1 December 2015
As the Senate prepares to debate the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015 to toughen up administration of the VET FEE-HELP scheme, the government has announced that VET providers with VET FEE-HELP will be hit with an emergency funding freeze next year to rein in unscrupulous providers and end widespread rorting of the student loan scheme, should the legislation pass.
The Senate Education and Employment Committee has recommended passage of the bill, although both Labor and the Greens propose amendments to toughen it up further.
The committee report paints a picture of a scheme running out of control, to the point where VET FEE-HELP debt could conceivably overtake HECS-HELP debt this year or next.
Between 2009 and 2014:
Along with that, fees are growing exponentially. The average cost of an information technology diploma has increased from $2779 in 2011 to $18,735, increasing by 84.9 per cent between 2013 and 2014. A diploma of business management which cost $4623 in 2011 now costs $15,493.
As currently framed, the amended legislation would:
Labor proposes the creation of an office of Student Ombudsman, putting some form of cap on tuition fees and banning or at least directly regulating brokers and other third party agents. The Greens propose that private providers be excluded from the VET FEE-HELP scheme altogether.
Minister for vocational education Luke Hartsuyker has announced that, contingent on the legislation passing, a package of “urgent” measures will be introduced to limit growth in the vocational sector while the government develops a new funding model to come into effect in 2017.
Under the proposed measures, a freeze on loans to providers will be put in place at 2015 levels.
In addition, new conditions will be placed on providers seeking to register for the VET FEE-HELP scheme, payments will be made in arrears for actual enrolment numbers rather than forecast figures, and the department will have new powers to suspend payments to providers of concern.
Hartsuyker said the transitional arrangements would be put in place, ahead of the introduction of a new funding model to be developed in consultation with the sector over the next 12 months.
Under the crackdown, the department would be able to pause payments to organisations if there are concerns that they “are not delivering the types of services that we would rightly expect”.
TAFE Directors Australia, representing Australia’s public vocational education sector, immediately welcomed the government’s announcement, calling it a “long-awaited crackdown”.
The TDA’s chief executive, Martin Riordan, said it was “a series of extraordinary emergency measures”.
TAFE agrees that special amending VET FEE-HELP legislation is warranted to protect students from (January next year). We hope it will be the start of a more balanced approach in vocational education, and the start of far more prudent governance.
The National Tertiary Education Union has called for the creation of an office of ombudsman and says that VET FEE-HELP should not be extended to “for-profit” providers:
Given the weight of evidence about the unethical behaviour of for-profit providers, the NTEU believes that the only way to eliminate further risks is by ensuring VET FEE HELP loans are only available to students enrolled at public institutions or not for-profit community providers.
The Bill will pass in some form, given the problems enveloping the sector, possibly with a compromise around the appointment of an ombudsman, with consideration of fee caps in the funding model to be introduced in 2017.
25 November 2015 | An RTO operator, who wishes to remain anonymous (fair enough), laments that the reputable “sprats”, such as herself, are being caught up in the net intended to catch the “sharks” in the VET ocean.
I’m writing this article because I need to vent.
The vocational education and training sector is so backwards sometimes and it just doesn’t need to be this way.
Everyone’s quite familiar now with the tales of rorting and depredation on the part of some providers but this is a multi-faceted story so let me put it from another side.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pass the blame or excuse the rorters: it’s exquisite karma and the rorters deserve everything that is seemingly coming their way.
I just want the way this sector operates to improve, across the board and not just in a piecemeal, reactive way. And I want to start loving what I do again. Because if we are not passionate, how are we ever going to make our students passionate?
My first experience of the reactive nature of the sector occurred relatively early on. But I thought it might be a one off, I put my head down and bum up and worked extra jobs to gather the capital and expertise to strike out on my own as a training provider.
As part of my plan, I quit my job and went and did a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) to help me when I established my own Registered Training Organisation (RTO). On completing my MBA, I knuckled down and spent a year setting up my RTO, doing everything myself from scratch. Policies and procedures, materials, resources, everything.
