1 October 2014
In September The Scan published 67 posts, although we also extracted 39 submissions to the Senate inquiry into the government’s higher education reform legislation. Scan readers seem to be drawn to a whiff of controversy , with the suspension of a vice-chancellor and the suspension of a listed company’s trading (albeit temporarily) topping the most read list. The Senate submissions feature third, which is pretty good for that sort of subject. As usual, the travails of the TAFE sector in the era of skills reform features highly, particularly in Victoria, where it could be a prominent issue at the election due in November. Top reads bottomed out with a reprise of a post from July.
19 September 2014 | Murdoch University suspended vice-chancellor Richard Higgott on full pay on 19 September as a result of the outcomes of a recent investigation by the university, which have been referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) for further assessment pursuant to section 28 of the Corruption and Crime Commission Act (2003). The decision to suspend Higgott was a unanimous resolution of the Murdoch University Senate. Murdoch University chancellor David Flanagan said the decision to suspend Higgott was regrettable but necessary as a result of the findings of the investigation and the policies of the university….[ READ MORE ]…
19 September 2014 | Trading of shares in ASX-listed VET provider Vocation was temporarily suspended on 19 September at the request of the company, given ongoing speculation regarding its Victorian government funding contracts. Trading resumed on 22 September. Since listing in December 2013, Vocation has derived 80% of its revenues from subsidiary BAWM, most of which (90%) comes from Victorian government VET funding. However, that funding is being withheld, pending the outcome of an audit of courses provided by Vocation. It’s reported that the audit may relate to the practice of “channelling”, whereby a provider enrols students in courses other than what they originally intended to enrol in, in order to receive a greater level of government subsidy. A previous audit of BAWM, in December 2013, found evidence of channelling. …..[ READ MORE ]….
25 September 2014 | The government’s higher education reform package – the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 – was referred on 3 September to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee for consideration and report by 28 October. The committee has published the 139 submissions it received on its website. There is almost unanimous support for passage of the package, particularly fee deregulation, on the basis that the long run decline in public funding is damaging the sector. Several submissions express opposition or concern about the extension of public subsidies to private providers (ACU stridently so). There is a united view that the package needs to be amended, particularly to at least ameliorate the burden of debt on future generations of students, that would follow from the combination of substantial fee increases and the imposition of a real interest rate on student loans (although no unanimity on how that might be achieved). Deakin University says the proposed changes to the HECS repayment scheme are unfair and rejects any compromise on this issue. The Regional Universities Network and the Group of Eight have formed a unity ticket on additional support for regional universities and their students. Stephen Parker (vice-chancellor, University of Canberra) and the National Tertiary Education Union make strange bedfellows in urging rejection of the package in its entirety…..[ READ MORE ]…..
4 September 2014 | 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. 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% to $6.8 billion a year, but that was dwarfed by a 23% rise in school spending to $40bn a year and a 40% rise in higher education spending to $23bn a year…..[ READ MORE ]…..
22 September 2014 | Dual sector Swinburne University is flagging a major restructure of its vocational training after falling short of revenue targets on the back of state government funding cuts and increasing competition from private providers. In a consultation paper issued to staff, Swinburne said revenue from vocational education and training had slumped from $123.5 million in 2012 to a now projected $70m this year. But it said its current organisational structure was predicated on the university generating at least $90m a year from VET, and alternative options now need to be considered. VET at Swinburne is currently spread over three separate centres, plus foundation provider Swinburne College and short course provider Industry Solutions. Their combined total revenue is just over the $80m a year, or similar to that generated by Swinburne’s smallest university faculty, the faculty of business and enterprise…..[ READ MORE ]….
2 September 2014 | Victoria’s TAFE system is near collapse, according to the Labor opposition, after $1.2 billion in government cuts, the Victorian Training Market Half Year Report has revealed. It shows that TAFEs’ share of the training market dropped from 48% in the first half of 2010 to just 27% in the first half of 2014. Overall, government subsidised enrolments continued to decrease for the first half of 2014, with a 5% drop from the same time in 2013. TAFE enrolments in the first half have fallen 28% to 100,200 compared with 138,300 a year ago, while private providers have increased their enrolments by 20% to 214,300 from 180,000 a year ago. Labor spokesperson Steven Herbert said that if this trend were to continue under a future coalition government, TAFEs’ share would continue dropping to unsustainable levels, predicted to be as low as 8%. ….[ READ MORE ]….
1 September 2014 | After just a year as managing director of NCVER, Rod Camm is moving on to become CEO of the Australian Council of Private Education and Training (ACPET), which became vacant following the sudden resignation of Claire Field in early July 2014. Camm has had a long career in the vocational education and training (VET) field. Prior to his appointment at NCVER he held the position of CEO of Skills Queensland. Before that he was Associate Director-General of the Queensland Department of Education and Training, and CEO of Construction Skills Queensland. He has performed numerous other executive roles across government and has sustained a strong relationship with industry…..[ READ MORE ]….
23 September 2014 | The University of Western Australia is the first university to reveal its student fee structure under the government’s fee deregulation plans, advising a Senate committee it would charge an annual fee of $16,000 – $48,000 for a three year degree – for the five basic undergraduate courses it offers. That’s an increase of 160% for a degree in humanities disciplines (based on the 2015 student contribution of $6152 pa – $18,456 over three years). And it does mean a price tag of around $100,000 for “professional degrees”, such as law, medicine, architecture and engineering. Medicine will likely break the $100,000 mark under the new price structure and law will be around $95,000. UWA says this is “commensurate’’ with its status as one of the leading universities in Australia and as one of the world’s top 100 universities. The new fees would take effect from 2016 provided Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s reform package passes the Senate, where it is facing heavy opposition from Labor, the Greens and Clive Palmer’s crossbenchers. UWA’s pricing will set a benchmark for other elite Group of Eight universities as they reformulate their fees……[ READ MORE ]….
12 September 2014 | Industry minister Ian Macfarlane has announced sweeping deregulation of the vocational education and training (VET) sector with “high performing” VET providers delegated the authority to manage their own scope of registration and no longer needing the regulator’s permission to change courses or introduce new ones. Under the proposed changes, registered training organisations (RTOs) can apply to the Australian Skills Standards Agency (ASQA) for a delegation to manage their scope allowing RTOs to “get on with what they do best — delivering the high calibre training that meets industry and economy needs”. Macfarlane told a national VET conference that “quality training speaks for itself” and that, in a highly competitive environment, the best way to ensure an RTO delivers high quality training is to “let it stand on its reputation – not fill out reams and reams of paperwork and jump through endless hoops.” ASQA’s regulatory role will focus on dealing with “rogue operators” and providing education and guidance to ensure “voluntary compliance” with VET standards by RTOs. ASQA will no longer transition to a full cost recovery model as had been planned and its fees will remain unchanged in 2014-15……[ READ MORE ]….
24 July 2014 | Skills reform in Australia is an “absolute shemozzle” and is jeopardising a world-class vocational education and training system, says Jeff Gunningham, recently retired chief executive of TAFE South Australia. But the apparent troubles besetting TAFE are the invention of a “misinformed media”, according to the Victorian minister. Gunningham told the Victorian TAFE Association conference that bureaucratic bungling and an obsession with the bottom line is degrading training and threatening the existence of public TAFE institutes. He said TAFE is at risk in Australia, driven by a Council of Australian Governments policy on entitlement which is simply not working. “It’s a dog’s breakfast.”…..[ READ MORE ]….