General Capabilities

Framework for the Tertiary

Education Sector 
Executive summary

In June 2020, the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) commissioned the development of a General Capabilities Framework for the Tertiary Education Sector, as part of the Tertiary Learning Repository initiative announced in the 2019-20 Budget. This report presents and explains the Framework developed by the Assessment Research Centre (ARC) at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE), University of Melbourne, in partnership with Nous Group and DESE. It is intended to be read in conjunction with Nous Group’s consultation report, General Capabilities Framework for Tertiary Education (2020), and DESE’s Soft Skills in Tertiary Education: A Scoping Study (2020).


Informed by DESE specifications, the Framework: 

  • Identifies and defines the general capabilities gained throughout the tertiary learning experience

  • Identifies and defines the general capabilities required for the future workforce and for individual and social wellbeing more broadly

  • Enables assessment and evaluation of the identified general capabilities.

The primary audiences for the Framework are tertiary education providers and employers. It has been designed for application by tertiary education providers, informed by the expectations and demands of employers, and intended for use by credential holders, providers, employers and other stakeholders who may need to assess the general capabilities attainments of individuals.


The Framework comprises: 

  • A set of agreed general capabilities and sub-capabilities that are needed for successful contribution to the workforce following tertiary study, developed with reference to existing national and international frameworks, and in consultation with DESE, Nous Group and key stakeholders

  • A capability schema, in plain English, for each general capability, including:

    • Clear definitions of the general capabilities and their sub-capabilities 

    • A selection of behavioural indicators for each sub-capability

    • A set of quality criteria for each indicator

    • A levelled progression.

The Framework includes seven general capabilities, each consisting of four sub-capabilities:

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The Australian Skills Classification Core Competencies have been preserved as much as possible, given that these served as the benchmark and primary reference point for the Framework development, to ensure close alignment to the comprehensive and very current classification of skills by the National Skills Commission. In constructing the Framework, ARC has also attempted to be terminologically and conceptually inclusive of other frameworks and lists of general capabilities.

The general capabilities and sub-capabilities in the Framework are broadly applicable to every profession or occupation, albeit to different degrees, in a variety of ways, and with shifting emphases. However, the capabilities and sub-capabilities are not just for employability or for being job-ready; rather, these are capabilities for life, helping individuals to thrive, both personally and socially, in today’s world and in preparation for unpredictable futures.

No general capabilities framework can claim to be uniquely correct. Internationally, no single definitive and agreed upon list, framework or taxonomy exists, and the capabilities specified by leading education nations vary both in terminology and in number. The present Framework has been constructed as an assessment framework, which means that it comprises defined general capabilities and sub-capabilities, behavioural indicators, quality criteria and levelled progressions. It thus describes capabilities that are teachable, learnable, and assessable.


Overall, the present Framework has a uniqueness of purpose, closely related to but distinct from other national capabilities, competencies or skills frameworks. Further, it is arguably more comprehensive than those frameworks, inclusive in its scope of general capabilities and sub-capabilities and amenable to a range of potential applications as an assessment and credentialing tool.


The Framework presented in this report is hypothetical. While it is informed by research and stakeholder consultations, the Framework requires expert review, empirical validation and calibration, which are beyond the scope of this project. In addition, an ongoing cycle of review and revision of the Framework is recommended to meet the changing needs of educators, employers and workers as technological and social developments result in new workplace demands. Continuing maintenance of a dynamic framework that is integrated with recruitment and admissions systems will ensure the ongoing relevance and viability of the Framework.