I got approved as an RTO. Then I spent the next 2 years doing small fee for service courses to survive. This was not where I wanted to be. The courses I actually wanted to deliver, which I thought would make a positive difference and which I feel feel passionate about, are hard to sell fee for service. It’s just the reality that employers and employees (and potential employees) need assistance to cover their costs. It’s the underlying rationale of public funding of VET: a skilled and capable workforce is a public good.
After two years, the required waiting period, I successfully applied for a government funding contract. It was amazing and I thought “Now, I can finally do what I’m really good at and make that difference”.
But no: just a few weeks after receiving my contract, the government cut the funding to both the courses on my RTO’s scope of registration and they were no longer feasible to run. And this with NO prior warning.
You might think that if students and employers really wanted these courses they would pay for them now and you wouldn’t need funding.
Here’s the reality check. Employers and students still really need the training, but now they go to a large provider which has numerous courses on scope which they can adapt to suit that market. They game the system and overnight go from “specialising” in Widget Management training (which has been defunded) to Bodgie Communication which has been funded.
Bodgie Communication may not actually be a course that’s appropriate for the needs of most learners and may not add much value to the stock of skills in the economy. But the way the system works now makes gaming the only business option. That is, the reason some RTOs provide inappropriate courses is around funding: because the government won’t fund or keep funding stable in many of the courses that really need – and merit – support.
Governments in Australia extol the virtues of small business – for their contributions to employment and innovation, for example – but in the training industry “small” is starting to be an impossible feat. It’s getting to the point that an RTO can only survive if it has an extremely large scope and doesn’t specialise, as that gives it the flexibility to game the system to survive constant funding and regulatory changes.
Returning for a moment to rorting in the VET system (and I accept that gaming isn’t necessarily rorting but all rorting will involve gaming), what we have seen in recent times is the proliferation of “sharks” in the VET ocean – alpha predators, who are big mean and nasty. Governments are casting a net – not before time, either – to at least rein them in. But the VET “sprats” – smaller reputable providers – are emerging as “collateral damage”, caught in the net intended to capture the sharks and subject to an ever increasing burden of regulation which, in context, is unnecessary. By and large, the sprats aren’t the problem authorities are trying to net.
Consider this: what other business operators are required by regulatory authorities to have a 3 year financial plan, yet these same authorities doesn’t tell these business operators until potentially 31 December of a year whether they will have funding for the next year. How can plan on that basis, how can you hire full time staff, lease or even buy suitable premises if you don’t even know if you will have a business next year?
My RTO is audited numerous times each year, but not once have the auditors ever asked to see us training. I have offered that opportunity, but they have never taken me up on it. Apparently that’s not important! It’s all about our documentation and the paper trail.
We have to provide so much evidence and documentation that it’s necessary to pay training staff for an extra 2 hours each session.
Actually I had an audit in mid-November. Well really it was called a performance review to determine if my RTO will be awarded a contract to provide government subsidised training next year. I was told I could not get a copy of the report and would receive no feedback. Each time my RTO gets audited, it’s necessary to demonstrate “continuous improvement” in all aspects of our administration and activity, but how can we improve if communication is not a two way street? Communication subjects are core units in most qualifications, and generally always emphasise feedback and two-way communication. We get audited on these, yet the government authorities auditing us don’t follow any such principles. No suggestions for improvements, only what you have done wrong.
What other industry has to document, save and file records of every meeting or phone call or email they have that justifies any business decision they have made. I am an industry specialist and sometimes I know exactly what electives my clients may need. But unless I’ve documented an industry consultation and meetings with all stakeholders, apparently my experience means nothing.
I now have to save literally every email I send and receive, which number hundreds a week. But then I have the conundrum: where do I save it? Do I save it in an industry consultation file, do I save it in the clients file? Do I save it in the continuous improvement file? Or do I save it everywhere. Then to top it off I need to document each improvement I make in a register. Imagine you had to write down every item you ate, the time you ate it, who recommended you eat it, why food is good for you………. every time you eat anything. That is what my life is becoming like!
