26 December 2015
On account of other pressing matters in 2015 published editions of The Scan, with a completely refreshed front page heralded to subscribers by an e-newsletter, were down quite a bit – just 21 in 2015 compared to 40 in in 2014. Nevertheless, some 350 items were posted, which is about 8 a week in The Scan’s year, a little down on the 10 items posted a week last year.
Traffic to the Scan website remained strong, down about 20% on last year’s figures. The Scan’s now extensive archive of nearly 3000 posts creates “organic” traffic: over one third of all Scan traffic now flows from search engines and referrals.
Regular readers will have noticed the little ads at the bottom of each page and post. We get paid a teensy weensy amount every time an ad is clicked: over the past three years those ads have contributed $88.02 to Scan coffers.
Most Scan visitors are located in Australia but we do have a small international readership, with visitors from about 100 countries in 2015. This is dominated by visitors from the US (6% of total traffic) who number about double every other country combined, followed by the UK with about 1% of the total.
This year’s top ten reads were heavily skewed towards the “VET crisis” and attempts by authorities (rather belatedly in our view) to stamp out the obvious rorting, particularly in VET FEE-HELP funding, which has been truly scandalous. In fact, the number one post this year on The Scan is also the number one post of all time and by quite a bit. If you enter “rorting” in the search box in the top right hand corner, the archive runs to 5 pages, VET FEE-HELP runs to another 5 pages (obviously with some overlap) and that’s only the start of it. Quite why NSW university offers rated so highly might be explained by the fact that NSW newspapers now provide precious little coverage of the event. The seemingly generous pay arrangements of vice-chancellors certainly attracted reader interest (and good on The Oz for pulling the story together) and academic gongs remains a perennial favourite. However, the weightiest issue of the year in higher education was the late Abbott government’s deregulation package which died ignominiously in the Senate and led to then minister Christopher Pyne’s manic performance as The Fixer in an interview with David Speers on Sky News.
3 March 2015 | One of Australia’s biggest private training providers is being accused of using salesmen who target disadvantaged areas and enrol poor students with fake entrance exams. Careers Australia is a market leader in vocational education, with 16 campuses across five states and 14,000 students, and is expanding rapidly by engaging door-to-door salespeople to sign up new students to courses funded by the Federal Government. Last financial year Careers Australia billed taxpayers for almost $110 million in VET FEE-HELP loans. Former sales broker Chris Chambers confirmed that sales brokers were taking the entrance exams for potential students, and claimed he saw it happen 40 to 50 times. These literacy language and numeracy tests were to gauge the eligibility of the student to actually complete the course and potentially pay off their VET FEE debt. Chambers alleged that communities with high welfare dependence like Hobart’s Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Herdsmans Cove were deliberately targeted.
20 January 2015 | As in Victoria, the traditional January main round of university offers in NSW, through the University Admissions Centre (UAC), is decreasing in prominence in the calendar. Offers through the year and direct offers are becoming increasingly the norm. This year, universities have made 46,507 offers through UAC ‘s main round, down 4,307 (- 9%) on last year. But the total number of offers to date is actually up a little, at 76,339, up 1,542 ( + 2%) from last year’s 74,792. So, main round offers through UAC are now about 62% compared to 68% last year and almost 100% four or five years ago.
15 June 2015 | Australia’s highest paid vice-chancellor saw his salary package increase by $120,000 last year to reach $1.3 million, an analysis of annual reports by The Australian shows. Michael Spence, head of the University of Sydney, topped the list of 37 vice-chancellors, followed by Greg Craven from the Australian Catholic University ($1.2m); Glyn Davis, University of Melbourne ($1.08m); and Peter Coaldrake, Queensland University of Technology ($1.06m). In all, seven vice-chancellors had salary packages over $1m, including two who left or retired. At the other end of the spectrum, the analysis of 2014 annual reports showed Kerry Cox, the recently retired head of Edith Cowan University, to be the country’s lowest paid vice-chancellor on $540,000. The analysis shows that the average salary was $835,000. Male vice-chancellors earned, on average, $853,000 while their eight female counterparts earned an average of $769,000.
