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The Scan in May 2015

31 May  2015

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In May The Scan posted 60 items and published 3 editions (#168, #169 and #170) .  Regulatory issues in the VET sector continue to attract most reader attention, led by the troubles of  ASX-listed private training provider Vocation.  There’s more than one way to skin a cat and it seems that action under consumer protection laws may prove an increasingly  useful way to deal with dodgy providers.  The Victorian consumer protection authority successfully prosecuted one notoriously dodgy provider and the national agency has up to 10 providers in its sights for unethical conduct.  May is, of course, budget month. Universities Australia’s comment  that “research programs  take a hit as universities and students left in policy limbo”, aptly sums up the Commonwealth budget, while education and training funding was the centrepiece of the Victorian Labor government’s first budget.  There’s $4 million set aside in the Commonwealth budget for the “Australian Consensus Centre”, under the guidance of the “dark prince“, but no university has yet volunteered to grab it after the University of Western Australia pulled out of the deal, on the back of a storm of internal protest.

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Hundreds of Vocation qualifications recalled

Vocation snip22 April 2015     |     Private training provider Vocation has been forced to recall more than 1,000 of its qualifications, including hundreds in child care and aged care, after Victorian regulators found the courses were sub-standard.  Almost 200 students who completed a Certificate III in Child Care, 250 students who completed a Certificate III in Aged Care, and 383 students with a double qualification of business studies will have to hand back their qualifications and inform their employers.  A total of 832 students, who all studied with Vocation in Melbourne between January and June last year, are affected….[ MORE ]….

Dodgy training provider fined $160,000 over fake job adsKeat2

7 May 2015    |     A dodgy Melbourne employment agency and unregistered training provider that advertised jobs that did not exist in order to lure potential employees into paying for training or internships with the company has been fined $166,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.  Consumer Affairs Victoria took action against the now collapsed entity Keat Enterprises in the court last week, after it investigated several complaints last year over Keat Enterprises’ “bait and switch” tactics….[ MORE ]….

UWA’s Lomborg centre: impossible, after all

Bjorn Lomborg10 May 2015    |     Education minister, Christopher Pyne, has vowed to find another university to host the Bjorn Lomborg “consensus centre” and is seeking legal advice about a decision by the University of Western Australia (UWA) to hand back $4m in federal government funding awarded to establish the centre.  UWA handed back the funding and dropped its connection with Lomborg, saying that lack of support among its academics made the centre untenable.  Lomborg said he remained committed to setting up the Australia consensus centre because his research was “far too important to let fall victim to toxic politics” and “grossly misinformed attacks”….[ MORE ]…..

Victorian Budget 2015

5 May 2015     |     Victoria’s major projects agenda has been scaled back in favour of upfront cash for schools, TAFEs, hospitals and services in a first Education Budget2budget aiming to deliver election promises and consolidating Labor’s election win.   Spending increases over the next four years will be cranked up to 3% annually from 2.5% previously to the meet the demands of booming population growth and cost-of-living pressures. The budget includes $3.9 billion for students, schools, TAFES and early childhood development, with $325 million to refurbish and rebuild 67 schools and $111 million to build 10 new schools.  Some $350 million, which has been previously announced, is being invested to support Victoria’s struggling TAFE system….[ MORE ]……

The 2015 Budget: university sector comment

Budget 2015 (2)

12 May 2015    |    Universities have welcomed a number of positive measures announced in the Abbott government’s second budget but have expressed deep disappointment at cuts to research program and the level of progress made in providing much needed higher education funding and policy certainty.  Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said  an additional year’s funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) ($150 million), one year’s funding of the Australian Synchrotron, and $16.9 million over four years to improve initial teacher education are the brightest budget beacons for universities.  However, the $263 million cut to the Sustainable Research Excellence (SRE) program that assists in meeting the indirect costs of research, identified to pay for two years of NCRIS, has come as a severe blow to the sector….[ MORE ]…..

VET: the good, the bad and the unlikely

30 April 2015   |      The Abbott Government has been erratic in vocational education, as in many other areas, in its first 18 months of office, writes FilesGavin Moodie.  It started badly with early decisions to reduce quality controls, appoint supporters to key government advisory posts and further cut unions from contributing to policy on vocational education. These decisions seemed to have been driven more by ideological fervor and rewarding party supporters than evidence of what is good for vocational education, its students and the interest groups which governments these days insist on calling ‘stakeholders’. Unfortunately few so called ‘stakeholders’ satisfy the original meaning of those who provide crucial support to the organisation. However, within 6 months the Government acknowledged the need to strengthen quality assurance and remove or at least try to reduce the dodgy providers and practices which are costing governments so much in subsidies, as well as undercutting TAFE….[ MORE ]….

V-C salaries on the up

Rocket increase16 April 2015   |    University heads have been pocketing substantial salary increases while demanding the Senate pass government legislation to allow fee deregulation based on the argument their institutions are cash-strapped.  The biggest increase was for Sandra Harding, head of north Queensland’s James Cook University and chairwoman of peak group Universities Australia. Harding’s salary has increased 65 % in just four years — from $559,000 in 2010 to $927,000 last year, including a $79,000 pay increase last year.  The highest paid vice-chancellor in Australia is Australian Catholic University’s Greg Craven, who took home a package of about $1.2 million in 2013….[ MORE ]….

ACCC targets unethical providers

7 May 2015     |      The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says it expects to lay charges against unethical private training Rod Simscolleges after one of its biggest investigations.  ACCC chairman Rod Sims told the ABC the watchdog’s ongoing investigation into 10 unnamed private training providers around the country was at an advanced stage. We will end up taking some people to court to really send a signal about what’s acceptable and what’s not, he said.   Sims said the ACCC is investigating misleading and unconscionable conduct including vulnerable people being signed up without their knowledge, offered cash and free tablets as inducements, the deliberate targeting of low income people, and companies spruiking outside Centrelink and community centres…..[ MORE ]…..

The Victorian VET Funding Review

VET8 May  2015    |     The Victorian Review of VET Funding, headed by former Holmesglen chief Bruce Mackenzie, is due to make an initial report to the government in early June (with its final report at the end of August). Over 750 submissions were made to the review by VET providers, industry and employers, students, teachers, parents and other interested parties, including by TAFE Directors Australia (TDA), representing the public providers, the Australian Council of Private Education and Training (ACPET), representing private RTOs. Funding issues aside, on which there are significant issues, funding issues aside, TDA and ACPET aren’t worlds apart in what they propose….[ MORE ]….

Victoria’s “lunch club” scandal

7 May 2015    |    Readers outside Victoria will not know much about this scandal unfolding before the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Rosewarne(IBAC). But for anyone who is, or has been, involved in the Victorian education sector the revelations are gob-smacking. It’s a story of greed, graft and betrayal by certain senior officials who have, for more than a decade, been looting the schools education budget, to the tune of millions of dollars. As the hearings are only in their early stages, who knows where it will end up: there are over 40 more witnesses to be examined. This report in The Age, which has been instrumental in exposing this corrupt conduct, provides a pretty reasonable summary of proceedings to date….[ MORE ]….

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