I love training and I love my industry and I got into the business because I thought I could make a real difference, be innovative and deliver real outcomes that help the student and the business. But it seems I was somewhat deluded. I think my RTO is amazing at what it does but I’m so bogged down in paper work, I need to hire others to train, and purchase resources that meet compliance requirements but are bloody boring to train and assess.
I was invited to a meeting the other day at a government department to ask for our feedback on a short course we deliver. It is a licensed course that also provides a nationally recognised unit of competency.
The people running the meeting asking for our advice on the delivery of the course did not even know what a unit of competency was and that they are designed by an industry skills body. They didn’t ask the industry skills body about the course and when I asked if they can work with us to deliver both a licensed course and a unit of competency, they said ‘that’s not really our concern’. Seriously, this is what we are dealing with.
The regulatory regime in Australia is slow and cumbersome, expensive to providers, highly interventionist, and neither transparent not consistent. It certainly fails to adhere to the principles of the ideal regulatory model, which emphasise proportionality, necessity and risk management. And it grows ever more cumbersome. Whenever a new issue emerges, the invariable response of authorities is to bolt a new bit onto the machine, so that the machine is beginning to resemble something designed by William Heath Robinson, the English cartoonist and illustrator Wikipedia describes as “best known for drawings of ridiculously complicated machines for achieving simple objectives”.
The federal government has a stated policy of eliminating the burden of unnecessary regulation on the sector. As former Commonwealth Skills Minister Ian Macfarlane observed in announcing sweeping deregulation measures last year, “ASQA should be a regulator not a bookkeeper”, requiring RTOs to “jump through endless hoops”. He said 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. Current education minister Simon Birmingham has confirmed the government’s commitment to cracking down on rogue operators and shoddy practice.
But more than good intentions are needed. There needs to be a mindset change: from seeming paranoia to equanimity, from adversarial to collaborative approaches, positive sanctions as well as negative sanctions.
The Australian | 28 October 2015
The Commonwealth government has released a synthesis report of the past seven reviews of higher education over the past 30 years rather than conducting a further separate review in the wake of its failed higher education reform package.
Education minister Simon Birmingham told the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit said that the government is under intense time pressures to come up with a new and revitalised higher education reform package after its the package devised by former education minister Christopher Pyne was rejected by the Senate twice, largely due to intense community opposition over the plan to deregulate university fees.
The background paper summarises the findings of each major review of higher education from the 1988 Dawkins White Paper to the 2014 Kemp-Norton Review of the Demand Driven Funding System.
Birmingham said he had decided to reap the wisdom of these previous reviews rather than hold another one as he tries to push reset on the government’s failed higher education reform package.
These reviews show that for almost three decades Australia has been grappling with how to enable more students to access the benefits higher education offers – in terms of employment, earnings, social and cultural opportunities – while ensuring the system remains fair, high quality and affordable for both individuals and taxpayers.
He says he hopes to have a new reform package ready to take to the Senate by mid-next year before the expected date of the next federal election.
Birmingham flagged to the conference that a watered-down version of fee deregulation was still on the agenda, but acknowledged that Labor ran an effective campaign over $100,000 fees. He also flagged a possible overhaul of the HECS system and expansion of sub-degree places, saying “there is a valid need to stop treating non-degree bachelor and non-university pathways as second class options”.
While he will look closely at extending government subsidies to private colleges because it would encourage diversity, Birmingham said he is very wary after widespread rorting in the vocational sector.
He said quality must be guaranteed and government funding must never be structured in such a way as to attract providers like bees to a honey pot,”adding that he had been “somewhat scarred” by his role in having to “clean up in the poorly regulated vocational education market”.