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 until June last year, are affected. This latest audit by the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority (VRQA) follows an investigation last year which found about 6,000 students had studied sub-standard courses. More than 3,500 qualifications were recalled, and Vocation was forced to repay $19.6 million in state government funding.
15 February 2015 | The new Victorian Labor government has announced a comprehensive, independent review of the funding of Victoria’s vocational education and training (VET) system, as presaged during the election campaign. Minister for training and skills Steve Herbert says the VET Funding Review will provide a more sustainable model for public TAFE Institutes and private training providers. According to Herbert, the former Liberal government left Victoria’s training sector in crisis. Government contributions to public TAFEs fell from $733 million in 2011 to $468 million in 2014, leaving many TAFEs at risk of financial collapse. At the same time, Herbert says the former government’s constant changes to subsidy rates have caused confusion and made it difficult to make long-term plans for private providers. These sudden and repeated changes caused financial instability, undermining the ability of both TAFEs and private training providers to support Victoria’s growing industries.
12 February 2015 | Labor, the Greens and four independent senators (Senators Xenophon, Lambie, Muir, Rhiannon and Lazarus) have joined forces to establish another inquiry into higher education reform, to report by 17 March. The committee will consider alternatives to deregulation, likely future demand for places and implications on student loans, research infrastructure and regional provision. The inquiry will also look to investigate “the appropriateness and accuracy of government -advertising in support of higher education measures” and “other related matters”. University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker expects the legislation will be rejected for a second time by the Senate and wants to encourage a national discussion on alternatives to deregulation. University of Canberra vice-chancellor Parker, a strident opponent of the government package, says that the government’s failure to review any options to deregulation was both a “process failure” and “a democratic failure because it wasn’t flagged at the last election and it was even denied at the election.”
26 January 2015 | Six hundred and thirty five Australians have been recognised with Orders of Australia on Australia Day 2015, while a further 59 military and 130 meritorious awards were announced. Members of the tertiary education sector featured strongly in the honours list, with 81 awards, particularly in the upper categories. People associated with the tertiary sector received 4 out of the 5 Companion awards (80%), 16 out of 38 Officer awards were to people associated with the tertiary sector (42%), 46 of 156 Member awards (29.5%), for a 33% of the higher awards. In the most common category of Medal, only 15 of 434 awards were tertiary sector related people (3.4%). Women continue to be under represented with 33% of all awards, mainly in the Medal category. Only four of the tertiary sector awards were to people in the VET sector.
29 June 2015 | The Victorian Government is launching a major blitz to crackdown on “dodgy” training providers in order to lift standards in sector. A review by Deloitte has revealed widespread abuses, including qualifications being issued to students who have no demonstrable skills, inappropriate marketing practices, short course duration, providers claiming government funding for non-existent training delivery and poor oversight of third parties delivering training. Skills minister Steve Herbert said that since November 2014, the government has had to restore funding eligibility for more than 10,000 students who gained inadequate qualifications, and has found dubious practices in a range of qualification areas. He said the Government will spend $9 million on auditing, interviewing students, ensuring the paperwork was right and make sure they were getting “high-quality” training. The priority is to crackdown on providers who are doing short course delivery about which there have been complaints and are suspected of not providing quality training.
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.
With the Labor Party poised to form a minority government in Queensland, its promise to rescue the TAFE sector will now come into sharper Focus. Queensland VET student numbers fell 38,000 in 2013.During the election campaign, Labor leader and soon to be premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (who pronounces her surname as “Pallashay”) made a number of commitments to address the vocational educational and training system.
6 April 2015
News Corp photographer Brad Hunter will join Tony Abbott’s media staff later this month, raising concerns that news photographers will gain less direct access to the prime minister.