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Acquire tumbles towards insolvency

ABC News     |    12 May 2017

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Acquire Learning, which has been teetering on the edge of the abyss for some time, has tumbled into voluntary administration.  The appointed administrator says recent regulatory changes appear to have had a significant impact on Acquire’s business model.

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Acquire Learning was an education broker and recruitment service that marketed on behalf of certain RTOs who were responsible for accepting and finalising the enrolments, although it did eventually acquire its own two training providers.

Acquire’s website and social media accounts have been suspended for months, the registration of its Asia Pacific Training Institute was cancelled and its Franklyn Scholar college had approval to deliver diplomas withdrawn by ASQA in March.  It is being pursued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in the Federal Court (a decision in the case is pending) for alleged unconscionable conduct and last week its subsidiary pulled out of a $1 million a year sponsorship deal with the Carlton AFL club.

Acquire’s business model was to buy the names of jobseekers from job search websites, particularly then News Corporation owned CareerOne, in which Acquire took a controlling interest in 2015 and full control in 2016.  Acquire would then cold-call the job-seeker and use alleged high-pressure tactics to sell them expensive courses, of up to $52,000 funded via VET FEE-HELP, with the lure of a job at the end.

This business model was smashed by a crackdown late last year by the Commonwealth Government on the marketing of vocational education and the replacement of VET FEE-HELP with a much more tightly managed scheme on 1 January, including limiting the cost of courses to between $5000 and $15,000.

The administrator of the business said while the exact causes of Acquire’s problems are yet to be identified, it appeared that regulatory changes had a significant impact.

The voluntary administrator said CareerOne would continue to operate, and Acquire Learning’s 40 employees would continue to be employed while it conducted its investigation.

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