The synthesis report identifies five overarching themes that had been common to all seven of the previous reviews even though student numbers had more than doubled during that time, now numbering over one million.
Common themes included how to adequately finance teaching and research while maintaining quality, as well as finding the right balance between student and government contributions have been central to all seven reviews.
Each of the reviews has also struggled with how to continue to expand the number of places, especially among under-represented groups, due to the need to produce graduates with the skills needed for new and emerging sectors in the economy. All have also addressed diversity, or the lack of it, between institutions.
The Age | 26 June 2015
Free public education has existed for more than a century in Australia, and Abbott and Pyne know they cannot change that. So what are they really planning? If the Australian public ever needed proof that school funding is a mess or that the Gonski reforms are all but dead, we now have it.
Free public education has existed for more than a century in Australia, and Abbott and Pyne know they cannot change that. So what are they really planning?
If the Australian public ever needed proof that school funding is a mess or that the Gonski reforms are all but dead, we now have it.
A confidential discussion paper by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet shows how radically the Abbott government has departed from the equitable funding model proposed by the Gonski report in 2011. Not only is Gonski gone, but it also appears that a range of weird and wonderful new reform options is on the table.
Not only is Gonski gone, but it also appears that a range of weird and wonderful new reform options is on the table.
Not only is Gonski gone, but it also appears that a range of weird and wonderful new reform options is on the table.
The paper emerges in response to current Reform of the Federation processes and flags four major options for comprehensively reshaping school funding in our nation.
Shortly after Fairfax broke the story that the discussion paper contained a proposal that wealthy parents pay for their children to attend public schools, Education Minister Christopher Pyne quickly rejected the idea.
Nonetheless, the fact that such radical proposals are being floated at all shows how far Australia is from political consensus on what an appropriate school-funding system looks like. It also reflects the extreme lengths the Abbott government is considering in order to re-shape education in the name of economic efficiency.
The notion of high-income parents paying for their children to attend public schools comes out of the fourth option, which would see the Commonwealth become the dominant funder of all schools. The paper suggests the federal government would adjust school funding amounts based on “student need and the ability of families to make a contribution”.
It then adds: “States and Territories would have the option to ‘top-up’ funding to government schools, if they wished to do so, to ensure all public school students, regardless of the ability of families to make a contribution, were able to attend for free”.
The devil, therefore, is in the detail. While the paper does not explicitly state that parents will be charged fees, it is implicit within the argument. Under this option, the federal government would give schools less money and if the states and territories cannot afford to top it up, the onus would fall to parents.
This proposal bears a curious similarity to a recommendation made last year by free market think tank Centre for Independent Studies, which suggested charging “$1000 per student from high-income families attending government schools”. The CIS report, titled School Funding on a Budget, argues that such a change could save governments $250 million per year.
As the government’s discussion paper rightly points out, such a move would drive ‘school choice’, which is code in policy circles for promoting the ‘marketisation’ of schooling. For example, if a parent was faced with $1000 fee for their child to attend a local public school, it would increase the incentive to leave the public system altogether and enrol their child in a private school.
Over time, therefore, such a reform has the capacity to increase the drift of higher income families away from the public school system, which will only serve to increase the gulf between private and public schools by further concentrating disadvantaged young people in the public system.
Australians have had access to free public education for well over a hundred years. While Australian states have constitutional responsibility for education and remain the principal funders of public schools, federal governments have progressively increased their share funding for Australian schools since the Karmel Report in 1973.
The leaked report flags an extreme makeover to this historical settlement and potentially puts at risk free universal access to public schooling. Pyne came out strongly this morning on Twitter, suggesting, “Charging wealthy parents for their children to attend public schools is not the government’s policy. I don’t support it”.
He added: “The Australian government does not and will not support a means test for public education. Full stop. End of story.” Regardless of whether Pyne supports it or not, the proposal has come out of the Prime Minister’s department and must be taken as a serious reflection on the government’s current thinking on schooling policy.
