Regulation

"Sloppy practices" on international students

Fairfax Media    |     11 June 2015

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Sloppy student services and false attendance reporting are systemic problems plaguing overseas students at private education providers, the national Overseas Students Ombudsman has revealed.

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The Ombudsman released a new issues paper on poor compliance in the private education sector, based on 448 investigations into student complaints since the body’s establishment in 2011.

It warned some providers were failing to intervene with at-risk students, allowing weak students to continue to study and fail.

Student absences were also being miscalculated. Providers were marking students absent when they were merely late, or on days when it was a public holiday and there were no classes scheduled.

These failures posed serious consequences for international students, who risked being reported to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and being sent home if they failed to meet basic academic and attendance requirements as prescribed in their student visa.

In the past four years, the Ombudsman has intervened in 142 cases, recommending that providers not report students to the Department of Immigration because of the providers’ own poor compliance.

Under the national code of practice for education providers, the institution is required to monitor and support at-risk students. The providers are supposed to notify the student when they start falling behind, but the report found some were leaving it too late.

 

Australian Qualifications Framework Council disbanded

19  September 2014

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The Australian Qualifications Framework Council, which was responsible for governance  of the Australian Qualifications Framework, has been disbanded.   No public announcement was made.

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 AQF

The council was originally established to deliver a review of the AQF, which culminated in the strengthened AQF.  With this work completed, the government says it was timely to reconsider the role of the council.

Stakeholders have been advised that the decision does not diminish the government’s commitment to the AQF, the residual functions of the council will be transferred to the Commonwealth department of education.  Expert consultative bodies are to convened as required to advise ministers on any AQF policy matters which arise.

During a revision of the AQF in 2010, the council was embroiled in a dispute with a number universities, led by the University of Melbourne, over plans for universities to rebadge some masters level courses as  “professional doctorates”,  such as the Juris Doctor, which they argued accorded with international practice.  The AQFC argued it would devalue the standing of the traditional PhD qualification.  It was eventually agreed that  the title “doctor” by graduates of  masters degrees, in five disciplines : medical practice, physiotherapy, dentistry, optometry and veterinary practice (although the Juris Doctor is now offered by most universities with post-graduate law degrees). The University of Western Australia is seeking extension of  professional doctorate to its Masters of Podiatry.

See
Christopher Pyne winds up unpopular qualifications council

Senate inquiry splits on TEQSA bill

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

 

Review of Higher Education Standards Framework

Regulatory framework

The Higher Education Standards Panel has invited comment on proposed revisions to the Higher Education Standards Framework, which govern the approval processes for becoming and remaining a higher education provider. The Panel’s third Call for Comment includes background information on the Panel’s approach and consultation process, as well as instructions for the submission of comments. The closing date for comments is Friday 27 June 2014.

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TEQSA "gardening leave" confirmed

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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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

The Scan in May 2014 – top ten reads

VET in the Budget – the government’s statement

skills (1)13 May 2014   |    The “tools for your trade payments” for apprentices will cease from 1 July 2014. It will be replaced immediately with a Trade Support Loans Program providing $439m over five years to provide apprentices with financial assistance up to $20K over a four year apprenticeship through a student loan repayment scheme. The Government will also establish an Industry Skills Fund to provide $470m over four years to support the training needs of small to medium enterprises that cannot be met by the national training system. Expenditure is budgeted to decline about 13% in 2014-15 over 2013-14 (from $1.67 billion to $1.45 billion) and 8% over the four years to 2017-18 (to $1.55 billion)….[ READ MORE ]….

The optics of the Budget 2014-2015Budget 2013

13 May 2014   |    Treasurer Joe Hockey has bought down a budget that hits middle Australia with swingeing cuts and price hikes, while lauding smaller government and pushing increased responsibilities onto the states. Middle income families face tightened family benefits, a $7 co-payment when they visit the doctor, a price hike for pharmaceuticals and higher petrol costs…..[ READ MORE ]….

