties) for feedback about the AFQ alignment and level of training for Western Herbal Medicine and Naturopathy.
Want to know more? See the Youtube clip below for a discussion of the differences between the current Australian Advanced Diploma level, and AQF Level 7 Bachelor degree, in relation to Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine, with emphasis on why Level 7 Bachelor degree is better aligned with the desired professional outcomes for training these health professionals.
With thanks to Ian Breakspear for this clip!