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Posted in ACPET, AEU, Budget, Government, Grattan Institute, Higher education policy, La Trobe University, LH Martin Institute, Life & stuff, NMIT, Notices, Qualifications, Society, TAFE, The Scan, universities, University budgets, University reform, university staffing, VET, Vocational education & training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Govt sets VET deregulation agenda

    Posted at 4:00 pm
    Jul 3rd

    3 July  2014

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    The government has set out its deregulatory intentions for vocational training, with industry and Registered Training Organisations set to gain greater control of the sector, and a shift away from “gateway control” to “responsive regulation”.

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    MacFarlaneSpeaking at a skills summit organised by the Australian Council of Private Education and Training and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, industry minister Ian Macfarlane said the government had “revisited” the work of the now abolished National Skills Standards Council (NSCC) and released new draft standards for training providers and regulators.

    The proposed standards dump what the minister described as” several of the more contentious reforms” proposed by the former NSSC, notably measures that would have strengthened Registered Training Organisation (RTO) entry (“gateway”) standards, including a change from registered training organisation to licensed training organisation. The proposed requirement for all RTOs to have an “Accountable Education Officer” has also been removed.

    The minister said the retreat from the NSCC’s proposed strengthening of standards doesn’t signal a lesser emphasis on quality:

    We will still require a registered provider to meet quality standards and have a robust approach to quality assurance.  But we won’t dictate how that is demonstrated.

    We would have thought any enforceable standards involves a form of dictation, as implied in the report of an “ASQA process review”, undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers, also released by MacFarlane:

    A key role of a regulatory authority is its responsibility to effectively monitor those whom it is charged to govern, and ensure ongoing compliance with rules. To achieve this, the regulator must continually monitor the sector…. Those that breach the regulatory requirements will likely be exposed to a formal sanction or penalty, which must be legally enforceable under governing legislation. The ability to enforce sanctions among those determined to be non-compliant is critical to effective regulation (pp. 24-25).

    As you would expect in a process review, this report is mainly about ASQA processes and how they might be improved; for example, by upgrading ASQA’s information technology system, which are depicted as inadequate , and improving its communications with providers, which are widely decried in the sector as being located on a continuum somewhere between hopeless and abysmal.

    Most of what the report recommends is eminently sensible and will make the regulatory system more transparent and navigable and serve to foster a culture of co-operation between the regulator and the regulated to ensure appropriate quality standards.

    Likewise, much of what the minister had to propose is sensible, such as reducing the burden arising from the quite maddening (for anyone working in the sector) constant updates to training packages. He said

    We are looking to batch the release of training package updates — say to once a year. We are also looking to ensure that the downstream impacts of changes are fully considered at the development phase.

    Macfarlane also proposes to keep a lid on ASQA’s fees “for the foreseeable future”, which is obvious recognition of PwC’s observation that full cost recovery isn’t a currently feasible option.

    But it is a possible move away from rigorous “gateway control” that has grabbed attention (quite understandably).  In an almost passing observation at the end of the Executive Summary, the PwC report states that as the sector has matured, there may be potential to progress toward a more responsive model of regulation and ASQA could consider:

    • Shifting the balance of regulation more toward monitoring and compliance. Moving the focus of regulation of the sector from entry control, where providers are regulated as they enter the market or commence offering new services within the market, towards a model where the quality of outcomes produced by a regulated organisation is assessed and monitored on an ongoing basis.
    • Transitioning to an outputs based regulatory focus. Australia’s VET system is based on the achievement of competencies as determined by assessment. While entry control will always be important, refocusing ASQA’s effort toward the monitoring of the key output (assessment) helps to ensure a high quality VET sector….

    Just to put this into perspective, in the first place, this was a review of process, not policy or regulatory principles (although ASQA’s “approach to regulation” was within the scope of the review). Second, the observations on “responsive regulation” comprise just 3 paragraphs in a report running to 100 pages, with no supporting analysis or argument and not at all covered in the 21 findings.

    It sits rather uneasily with the observations of the Productivity Commission, quoted in the PwC report, that

    ….the national standards for the registration and auditing of RTOs should be more rigorously enforced by vocational education and training regulators to ensure quality and consistency in course delivery and learner outcomes.

    And it sits rather uneasily as well with the report’s own observation that

    Entry control encompasses activities that are required to gain entry to participate in a particular industry. From a regulatory perspective, entry control activities are those that one must comply with to legally operate within a certain industry/sector. Properly designed entry control requirements are critical to maintaining a competitive, high quality market. (p.25)

    There is also the question as to who or what is making the standards these days, which, as the report notes, is typically made by a third party, with assistance and support from the regulator. That third party was the NSSC, now abolished. It with perhaps this in mind that Gavin Moodie, adjunct professor of education at RMIT University, described the proposed changes  as “piecemeal, ad hoc, internally inconsistent and the result of privileged involvement of favoured interest groups”.