Tertiary education in the 2014-15 Budget – sector responses

ua logo15 May 2014   |    The budget puts higher education on a path of radical change … and will fundamentally alter the shape of Australian higher education…In deciding to extend the demand driven system and government funding to non-university providers, UA is pleased that further work will be done to ensure competitive fairness and that the relative government support appropriately takes account of the differing community expectations and public good obligations….[ READ MORE ]….

NMIT hits a wall

28 May 2014   |    Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) suffered financial losses of more than $30 million in NMIT2 (2)2013, prompting the auditor-general to express doubt that it can survive. The Education Department has provided a $16 million loan to support the TAFE’s ”short-term solvency” and NMIT also launched initiatives to stabilise its cash flows. NMIT has blamed state government funding cuts and declining student enrolments for the loss…[ READ MORE ]….

Making a stab at fees poses grave risks: UA

22 May 2014   |    With Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledging that he can’t guarantee that university fees might not sandra-hardingdouble, University Australia chair Sandra Harding says that there are “grave risks” in a precipitate move to fee deregulation, set to take place in 2016. As the new fee regime will apply to all enrolments after 14 May 2014, students enrolling after that date will not know the fees that will apply from 1 January 2016 until such time as universities announce their fees. In order to provide some degree of certainty and inform student choice, some universities, outside the Group of Eight, at least, may be forced to make an early “stab” at price settings. But as Harding points out, a stab is not the marketplace working efficiently….[ READ MORE ]….

Kangan/Bendigo merger fundedBendigo

24 May 2014   |    Bendigo TAFE will receive $64 million from the state government to support its merger with Melbourne-based Kangan Institute. The government expects a further $35 million to be invested by the private sector and the merged institute. The government says the funding will lead to 55 additional courses being offered in Bendigo, with a focus on health, engineering and management…..[ READ MORE ]….

Commission of Audit missed opportunity on VET

VET reform24 May 2014   |    The National Commission of Audit’s recommendations for vocational education and training – proposing that responsibility for VET revert to the states – represent a missed opportunity for overdue reform says Peter Noonan, professor of tertiary education policy at Victoria University. He says the commonwealth’s interests in VET are stronger than ever before, not weaker, and the commission’s recommendations for VET should be set aside……[ READ MORE ]….

TEQSA cuts “nuts”

21 May 2014    |    A budget line item to halve the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s (TEQSA) funding Regulatory jigsaw 2has been described as “counter¬intuitive” by Hilary Winchester, deputy vice-chancellor at CQ University and a former higher education auditor. The 2014-15 budget papers show regulation and quality assurance cuts from $20.4 million in 2013 to $10.3m in 2017…..[ READ MORE ]….

V-C slams fee deregulation

V-C Swinnie27 May 2014    |    Swinburne vice-chancellor Linda Kristjanson has expressed concern about five aspects of the recent Budget. In particular, she has joined a number of other vice-chancellors in voicing her opposition to fee deregulation and higher interest charges on HECS loans, which she says will lead to a “higher education system characterised by the haves and the have nots.”….[ READ MORE ]….

Merger of Gippsland TAFEs to create “Federation Training”

Advance_tafe16 April 2014    |    The Victorian minister for higher education and skills, Nick Wakeling, has Gipps2announced the formation of Federation Training Institute, which will be a new TAFE Institute in Gippsland, out of the merger of Advance TAFE and GippsTAFE, the two existing TAFEs in the region. It is envisaged that Federation Training would be integrated into Federation University Australia from 1 January 2016…..[ READ MORE ]….

V-C slams fee deregulation

27 May 2014

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V-C SwinnieIn an email to staff, Swinburne vice-chancellor Linda Kristjanson has expressed concern about five aspects of the recent Budget. In particular, she has joined a number of other vice-chancellors in  voicing her opposition to fee deregulation and higher interest charges on HECS loans, which she says will lead to a “higher education system characterised by the haves and the have nots.”

