Australian Financial Review | 26 March 2013
The Victorian government gave $13 million in subsidies to private colleges that have since been closed down by regulators for “critical non-compliance” or have voluntarily relinquished their licences.
Victoria, under the Brumby Labor government, was the front-running jurisdiction for the demand-led training policies championed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard when she was education minister in the Rudd government. The system guaranteed a place to those seeking vocational training and produced a massive surge in enrolments, leading to budget blowouts.
The Baillieu government restructured the scheme and last year made politically unpopular cuts it said were justified, partly because of various forms of non-compliance.
Now documents obtained by The Australian Financial Review under freedom of information laws show that in Victoria alone, 19 private colleges, which pocketed a combined $13.6 million in government subsidies in the 2011-12 financial year, have since been deregistered by federal and state authorities.
At least nine were struck off for “critical non-compliance”. The biggest beneficiaries, C.A.R.E. Employment and Training Services and Vocational Training Group, each attracted more than $3.5 million in subsidies.
At least three others collected more than $1 million each in subsidies: Stefan Training Group ($2.08m), the Ashmark Group ($1.7m) and Trade Institute of Victoria ($1.2m). Trade Institute Victoria challenged the regulatory suspension and last week had its registration reinstated. Director Jing Jasmine Lin said the college has “taken legal action” and that “things had changed”.
Official documents show that $639 million in subsidies went to private colleges in 2011-12.
The approved providers list in Victoria, which featured more than 600 training organisations in 2011, now stands at 462. Enrolments in “soft” courses dropped to 13 per cent after July 2012, from 31 per cent, after subsidies were cut.
The number of private training providers exploded in Victoria. Training through private institutions has grown by 47% between 2003-2012, and rose 40% in 2011-12 alone. In the same period, TAFE enrolments grew 13% (up 8% in 2011-12).
South Australia, eight months into its own scheme, is battling similar problems to Victoria. Out of 341 applications to join South Australia’s approved providers’ list, 151 were from interstate training organisations. Enrolments have risen 26% since the scheme began. Private colleges and non-TAFE SA training providers attracted the majority of these additional l 13,964 students, but not by much: 50.4% compared with 49.6% .