    ACPET, on the other hand, says the draft standards are a step in the right direction. According to ACPET ceo Claire Field:

    They come off an evidence base from ASQA’s three years of regulating the sector, and will significantly tighten up on poor practices without introducing ridiculous changes. Minister MacFarlane is clearly focused on building a less complex, more responsive training sector focused on improving the employment prospects of graduates. Those are exactly the right goals for these reforms.

    TAFE Directors Australia said the new draft standards laid out “a higher expectation for Australia’s open skills training market”. But chief executive Martin Riordan said he was concerned that financial viability appeared to have “slipped as a priority”.

    See
    Industry-led VET reform to drive productivity gains
    The Australian Skills Quality Authority Process Review
    ASQA urged to abandon ‘entry control’ approach

     

    Posted in ACPET, ASQA, Government, TAFE, VET, Vocational education & training | Tagged , , , ,
  • ACPET National Monday Update 30 June 2014

    Posted at 8:23 am
    Jun 30th

    Print

    In Focus

    Our new Quality Support Team initiative kicks off tomorrow

    I could just have easily entitled this week’s article: ‘Quality, quality, quality’ – because following Minister Macfarlane’s key note address to the National Skills Summit last week and his release of new draft Standards for NVR RTOs, and the ASQA Process Review – it’s clear that changes are coming to VET regulation. This, combined with the changes the government is attempting to make to the way TEQSA operates as a regulator, and an upcoming review of the ESOS Act mean sensible regulation might just be on its way for the sector.

    What do I mean by sensible regulation? Simple: for me it means less red tape for the good guys, assistance for well intentioned providers to help them overcome obstacles and achieve consistent compliance, and a big stick approach for proven poor performers…. Read more

    Featured

    ACCI-ACPET National Skills Summit provides an insightful day; Minister for Industry committed to VET

    Co-hosted by ACPET and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the National Skills Summit was held last Wednesday, 25 June 2014, at The Hotel Realm in Canberra. The Summit was filled to capacity with ove… Read more

    National

    ACPET’s LLN Capable project – working towards our VET sector show case: MRWED Training and Assessment

    On 14 – 15 August, participants of ACPET’s current RTO LLN Capable project will be showcasing their LLN product, developed as part of this project. One of the participants is MRWED Training and Assessment, based in Caboolture Queensland, who have developed a pre course LLN assessment and are wor… Read more

    ACPET’s LLN Capable project – working towards our VET sector show case: Cairns Business College

    On 14 – 15 August, participants of ACPET’s current RTO LLN Capable project will be showcasing their LLN product, developed as part of this project. One of the participants is Cairns Business College, who have developed a pre-course numeracy indicator tool. Additionally, Cairns Business Colleg… Read more

    Understanding risk and building a risk register

    What risks really matter to a RTO? What do they look like? How bad could they really be? SNR/AQTF standards make it very clear that a RTO must have a systematic approach to its operation. Addressing risk is simply a fundamental component of a systematic approach. It is essential that manageme… Read more

    Delivering win-win fee-for-service contracts

    So you’ve got the contract – now you need to make it work and be profitable. Fee for Service Contracts are great for your RTO’s revenue. But to be profitable, you need to effectively manage the contract. What does this mean and how do you do it? Learn how to effectively manage th… Read more

    Limited places available! RPL – getting it right

    Are you using RPL as a means of engaging new students? Do you understand what makes up quality RPL processes? Are you sure your RPL tools and processes are compliant? Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process for giving students credit for skills, knowledge and experience gained throug… Read more

    ACPET CATALOGUE 2015 – WILL YOU BE IN IT?

    Since The ACPET Catalogue was launched in November last year traffic to the site has been increasing steadily, with over 4,000 visitors in the month of May alone. Statistics show that 63% of visitors are new users with 80% from Australia and the other 20% originating in India, USA, Pakistan, UK, Ph… Read more

    ACPET’s Quality Help Desk: open for business from tomorrow. Call 1800 446695

    From tomorrow, all 2014/15 ACPET members may access our newest service, the ACPET’s Quality Help Desk, by calling 1800 446695 during business hours. With two complementary hours available to each member, this service supports your compliance with VET, higher education, CRICOS and ELICOS matters… Read more

    More updates in your state

    Posted in ACPET, ASQA, Coalition policies, Government, International, Notices, Professional Development, Qualifications, Quality audits, VET, Vocational education & training | Tagged , , , ,
  • Senate inquiry splits on TEQSA bill

    Posted at 8:42 pm
    Jun 23rd

    The Australian    |    19 June 2014

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    A Senate inquiry into a bill to restructure the higher education regulator has split along party lines.
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    Regulatory frameworkThe majority report of the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee has recommended the Senate to pass the bill to streamline the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA).