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Many staff attended briefings on the Federal Budget and there is a high level of interest in what the changes might mean for Swinburne. Although the package is complex and has many elements, these are the five key issues of concern.

1. Full fee deregulation: We do not support full fee deregulation for Australian undergraduate degrees. Full fee deregulation will inevitably lead to much higher fees for our students. It benefits Group of Eight universities whose ‘brand position’ will allow them to charge much higher fees, irrespective of the quality of teaching students receive. Over time, full fee deregulation will lead to a higher education system characterised by the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. Our system of higher education should continue to encourage fees which are not out of reach for those capable Australians who aspire to university study.

Two years ago, I wrote about the risks associated with full fee deregulation in an article for The Australian – those interested can read it here.

2. Public investment in higher education: Australia already lags the OECD in terms of public investment in higher education. The proposed changes include further reductions in public funding through changes in the subsidy rates for most subjects. It is unfortunate that the aspiration to make Australia’s higher education system “the best in the world” increasingly depends on asking our future students to bear higher levels of personal debt.

3. Expansion of system to private providers: We recognise the role of private higher education providers in a diverse higher education system. Any move to provide access to Commonwealth Supported Places for private providers must ensure that the level of subsidy does not provide new entrants with windfall gains. The Victorian vocational reforms have seen a major decline in market share among public providers because TAFEs have been unable to rapidly change to compete with private providers with substantially lower costs. We now risk repeating the same error federally. In short, if the playing field is not level, universities will lose.

4. The changes to HELP repayments: We support the lowering of the repayment threshold to $50,000. However, the proposal to index HELP debts at the long term bond rate, up to an amount of 6%, instead of CPI, will lead to a rapid increase in individual debts as this real rate of interest compounds each year. This will disadvantage women more than men, who take longer to pay their HELP debt back. It will also disproportionately affect older individuals, people of lower socio-economic backgrounds and Indigenous students. Overall, these policies will make more people think twice about commencing a higher education.

5. Quality regulation: The proposal to rapidly expand Australia’s higher education system through the entry of non-university higher education providers means that there will be greater demands on the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency to provide appropriate regulation of quality. We risk repeating the failures of deregulation of the Victorian vocational education system all over again unless our higher education regulatory arrangements are mature, stable and effective. It is concerning that the budget for TEQSA is being cut by $31 million at a time that a major expansion in higher education provision is being proposed.

There are many other problems that we are working through with Universities Australia and the various Working Groups that have been established to advise the Government, including the nature of the ‘grandfathering’ arrangements for our current students, uncertainty created for students enrolling between now and 2016, and how the proposed Commonwealth Scholarships funded from higher student fees will work.

The proposed changes have sparked a vigorous and important debate about the future of Australian higher education. As this debate progresses we will be contributing actively to discussions, grounded in our experience of the deregulation of the Victorian vocational education system and our concern for students, current and future.

Because the Bills that will give effect to these changes are yet to be presented to Parliament, it is unlikely that our staff, our students and our future students will have clarity for some time. We will continue to keep you updated on developments and any modifications as these changes play forward.

 

See

Vann’s stand

Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Andrew Vann demolishes what he describes as the “pretexts” of the recent budget with respect to higher education. Vann rejects the idea that deregulation is required to create diversity: “Charles Sturt University is nothing like the University of Sydney, nor does it wish to be anything like it.”

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ACPET National Monday Update – edition 554, 19 May 2014

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Broadening horizons and opportunities Edition 554, 19 May

There was much discussion last week about the measures announced in the Budget – some good and Claire Fieldsome not so good for private providers and their students. I sent email advice on Tuesday evening to all members and had a further opportunity to discuss the changes with members during Friday’s In Conversation with the CEO webinar.

This week’s article moves beyond the Budget, although no doubt we’ll come back to the Budget measures in the weeks ahead and I welcome members’ comments and questions. For those working in the higher education sector, this week’s Symposium presents a crucial opportunity to understand the coming changes and their likely impact on your students, courses and institutions (click here to register). We’ll hold similar fora for VET when the shape of future reforms are clearer.