Pyne and Abbott both know that such reforms are unlikely to ever come to fruition, as they would require a historically unprecedented shift in the governance of Australian schooling that would need to be agreed to by federal, state and territory governments.
The question begs, therefore, what symbolic work has this paper been designed to do? If it is simply “flying a kite” to see which way public opinion is blowing, what type of reforms are really under serious consideration?
Regardless of what happens, it is clear the report will reignite the already contentious debate about growing inequalities in Australian schooling and the yawning gulf between public and private schools.
In my view, it is a sad reflection on the state of the current funding discussion that the imperative of cost-cutting is obscuring more fundamental questions about what a quality education looks like, and what is required to achieve it.
Dr Glenn Savage is a researcher and lecturer in education policy in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. This article was first published in The Age 0n 23 June 2015.
Notably, prime minister Tony Abbott has not ruled out the idea to make wealthy families pay for their children to attend public schools but says it would be a decision for the states and territories, which face the loss of billions of dollars in the years beyond 2016. Equally notably, that’s likely to be the case whatever the complexion of the next government: while the Labor opposition has deplored this loss of funding, it hasn’t committed to making it good.
I think it’s good that some of the states and territories at least are thinking creatively about how they can responsibly fund their operations
The idea, contained in confidential discussion paper …. would end the concept of universal access to school education in Australia.
This week saw the inaugural roundtable on international education held in Canberra. It was an opportunity for the sector to meet with a range of Ministers’ whose responsibility intersects with international education as an industry.
The roundtable was attended by the Hon Christopher Pyne, Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Ian Macfarlane, Minister for Industry and Trade, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Assistant Minister for Education and Training and Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women.
The discussions centered on the draft National Strategy for International Education. While never an easy task to encapsulate the key strategies needed across the education sectors, the strategy is a critical piece of the framework to position Australia as a quality destination of choice. The key outcomes from the discussions are that there is more work to be done and the Strategy needs to genuinely articulate the vision and direction for education. This aspiration can ensure governments and industry can work together to further improve this already dynamic export industry… Read more
We are excited to announce the 2015 APIEF and ACPET National Conference program is now available to view on the website. Confirmed speakers include: Rachel Botsman, Collaborative Economy Global Expert Rachel defined the theory of ‘collaborative consumption’ and was one of the first thinke… Read more
Women in Global Business (WIGB) is a national program that recognises women’s growing contribution to Australia’s economy through international trade. The program is funded by the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) to provide support to women-led businesses seeking success in export… Read more
A Senate committee has endorsed the South Australian government’s plan for subsidised training and criticised the Commonwealth for threatening to withhold $65 million in funding to the state.
The Senate Education and Employment References Committee report on the ‘Operation, regulation and funding of private vocational education and training (VET) providers in Australia’, says the South Australian government’s plan “reflects deep concern with the existing national partnership agreement on training”.
“The response from the federal government, to effectively penalise South Australia for prioritising TAFE by withholding $65 million in funding is disappointing and short sighted,” the report says.
“The committee believes the government should work to review the existing arrangements to take on board concerns rather than punishing states for prioritising public sector provision”.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) cannot determine whether all graduates of Vocation Ltd and its subsidiaries are fully qualified, the federal opposition has claimed.
In Senate Estimates hearings last week, ASQA confirmed that graduates of courses such as Health Support Services, and Early Childhood Education may not be competent in their qualifications.
Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Kim Carr and Shadow Minister for Vocational Education, Sharon Bird said the evidence was “very concerning”.
“We need to have confidence that unqualified people trained by non-compliant providers are not entering care-based industries such as aged care, childcare and the health system,” they said.
“ASQA also told the committee that the authority has concerns about the quality of assessments across the board in the aged care training sector and has no capacity to rectify the issue”.
TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) has been appointed to the federal government’s new Coordinating Council for International Education.