    The bill would take away its broad quality assessment role, spill the commissioners and restructure the commission, and enlarge the minister’s power to give directions to the agency. It would give commissioners more power to delegate decisions, and allow TEQSA to extend periods for registration and accreditation.

    The committee report did suggest TEQSA come up with guidelines to ensure that the power to extend registration and accreditation was used responsibly.

    In a dissenting report, Labor deputy chair Sue Lines suggested a series of changes to the bill.

    A strong case can be made, even without regard to the radical restructure of higher education set out in the budget that it would be better to allow the evolving operational culture of TEQSA, rather than legislation, to respond to the stakeholders’ objections (about heavy-handed regulation).

    In her dissenting report, the Australian Greens’ Lee Rhiannon said the bill ought not to be passed as it stood, with the need for a robust regulator at a time of proposed extension of public funding to private higher education providers.

    See
    TEQSA bill deferred

     

    Posted in Higher education policy, TEQSA | Tagged , , , , , ,
  • Minor changes to training package streamlined for RTOs

    Posted at 10:39 am
    Jun 13th

    Commonwealth Media   |   6 June 2014

    Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has announced what he says is the first in a series of changes to reduce red tape in the Regulatory jigsaw 2vocational education and training (VET) sector, making it easier for registered training organisations to manage changes to training packages from 1 July.

    Macfarlane said that when a training package qualification is changed, but the vocational outcome remains the same, training providers will no longer need to apply to their regulator or pay a fee to update their registration.

    This is a common sense approach developed as a direct result of listening to industry and training providers and their ideas for reform. Minor updates to training packages do not represent a significant risk to a training provider’s capacity to deliver.

    Posted in ASQA, Commonwealth policies, Government, VET, Vocational education & training | Tagged , ,
  • TEQSA “gardening leave” confirmed

    Posted at 9:01 am
    Jun 13th

    The Australian    |    13 June 2014

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    It has been confirmed at Senate Estimates that chief higher education regulator Carol Nicoll has taken indefinite leave and her future is tied to legislation that would restructure the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.
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    carol nicoll

    A Bill introduced in late February by education minister Christopher Pyne would spill the positions of TEQSA’s five commissioners, splitting the roles of chief commissioner and chief executive both of which are currently vested in the person of Dr Nicoll. It would also strip away the agency’s broader role in quality assessment.

    The Bill follows a review of how TEQSA operates against the backdrop of discontent in the sector.

    In the Senate last week, higher education official Robert Griew said he had approved Dr Nicoll’s leave in early March, on full-pay and for an indefinite term, after “a conversation” with her. He told the committee that:

    In the hypothetical situation that the (TEQSA reform) legislation did not pass, then Dr Nicoll and I have already agreed we would then have a further conversation.

    A report on the TEQSA Bill is due on 20 June following an inquiry by the Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee.

     

    See
    TEQSA leaders on gardening leave?
    TEQSA shake up
    Posted in Commonwealth policies, Government, Higher education policy, Quality audits, TEQSA, The Scan | Tagged , , , ,
  • TEQSA cuts “nuts”

    Posted at 5:45 pm
    May 26th

    The Australian    |   21 May 2014

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    A budget line item to halve the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s (TEQSA) funding has been described as “counter¬intuitive” by Hilary Winchester, deputy vice-chancellor at CQ University and a former higher education auditor.

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    Winchester said:Regulatory jigsaw 2

    It does look nuts to me. We will see … new operators rushing to get registered and offer higher education programs in what they see as a low cost market.

    The 2014-15 budget papers show regulation and quality assurance cuts from $20.4 million in 2013 to $10.3m in 2017. According to the budget statement :

    Reduced funding for TEQSA in 2014-15 and forward years has been significantly reduced following the government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the review of higher education regulation. Funding is reduced by $3.338m in 2014-15, $7.596m in 2015-16 and $9.999m in 2016-17.

    While the cuts are meant to reflect a reduction in red tape, the review by Lee Kwong Dow and Valerie Braithwaite did not take into account the opening up of the sector to private operators as proposed by the government.

    Peter Coaldrake, vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, says

    With the prospect of new providers, the role of TEQSA is to protect Brand Australia and it will need to ensure there are proper processes for vetting new providers.  If there are a large number of new providers wanting to get into the system, that is going to require a lot of energy and resources.

    A TEQSA spokesman said business processes would be reviewed to ensure “regulatory work continues in line with its legislated obligations”.

    Professor Winchester said there is a very real chance certain discipline areas would be swamped by private colleges.
    These colleges want to do it on their own terms, she said, adding there would be a lot of interest in the provision of degrees which don’t vary much in content, such as business.

    Posted in Budget, CQUniversity, Government, Higher education policy, Quality audits, QUT, TEQSA, The Scan | Tagged , , , , ,
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