Once was TAFE

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The first in our series on the year in Australian tertiary education and training, as recorded in the pages of The Scan.

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budget-cuts-23The apparent end of the world arrived for the Victorian TAFE sector about 8 months earlier than the scheduled date of 21 December.

On 28 April, the Victorian government pre-announced, through The Australian, swingeing cuts to TAFE funding, which essentially removed any special funding for TAFE as the public provider of vocational education and training in Victoria.  It was gobsmacking stuff, as reflected in The Scan’s first comment – indeed, the first published comment of any kind – published on 30 April (Once was TAFE):

Publicly provided TAFE will survive, for the time being at least, but it is hardly likely to prosper.   You can see a path where many of the TAFEs become residualised, with underutilised assets and need “special assistance” to cover declining revenues.  This runs counter, of course, to the logic of “marketisation” as it has finally emerged in Victoria and so you end up at privatisation.

And you ask the question “why”?  Certainly the disorderly and disruptive process of skills reform in Victoria doesn’t seem to have served any public good: it’s blown the budget and debased the qualifications system.  And it’s degraded what was once such an important public asset and contributor to the public good: Victoria’s public TAFE system.

The ferocity of the backlash against these cuts was something the Baillieu government obviously hadn’t anticipated,.  The media coverage was unprecedented for an education issue.  The TAFE in Victoria site has “scooped” over 1500 media items: it was Victorian metropolitan and regional media, it was national media, it was print and electronic.  In my years dealing with Australian education and training issues, I’ve not witnessed anything like it.

In a later post, The Scan observed that eventually this issue will go off the boil (as it has) but it’s going to simmer away in the background as perhaps the issue that defined the Baillieu government.

Peter-Hall-6288497[But]one suspects that some time or other, minister Peter Hall, who expressed severe misgivings about the TAFE cuts, will be able to turn to cabinet colleagues and have an “I told you so” moment.

Maybe he’s had that moment: in a largely unreported comment, Hall has revealed that he will be taking to cabinet sometime soon a “structural adjustment” package to assist the more straitened, mainly regional, TAFEs.  It’s something, at least.

More importantly, the uproar in Victoria caught the attention of other state governments embarking on their own “VET reform” exercises, as part of a national agreement.  They have lined up to specifically assert that the Victorian “model” won’t be followed.  Indeed, the Queensland government’s recently released reform plan is, on the face of it, moderate and measured, and actually acknowledges the valuable and continuing role of the public provider.  Still, the NSW government, while eschewing the Victorian model, cut $800 million out of its TAFE funding (and nearly a billion more out of funding of the public school system).

One of the big themes of the year is the retrenchment of funding for public education and training systems in the big three states of NSW, Victoria and Queensland ( see Class warriors take on poor schools with education cuts reposted from The Conversation).

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14 September 2012

The leaked Cabinet-in – Confidence document detailing Victorian TAFE “transition plans”, can be accessed HERE.

TAFE Transition Plan

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