News items, statements, analysis and commentary
There’s really not much to say, is there? TDA summed it up from a tertiary education perspective, saying the uncertainty of the vote itself is compounded by a curious lack of policy commitment from the Coalition, which did not release any skills policy or higher education policy during the campaign…..[ READ MORE ]….
Of its “100 positive policies”, about 20% (19 to be precise) are in tertiary education. In higher education, Labor has committed to maintaining the demand driven system, backed up by a Student Funding Guarantee to provide “certainty to universities and remove the need for higher fees”. Labor also proposes to create 10 “polytecnics”, a hybrid institution, which would involve universities and TAFE Institutes working together to deliver associate degrees and advanced diplomas. Labor proposes a comprehensive review of the VET system and to take measures to preserve the viability of the public provider network (TAFE). It proposes an $8,000 cap on VET FEE-HELP loans, with room for exemptions where a higher loan can be justified. It will restore the “Tools for Your Trade Program” with up to $3,ooo paid to eligible apprentices to purchase their tools…..[ READ MORE ]….
Having made higher education “reform” a red button issue in its first term – remember how Christopher Pyne was going to “fix it” after it was voted down in the Senate for the second time?? – the Coalition has been totally quiet on it during this election period. It released a discussion paper with the Budget on options for reform, including partial fee deregulation via a limited number of “flagship” courses. Meanwhile, cuts to university funding of 20%, while not enacted, remain on the books. In VET, the Coalition has released a discussion paper canvassing measures that might be implemented to close down the wholesale rorting of the VET FEE-HELP scheme. Interestingly, this includes a possible capon loans, as proposed by Labor but criticised by the Coalition….[ READ MORE ]….
The Greens propose to boost funding to the university sector by $8.3 billion over four years, comprising
- $7 billion to reverse the Coalition’s funding cuts and fund a 10% increase in base funding per student at public universities; and
- $1.306 billion into research to reverse Government cuts to university research.
They propose to reduce students’ HELP costs by 20% and to reinstate the Student Start-Up Scholarships as a grant rather than a loan. the annual cost of $1.403 billion will be more than offset by continuing the ‘deficit levy’ on a permanent basis for those earning over $180,000 per year. In VET, the Greens have a simple three point plan:
- Cease providing federal government funds to forprofit VET providers.
- Implement a TAFE federal rescue package which boosts funding by $400 million a year.
- Establish a VET Ombudsman with $10 million in seed funding
TAFE Directors Australia (TDA – the body representing Australia’s public TAFE institutes) has issued a series of policy position papers that have been developed to steer the direction of policy affecting TAFE and the VET sector.
- Policy Paper 1 – TAFE: a national asset for Australia’s economic and social prosperity
- Policy Paper 2 – Quality is the hallmark of a well-regulated VET system
- Policy Paper 3 – Rural and remote vocational education and training relies on TAFE
- Policy Paper 4 – Ending discrimination in Australia’s tertiary education system
- Policy Paper 5 – Why a national industry policy & innovation and STEM strategy needs quality training
- Policy Paper 6 – Let’s lift Australia’s national apprenticeships.
Read the papers in full HERE.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) says that voters in the 2016 federal election are being given a clear choice between market mayhem and public accountability when it comes to higher education policy.
NTEU says that while the Coalition government desperately wants voters to believe it has retreated from its unfair and unsustainable plans to deregulate Australian higher education, this is clearly not the case.
Malcolm Turnbull let slip at the June 17 Facebook leaders’ debate that the government’s plans for higher education include giving “universities the ability to deregulate fees if you like, for a small number of flagship courses”. ….[ READ MORE ]….
21 March 2016 | Malcolm Turnbull is bringing back both houses of parliament for an extraordinary sitting of parliament in April to deal with union corruption legislation, saying he will dissolve both houses of parliament if the bills are not passed, with an election on 2 July.