The Minister for Education and Training, Christopher Pyne announced that TDA Acting CEO Malcolm White will be on the council, which will be responsible for finalising the recently-released Draft National Strategy for International Education. Other members are:
“This is a vision that requires a coordinated and consistent approach across all levels of government. It is essential that the strategy is developed in partnership with education providers, industry and the wider community,” Mr Pyne said.
As a first step, the council will convene two roundtables at Parliament House, Canberra, on 18 June and 13 August.
The NSW Skills Minister John Barilaro, pictured, has opened the refurbished Marcus Clark Building at Sydney TAFE at Ultimo.
The $7.5 million upgrade of the historic building included building works, new furniture and equipment, and a shop front with innovative services for students and staff.
“The new rooms provide a flexible learning environment and allow the very best of teaching innovation for students, who can access the best facilities and most modern teaching approaches on demand,” Mr Barilaro said.
The building is one of the largest classical buildings of the inter-war period, distinguished from its peers by the “skyscraper” effect of the 12- story central tower that is a landmark on the southern edge of Sydney’s CBD.
In just a few months, from 9-11 September, TAFE industry leaders will be converging on Hobart, to get “Inspired”. There are five compelling reasons to attend:
1. Experience inspiring speakers and gain insights about trends
The conference is designed to motivate delegates to be more creative and to stimulate discussion on seeing the world differently, with speakers who have been tasked to goad, provoke and energise.
2. Exchange ideas
This year’s conference has many formal and informal networking opportunities. The pre-conference workshops and the Marketplace are back again. The interactive Marketplace topics particularly allow everyone to exchange ideas.
3. Collaboration leads to success
The greatest benefits of a conference are often intangible and serendipitous. That chance conversation in the barista line could make all the difference and bring new spheres of collaboration. A great conference is especially fertile ground for making new contacts and for collaboration.
4. Right-sized to really connect
2015 is a time for reflecting, recharging and reconnecting. The TDA National Conference is just the right size event to do all three. This year’s formal networking and connecting events include a Welcome Reception at MONA, ‘A Taste of Tasmania’ Conference Dinner and a Governor’s Reception at Governor’s House.
5. You want to know what all the buzz is about
You have heard the TDA National Conference is the best vocational education and training industry conference to attend. It’s time for you find out for yourself.
To register for the conference or download the draft program, please visit www.tda.edu.au.
Accommodation bookings are selling fast and substantial earlybird discounts close on 16 July.
The APEC inception workshop of Systematic Design Of Green Skills Development in TVET was held last week in Beijing, attended by delegates from the Asia Pacific region, including Indonesia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and China.
It included more than 100 delegates from China, keen to learn how they can incorporate green skills into their curriculum. Many are involved in a large APEC project to integrate green skills into their courses under the leadership of Lui Yufeng, Director & Research Professor at Beijing’s Central Institute for Vocational & Technical Education (CIVTE).
The forum heard what APEC countries have been doing and many were impressed with Australia’s leading role in integrating green skills through the COAG Green Skills Agreement 2009.
Linda Condon, on behalf of TDA, presented a paper ‘The Greening of Skills in Australia’ which outlined the way Australia had worked to integrate green skills through the work of the Industry Skills Councils, The National Centre for Sustainability at Swinburne, the International Green Skills Network now managed by Sunraysia TAFE in Mildura, and with help from so many enthusiastic teachers in the VET sector.
Linda has been asked to continue to assist the group around the process of integration of Education about Sustainability and Education for Sustainability.
Delegates including Professor Liu Yufeng (4th from left); Linda Condon (5th from left); and Professor Yang Jin (6th from left), Director General CIVTE.
Applications for the 2016 Fulbright Scholarships opened in May and there are opportunities for those interested in studying in the VET sector.
The scholarships are aimed at postgraduate students, researchers, academics, and professionals, and support a program of work in the United States.
Of particular interest is the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Vocational Education & Training sponsored by the Department of Education and Training, and worth up to $30,000.
