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VET funding in Australia and the role of TAFE

LH Martin Institute    |     4  September 2014

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Policy neglect and funding cuts are steadily eroding Australia’s vocational education and training sector, according to VET sector veteran and now academic Peter Noonan.

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Noonan told the TDA national conference that VET students, many from poor backgrounds, are at risk of having a “hoax” perpetrated on them as government training subsidies are progressively cut and they are forced to pay rising fees while funding for schools and universities has soared.

Underscoring the scale of the under-investment in VET, Noonan said between 2004 and last year total operating spending by all governments rose by about 15 per cent to $6.8 billion a year, but that was dwarfed by a 23 per cent rise in school spending to $40bn a year and a 40 per cent rise in higher education spending to $23bn a year.

On a per-student basis, spending has gone backwards. Between 1999 and 2011 per student government VET spending fell by 25 per cent against a 30 per cent rise in spending per primary school student and a 20 per cent rise per secondary school student. In higher education, per student spending has been largely flat.

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As one senior state department officer observed in relation to the defunding of an important VET Diploma: “of course students will have an entitlement – they will be entitled to a full fee place at a provider of their choice”.

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Noonan said these growth disparities in funding between the sectors may see VET as a secto r progressively eroded:

  •  At the lower certificate levels by schools – if VET in schools programs flourish as funding to schools is significantly increased over the next four years;
  • By ongoing declines in its strongest offering–the apprenticeship system–and the final demise of traineeships; and
  • At Diploma and Advanced Diploma levels by higher education as Commonwealth funding is extended to sub‐degree Major VET providers ‐ particularly TAFE institutes ‐ will move out of VET and into the higher education market.

He postulated that perhaps this is the outcome as a country we want:

But if so, it should be a conscious, evidence‐based decision and not driven by dysfunctional funding arrangements, a broken national governance model and sole policy preoccupation with schools and universities.

Noonan said governments need to support TAFEs properly and be  prepared to value TAFE as a public institution, just as it appears “ we are prepared to recognise the intrinsic value of public universities.”

He called for an immediate and independent assessment of vocational education, warning that the ability of the sector to deliver needed workforce skills is being put at risk.

 

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VET funding in Australia and the role of TAFE
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