21 March 2016
ACPET CEO Rod Camm looks at the issues raised in the Mitchell Institute paper, VET funding in Australia: Background trends and future directions, particularly the deterioration in public funding of VET. He also gives guarded support for Labor’s proposal for a comprehensive national review of VET. But he says such a review “review is simply not justified on the basis of quality concerns” pointing out that VET FEE-HELP enrolments, the locus of the current scandals, accounted for only 6% of total enrolments in 2014. This rather ignores that enrolments would have been somewhat higher in 2015. It also ignores that the billions of dollars squandered on VET FEE-HELP will surely be a burden on Commonwealth funding well into the future, given that a large part of it, maybe most of it, is unlkiley to be repaid or recovered. Camm also says there’s no need for the review to consider “protecting” the role of TAFE, as labor suggests. After all, TAFE had 63.6% of enrolments in 2015, as against 30.7% for private providers (with 4.7% being in the community sector and 1% attending more than one provider). That’s quite so but it’s also quite that the same source Camm draws his date from (Government-funded students and courses – January to September 2015) also reveals that private providers received 41% of Commonwealth/State funding ($416.4 million) during that period, as against 53% for TAFEs ($536.3 million) and 6.3% ($63.8 million ) for community providers. This doesn’t allow, of course, for the billions of dollars that flowed in VET FEE-HELP last year, mainly to private providers (but, as Camm would point out, most of that to a small handful, such as Phoenix, Cornerstone and Unique, all of which have belatedly deregistered). There’s going to have to be a lot of fact checking in this election period. Camm is correct, though, that the task of sorting out federal/state responsibilities and funding for the sector is vital to the future of VET, whatever the outcome of the upcoming election.
20 March 2016
A fractured system
16 March 2016
In a policy paper, VET funding in Australia: Background trends and future directions, Peter Noonan from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute says the low priority traditionally accorded the vocational sector has been exacerbated in recent years by wild inconsistencies between states on what they funded and for how much, ad hoc federal funding programs, rorting and distortions caused by VET FEE-HELP and the relentless push to reduce costs for both levels of government.
16 March 2016
…policy-makers, in particular, but also industry, the VET provider sector and analysts need to be mindful of the sometimes enervating effect of constant changes to and attempts to remake the VET system. A restless, seemingly ceaseless search for perfection seems to characterise the official mindset about the VET sector. At any one time, it is almost certainly likely to be that one or other or several of Australia’s nine government jurisdictions will be inquiring into VET and or have in train a process of “skills reform”.
The sector would undoubtedly benefit from a period of stability, certainty and consolidation.
That stated, it is, of course, a requirement that policy settings and system architecture including funding arrangements be understood to be and broadly accepted to be “about right”. Whether such a condition of broad consensus is achievable appears moot: it has, evidently, proved beyond achievement for a decade or more.
LH Martin Institute has stated the case for a broad overarching, root and branch review of VET, as has occurred in recent years in higher education (the Bradly Review) and schools education (the Gonski Review). It’s well past time: such a fundamental review has not occurred since the Kangan Committee in 1973/74.
First proper review since 1974
16 March 2016
Labor will launch a comprehensive review of the vocational education and training sector – equivalent to the landmark Gonski Review into school funding and the Bradley Review of higher education – if it wins office at the next election. The review would be the first such inquiry into the VET sector since the Kangan Report in 1974, which actually coined the term TAFE. The 2011 Gonski review triggered major changes to school funding (albeit, a major tranche of which is now uncertain) while the 2008 Bradley review into higher education led to the uncapping of undergraduate student places, allowing universities to enrol as many students as they choose.
University Australia’s election agenda
11 March 2016
In this extract from his speech to the recent Universities Australia Conference (which was mainly about research, innovation and collaboration), Universities Australia’s chair Barney Glover sets out in broad terms the university sector’s policy agenda for this election year. He prefaced his comments with the observation that the sector has been subject almost 2 years of policy insecurity and uncertainty which has taken a toll on the ability of universities to plan and allocate resources (it’s actually more like 4 years, taking into account the churn that was going on in the latter days of the Gillard government). In October last year, Universities Australia released its policy statement – Keep it clever 2016. This sets out in detail the context of its policy agenda (“universities are really important to the nation’s present and future security and well being”); what’s needed to drive research and innovation; public funding support for students; and government support for international education.
11 March 2016
I’m not bold enough to predict the winner of the looming election (although Labor has the harder task ahead of it, there’s no lay down misere in the offing, as seemed the case a few months back), but I’m bold enough to state that when the incoming prime minister meets with PM&C and Treasury officials in the afternoon of 3 July and is handed the Incoming Government Briefing Book (Blue Book for the Coalition, Red Book for Labor), you can be reasonably certain higher education will have a prominent chapter. After all, the $20 billion in savings linked to the original deregulation package, including a 20% cut to course funding, remain in the budget projections. How are the parties going to deal with that issue: the savings are either there or they’re not, and if they’re not there, they just can’t be booked into the future, ad infinitum.