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ACPET slams AEU report

Print16 February 2015    |     ACPET CEO Rod Camm writes that the recent report by Workplace Research Centre – commissioned by the Australian Education Union – which claims that large private training college chains have been generating extraordinary profit margins on the back of their recent access to public subsidies is seriously flawed. Camm says that, based on ASQA data (narrowly interpreted), the private sector has poor quality and TAFE represents quality.He acknowledges that here are quality problems in the VET sector but that the industry itself is committed to fixing them. He also says that the same quality issues afflicting the private sector are evident in the public TAFE sector….[ MORE ]…..

Higher ed reforms referred back to Committee

12 February 2015    |    Labor, the Greens and four independent senators (Senators Xenophon, Interest ratesLambie, Muir, Rhiannon and Lazarus) have joined forces to establish another inquiry into higher education reform, to report by 17 March. The committee will consider alternatives to deregulation, likely future demand for places and implications on student loans, research infrastructure and regional provision. The inquiry will also look to investigate “the appropriateness and accuracy of government -advertising in support of higher education measures” and “other related matters”. The University of Canberra is to hold a forum on 13 February to discuss alternatives to fee deregulation, to which key senators have been invited….[ MORE ]…..

Labor’s TAFE agenda in Queensland

12 February 2015    |     With the Labor Party poised to form a minority government in Queensland, Annastacia3its promise to rescue the TAFE sector will now come into sharper focus. Queensland VET student numbers fell 38,000 in 2013. During the election campaign, Labor leader and soon to be premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (who pronounces her surname as “Pallashay”) made a number of commitments to address the vocational educational and training system, including:
• $34 million over three years to create up to 100 TAFE teaching and support positions, fund new training schemes in emerging industries, invest in student support services and subsidise foundation skills course for disadvantaged learners.
• $240 million over four years to fund industry and community-based organisations to deliver training schemes to 32,000 people.
• Ensure 10% of workers on major projects are apprentices and trainees and extend the requirement to government-owned corporations.

Victorian VET Funding Review announced

Bruce McKenzie110 February 2015    |    The new Victorian Labor government has announced a comprehensive, independent review of the funding of Victoria’s vocational education and training (VET) system, as presaged during the election campaign. Minister for training and skills Steve Herbert says the VET Funding Review will provide a more sustainable model for public TAFE Institutes and private training providers. According to Herbert, the former Liberal government left Victoria’s training sector in crisis. Government contributions to public TAFEs fell from $733 million in 2011 to $468 million in 2014, leaving many TAFEs at risk of financial collapse. An interim report will be delivered by May with the final report completed later this year….[ MORE ]…..

Deakin and Bendigo Bank hook up

10 February 2015     |     Deakin University, with its large presence in regional Victoria, has Deakin & Bendigoannounced a partnership with Australia’s only regionally based bank, Bendigo Bank. The heads of the two institutions signed a Memorandum of Understanding in late January, committing both to explore ways to build brighter futures for students and Victorian and NSW regional communities. Deakin Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander and Bendigo’s Managing Director Mike Hirst launched the initiative by announcing 40 students would be granted scholarships for three years of study. Other initiatives being explored include the creation of a university Community Bank ; a scholarship fund of up to $1.3 million dollars and joint research prospects, and digital engagement/innovation opportunities, including mobile payment, crowd funding and communication initiatives with Bendigo Bank Telco….[ MORE ]…..

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Milestones

12 February 2015

Ian Young to step down

Vice-chancellor of the Australian National University and current chair of the Group of Eight PROF IAN YOUNG PRESS CLUBuniversities, Professor Ian Young, will step down from the position when his current term expires next year and return to research and teaching. Professor Young has remained research active throughout his time in senior executive roles, with his interests focussed on the understanding of marine environmental extremes, which he describes as a particularly important area in a time of significant climate change. As chairman of the Group of Eight, Professor Young has been a vocal proponent of fee deregulation.

