ASQA | 16 January 2018
The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has cancelled the registration of Study Group Australia Pty Limited as a provider of vocational education and training (VET) services, for significant non-compliance with the requirements of the VET Quality Framework.
Study Group Australia trades under multiple business names including ACPE Academy, Martin College, Australian Institute of Applied Sciences, Embassy English, Taylors College, ANU College, Flinders International Study Centre, and Taylors Unilink. At August, Study Group VET providers had about 4,000 students.
Non-compliances cited by ASQA are:
- low qualification completion rate, where students were enrolled through the VET FEE-HELP scheme;
- failure to determine student suitability for their course prior to enrolment;
- inaccurate and misleading sales and recruitment practices and a failure to provide students with accurate and consistent information about a course and its fees prior to enrolment;
- failure to appropriately assess and consider the needs of a prospective learner prior to enrolment and to monitor and support students during their enrolment, resulting in limited student engagement in the qualification;
- insufficient resources, including trainers and assessors, to deliver the qualifications to the number of students enrolled; and
- failure to provide an appropriate amount of training to learners and assessment systems that did not comply with all requirements of the training packages and the VET Quality Framework.
Study Group was issued with a notice of intention to cancel its registration in September 2017. Study Group’s response to the notice was considered by ASQA but was judged to have inadequately addressed the non-compliances identified.
ASQA has also issued a written direction to Study Group requiring it to cancel a number of VET qualifications and statements of attainment, where the organisation did not provide the assessment necessary for the relevant qualification or statement of attainment to be issued. Up to 800 students will be affected.
ASQA’s decision will take effect from 19 February 2018.
While Study Group says that it was already planning to withdraw from VET, probably as a result of the introduction of fee caps, it still plans to challenge its deregistation in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The reason for that is pretty obvious: not only is Study Group going to suffer reputational damage, beyond that which it has already suffered, but you’d expect that the 800 former students who would have their qualifications cancelled if the decision stands would want not only their fees reimbursed, they might also want compensation for their time wasted. What might that add up to: $20-$30 million?
Separately, the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency is conducting a compliance assessment of the company’s higher education activities.
CommentAs The Australian confirms this morning, Study Group Australia (SGA) had already decided to pull out of VET provision in Australia.. This appears to be a consequence of changes to the regulatory regime from 1 January 2017, rather than any contition about being a seriously non-compliant provider. This included the introduction of fee caps (3 bands- $5000, $10,000). To the extent that any SGA VET courses were approved for VET Student Loans (there’d still be a few, in health and beauty courses), SGA is no longer able to charge what it thinks it can get away – somewhere norrth of $20,000, I assume. What do we call that: rent-seeking behaviour?I don’t know much about the Administrative Appeals Tribunal but I hope they take that into account – let’s call it “motive”.It should also take into account that whatever rectifications SGA has made:1. it’s all a bit academic – SGA ‘s getting out of VET provision anyway – probably be out of it by the time its proposed challenge gets into the AAT.2. Some of the non-compliances identified by ASQA are incapable of rectification. The 800 former students who thought they had a valid but seemingly don’t will have suffered rea, measurable damge, if the proposed cancellation of qualifications stands. I can’t see the AAT overturning that, unless due process hasn’t been followed. On that score, ASQA seems to have been painstakkingly punctilious.
Let’s be quite clear here: the national Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015 set out clearly and in detail what is required of RTOs. The non-compliance issues identified by ASQA were persistent (over a long period) and very serious.
About Study Group
Study Group was established in the UK in 1994 and its website claims that in 2016 it enrolled over 70,000 in 183 countries. Study Group expanded to Australia in in 1997 with the acquisition of Education Training Australia (Martin Higher Education). We have asked ASQA how many students will be affected by Study Group’s deregistration.