The number of organisations that recruited more than 20 graduates increased from 23 per cent in 2013, to 31.5 per cent in 2014, according to the latest employment report from Graduate Careers Australia.
The industry with the highest proportion of employers that recruited more than 20 graduates was Government/Defence/Health (41.5 per cent), followed closely by Accounting/Finance (40.4 per cent).
The highest proportion of participating employers that did not recruit any graduates as part of their 2014 intake was in the manufacturing industry (20.0 per cent).
Western Sydney Careers Expo
DATE: 18-21 June 2015
LOCATION: Showground, Sydney Olympic Park
DETAILS: Click here for more information.
24th National VET Research Conference
DATE: 6-8 July 2015
LOCATION: University of Western Sydney
DETAILS: More information.
Victorian TAFE Association
2015 State Conference – Leading Transformational Change
DATE: 16-17 July 2015
LOCATION: RACV Club, Melbourne
DETAILS: Click here for more information.
2015 ACODE Learning Technologies Leadership Institute
DATE: 17-21 August 2015
LOCATION: Mantra at Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast, Queensland
DETAILS: More information
TAFE Managers Association 2015
DATE: 21 August 2015
LOCATION: Luna Park, Sydney
DETAILS: More information coming soon.
VET Development Centre
Teaching and Learning Conference
DATE: 3-4 September 2015
LOCATION: RACV Torquay Resort, Victoria
DETAILS: More information.
TDA National Conference
DATE: 9-11 September 2015
LOCATION: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart
DETAILS: More information.
National VET Conference
DATE: 17-18 September 2015
LOCATION: Adelaide Convention Centre
DETAILS: More information.
Australian International Education Conference 2015
International education: global, responsible, sustainable
DATE: 6 – 9 October 2015
LOCATION: Adelaide Convention Centre
DETAILS: More information.
The ACPET National Conference is now looming, scheduled for 27-28 August, with the APIEF plus a practitioner PD day on 26 August. With such debate and contention around both higher education and vocational education, and some very significant challenges across the sector this is a critical opportunity for the industry to come together and develop a position on the reform agenda.
As reported last week, the South Australian government’s subsidised training list, released on 22 May under the Workready program, walked away from a National Commitment to contestability and only 5000 of 51,000 new places will offer student choice.
Last week saw key industry groups, students, ACPET and our members come together in a forum with Assistant Minister Simon Birmingham to discuss the changes.
The Minister announced that the Commonwealth Government would withhold the training funds it had earmarked for South Australia under the national skills agreement until it consulted with industry and providers over the changes and reconsidered its position.
I applaud this announcement and the Minister’s preparedness to meet key stakeholders.
We of course want the training funds spent on training places in South Australia and call on the South Australian Government to meet with industry to find a solution to the chaos that is now spreading across the State.
If this is not possible, ACPET will work with the Commonwealth and Industry to develop a purchasing model that enables the $65 million allocated to South Australia for 2015/16 and 2016/17 to be directed to a contestable training market, ensuring South Australians’ have the opportunity to select the qualification and provider of their choice.
ACPET is hosting another industry forum on this issue in Adelaide this week.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) Community Engagement Team has been working with international students associations, universities, TAFE colleges and private education providers. The aim is to increase the awareness of keeping a work diary and how it is an important tool to assist international studen… Read more
APIEF is a key event that aims to develop education and training provider’s capabilities to deliver high quality programs to the International market and to build cooperative relationships and capabilities through skills development in the Asia-Pacific region. This year it is hoped we will see… Read more
31 May 2015
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.
22 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 ]….
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 ]….
10 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 ]…..
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 budget 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 ]……
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 ]…..
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 Gavin 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 ]….
16 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 ]….
7 May 2015 | The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says it expects to lay charges against unethical private training colleges 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 ]…..
8 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 ]….
7 May 2015 | Readers outside Victoria will not know much about this scandal unfolding before the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption (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 ]….