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Featured

This week’s ACPET Higher Education Symposium Edition 554, 19 May

Don’t miss out on your chance to be part of the 2014 ACPET Higher Education Symposium, which will take place on Thursday 22 May 2014 at the Marriott Hotel, Circular Quay, Sydney. Now in its third year the Symposium is well on its way to becoming a crucial part of the higher education landscap… Read more

National

‘Foundation Skills Collection’ e-book Edition 554, 19 May

Once again ACPET is delighted to be able to assist its members to strengthen their delivery of Foundation Skills training by hosting another collaborative Pozible project. If you find it difficult to access the many high-quality foundation skills resources available to address your students’… Read more

2014 Australian Training Awards applications are closing soon Edition 554, 19 May

The Australian Training Awards are the peak national awards for the VET sector, recognising individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia. Applicants may have the opportunity to reach the national stage in November this year and gain Aust… Read more

Free Information Sessions on Australian Apprenticeships Edition 554, 19 May

Free sessions are available to help people working with Australian Apprenticeships to get the most out of the range of resources and information available on the Australian Apprenticeships & Traineeships Information and Australian Apprenticeships Pathways websites. Victoria – Melbourne – Tues… Read more

CDAA National 2014 Conference Edition 554, 19 May

ACPET promotes its members to over 300 career practitioners Last week, ACPET participated in the annual Career Development Advisers of Australia (CDAA) conference to promote ACPET members as the ‘best of the best’. The ACPET Catalogue was a great hit with all delegates. Chris Mesecke’s c… Read more

Meeting the standards: getting compliant with LLN Edition 554, 19 May

Your RTO has a legislated, regulatory obligation to incorporate language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) into its business. Achieving this may seem daunting. But with some expert guidance, you’ll clearly understand your requirements and how you can firmly embed them into your RTO’s’… Read more

Independent Validation – the Whys and the Wise Edition 554, 19 May

Did you know just how seriously RTOs are failing their validation of assessment requirements at audit? ASQA found an alarming 80% non-compliance in assessment validation requirements in its recent blitz audit of Aged and Community Care training providers. The high rate of RTO non-compliance findin… Read more

Advanced Moodle – taking Moodle to the next level Edition 554, 19 May

Moodle features a deep range of tools to engage and manage learners. In this workshop we’ll explore how to take Moodle beyond a simple content repository, quizzing and assessment upload tool and how to make your courses look good. If you are confident with the basic use of Moodle this is the… Read more

More updates in your state

ACPET 2014 Higher Education Symposium

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The ACPET 2014 Higher Education Symposium will provide a comprehensive analysis of the issues related to policy, regulation, academic governance and learning and teaching practice.

Marriot Hotel, Circular Quay Sydney on 22 may 2014

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The keynote speaker at the Symposium is the Hon Christopher Pyne, Minister for Education.  In addition to Minister Pyne delegates will also hear from TEQSA, the Higher Education Standards Panel and other influential stakeholders in the higher education sector.

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TEQSA leaders on gardening leave?

The Australian    |      10 April 2014

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The two founding leaders of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) have gone on extended leave with no official word on their return.

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carol nicollTEQSA chief commissioner Carol Nicoll and Brisbane-based commissioner Ian Hawke, who served as interim chief executive of the new national regulator, are on leave as the agency confronts an agenda of radical reform and a federal austerity budget.

The commission, identified as a bottleneck for key regulatory decisions, will be down from five to three members at least until the end of the financial year, TEQSA’s spokesman confirmed.

The agency and education minister Christopher Pyne confirmed that Nicoll and Hawke had taken leave, and said it was business as usual, but would not be drawn on a return date. Pyne said he was “confident that the work of TEQSA will continue in line with my direction to simplify processes and improve timelines of decisions for key activities.”