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Comment  & analysis

12 February 2015

How to break the higher education impasse

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The fragile consensus within Universities Australia around support for the government’s fee deregulation package has begun to fracture (it was always chimerical), with Victoria University vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins proposing a “third way” between a high degree of regulation and unfettered regulation that combines managed deregulation with a stronger equity package and oversight. Canberra’s Stephen Parker has opposed the package from the get-go, with a number of other vice-chancellors having expressed reservations, including Swinburne vice-chancellor Linda Kristjanson (Swinburne), Jane den Hollander (Deakin) and most recently University of Technology, Sydney, vice-chancellor Attila Brungs. While the government early in the year indicated that passage of the deregulation package would be “front and centre” of its agenda with the resumption of Parliament, after the recent prime ministerial wobble, the government is likely to be more amenable to substantial amendments, including managed deregulation (essentially a fee cap), in order to demonstrate its new found commitment to caring and sharing. Certainly managed deregulation would seem to resonate with independent senator Nick Xenophon’s thinking (who one suspects will be pivotal to brokering some sort of settlement). The question will be what’s dumped from the package, which currently includes extension of subsidies to sub-degree courses and higher education courses at non-university providers.

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Fees pay-here

Higher education reform in Australia has entered a delicate phase. The current impasse must be broken, but any move to do so too quickly carries the risk of an outcome that serves neither students nor universities. Most feared in the sector is the worst of both worlds, a scenario of funding cuts without any fee increases.

The best outcome is not to move to unfettered deregulation, which without safeguards would seriously risk disadvantaging many students. Nor is it a return to a highly regulated system. Instead we should pursue a sensible “third way” that combines managed deregulation with a stronger equity package and oversight.

In a world of tight government budgets and an expanding tertiary sector, the case for higher contributions from students, supported by income-contingent loans, has been convincingly argued. What is important is that, in the process, students get an enhanced education and good returns on their investment.

Unfortunately the form of deregulation proposed in the government’s initial package carried very significant risks. These included:

  • over-pricing and excessive debts
  • greater opportunities for already high-achieving students and inferior opportunities for those who need more support
  • greater opportunities for students from high socioeconomic backgrounds and weaker opportunities for those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds
  • insufficient amounts of extra revenue going into improving teaching and learning and the student experience
  • some waste of public funds due to poor attention to effective transition to the new market system
  • higher education benefiting but vocational education being damaged.

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12 February 2015

The sorry state of the market

invisible_hand_of_the_market1-300x199With the recent Productivity Commission Report on Government Services showing VET enrolments declining in 2013 by more than 60,000 (3.9 %) – admittedly after some years of growth – a report by Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney – commissioned by the Australian Education Union – shows that large private training college chains have been generating extraordinary profit margins on the back of their recent access to public subsidies.

The report says the profit margins leveraged from public subsidies at three listed training companies — Vocation, Australian Careers Network and Ashley Institute of Training — averaged 35% in 2013. Victorian government funding of for-profit colleges had jumped from $137m in 2008 to $799m in 2013. Victorian government subsidi¬es bankrolled $606m in private college profits between 2011 and 2013.

Lead author Serena Yu said governments had opened up the training market to improve the accessibility, quality, affordability, respons¬iveness and transparency of delivery. “I can say emphatically that none of those have happened,” said Ms Yu.

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Vacancy for Research Officer at AEU

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A temporary position of research officer is available at the Federal Office of the Australian Education Union for the period ending 30 November 2015. An attractive salary and superannuation package applies.

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Life & stuff

12 February 2015

Countless aeons

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As 2015 seriously kicks into gear, with Australia’s first government leadership challenge already out of the way, it’s useful to reflect on our place in the scheme of things. Vast as it is, our universe is finite – it has a beginning and an end in time and space. But as celebrity astrophysics professor Brian Cox has observed, there’s nothing to say that there’s the possibility – perhaps even the probability – of there being an infinite number of universes beyond our own.

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Setting priorities for the Victorian government in school education and post secondary training

johncain-podiumA seminar organized by the John Cain Foundation
5.30 to 7.00 pm, Tuesday 24 February 2015
Terrace Lounge, Ground Floor, Melbourne School of Government University of Melbourne Walter Boas Building (entrance opposite Wilson Hall)

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