The Conversation | 28 May 2015
The main purposes of Australian public universities — teaching, research and community engagement — are well established in law and practice. But differences of opinion exist on priorities, interpretation and accountability. A key tension is between academics as the strongest advocates of knowledge for its own sake, and government, students and the general public seeking practical uses for knowledge, writes Andrew Norton.
For academics, passion for a field of study, opportunity to develop new knowledge, and autonomy in working life are among the most frequent reasons given for pursuing an academic career. These aspirations create resistance to universities pursuing practical objectives set by others.
Academics are much more likely to apply for research grants where new knowledge is the primary outcome than grants aimed at promoting collaboration with industry. Academics criticise universities for becoming more “instrumental”.
The importance to academics of pursuing new knowledge has made teaching a second priority after research. Only 30% of academics say they prefer teaching or lean towards teaching in a teaching and research job. Another survey found that 67% of academics wanted more research time, but only 15% wanted more teaching work.
Although few people seriously dispute that knowledge for its own sake is important, there are broader expectations of public universities. What makes them “public” institutions is their establishment by government to meet a range of needs associated with advanced knowledge.
They are not private organisations free to just follow their own intellectual and other interests. In exchange for meeting a range of goals, universities receive substantial public financial support.
These goals are set out in each public university’s founding legislation. All university acts mention teaching, often with the express statement that it should meet the community’s needs.
Similarly, research clauses in university legislation usually refer to applied research or other needs in addition to the pure pursuit of knowledge. Direct community engagement provisions are less frequent, but some universities have statutory obligations to participate in public discourse. Access and equity considerations are also mentioned in university acts.
These largely state-legislated university missions are reinforced by federal law, which now makes teaching, research and some community engagement mandatory for institutions calling themselves universities.
Government views on university priorities are broadly aligned with public opinion. Survey evidence suggests that the public wants greatest emphasis on higher education’s practical uses to them, while acknowledging the importance of pure research.
Based on Universities Australia 2010 survey data supplied to the Grattan Institute
Recent policy work on improving commercial returns on research continues a long series of efforts to increase the broader national benefit from university research. The quasi-market created by removing most controls on numbers of bachelor-degree students is intended, in part, to get universities to focus more on meeting skills needs and improving the student experience.
A policy of undergraduate fee deregulation, however, was not obviously aligned with the public’s focus on undergraduate education. The universities did not make a persuasive case that fee deregulation would benefit students, and the public was unconvinced. In reality, it is likely that much of the additional revenue from fee deregulation would have been spent on research.
Academics sometimes complain about higher education becoming a “private” good, but I don’t think that is the best characterisation of policy over the last 25 years. Although there is more private money than before, universities have become better aligned with public purposes, as identified through both public opinion and public policy. This has been achieved with a mix of direct regulation, financial incentives and market forces.
These policy changes recognise that academics and universities, left to manage themselves without outside pressure, will not necessarily pursue broad community interests. Academia failed to develop a professional culture around teaching. It generally did not determine appropriate quality standards, require teaching qualifications, or monitor performance.
Unsurprisingly, when the government funded the first national surveys of student satisfaction in the early 1990s, the results were very poor. They have since improved significantly.
With universities now able to respond to student demand, course enrolments in areas of skills need such as health have soared. But more students than ever before are also studying less vocational disciplines. Since 2008, domestic bachelor science enrolments are up 35% and humanities are up 18%.
In absolute terms universities now do much more pure research than before, reflecting significant increases in research spending. But the trend has been towards applied research making up a larger share of the total.
Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics
Pure research and non-vocational disciplines primarily oriented to knowledge for its own sake remain important university functions, and this will continue to be so. But public universities should be and are about more than these activities.
Changes over the last 25 years have helped give students and applied research a higher priority than they would otherwise have received. Policy has helped keep the “public” in public university.
The Conversation is running a series on “What are universities for?” looking at the place of universities in Australia, why they exist, who they serve, and how this is changing over time. Read other articles in the series here.