NCVER report reveals lack of scrutiny of VET sector

TDA News    |     10 November 2015

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Data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) show the continuing fundamental role of  TAFE, as the public provider network, but also demonstrate a worrying failure in scrutiny by policy makers, according to TAFE Directors Australia.

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The NCVER report Total VET students and courses 2014 reveals the huge growth in the VET sector to 3.9 million students – almost three times VET Reportthe number in the higher education sector.  The data also show:

  • TAFE and private providers deliver roughly the same number of training hours nationally (41% by TAFE and 45% by private providers) but TAFE remains the dominant provider of Commonwealth/state government funded training;
  • TAFE training is the preferred delivery for the trades, engineering and related fields, management and commerce and community and personal services – all areas vital to the economy;
  • The high average number of students in each TAFE institute relative to private providers demonstrates TAFE’s capacity to outstrip private providers in providing quality services for students;
  • TAFE remains the dominant provider of international trans-national VET delivery.

TDA director Martin Riordan says the report also reveals how ill-informed Australian policy makers have remained until now, on the operations of half of Australia’s training market.  Under the open market environment prevailing in the VET sector:

….private, for-profit providers have collectively exploded as an industry, with the data showing they now deliver to two-thirds of the VET student population.

While Parliament voted down the higher education deregulation legislation under former Education and Training Minister Pyne, the Commonwealth proceeded with VET FEE-HELP loans, in a deregulated open market, on an unprecedented scale.

Riordan points out that this occurred even after the federal regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), continually published warnings about the high risks of many private providers and their questionable marketing practices:

This data actually shows that more than half of the federal funding for VET and VET FEE-HELP student loans – totalling $9.1 billion a year – has been allocated to providers without the scrutiny and data disclosures required for other Commonwealth programs.

While TAFE has been held to account by rigorous reporting to respective state and territory governments, and has been transparent in contributing to NCVER’s national data collection, governments and communities have had very little information about the quality, credentials and motives of the majority of training providers, many of whom are for-profit.

Riordan says the ongoing risk raises a number of questions:

  1. What financial disclosures by training providers should be required in order to obtain access to public training funds and student loans?
  2. Why has it taken so long for lobby groups for private, for-profit colleges to come forward and support such information sharing? and
  3. What critical decisions about VET reform have been made by governments without access to the data, and what changes should be made to governance of this massive tertiary education sector?
See
Rorts and policies fuel training college explosion
VET: An industry in crisis is an investor’s worst bet
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