Skills reform

“Further work” needed on COAG VET reforms

VET funding a “race to the bottom”, NSW skills minister says

TDA News   |     14 December 2015

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, state premiers and chief ministers have agreed to more closely review reforms and regulation, which had begun under the original COAG National Partnership Agreement on skills – initially created in April 2012 under Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

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VET ReformThe COAG meeting in Sydney on 11 December 2015 agreed that “further work will be undertaken on options to reform vocational education and training, for initial consideration at COAG’s first meeting in 2016, recognising that skills ministers will continue to work together to address key VET system challenges.”

Martin Riordan, Chief Executive of TDA said the recent meeting in Hobart of state and territory ministers with Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Luke Hartsuyker, had questioned the proposed transfer of responsibility for VET to the Commonwealth, with some ministers pointing to federal mismanagement of VET FEE-HELP loans, as an example of capacity problems under such a plan.

Riordan said:

The National Partnership Agreement on skills reform from 2012 has been a disaster.  Industry and students have been hampered by waste on a scale not witnessed in the VET sector, and worse, matched almost exactly by the withdrawal of federal incentives to employers on apprenticeships and traineeships

It is pleasing that this COAG meeting has flagged a wider review of current VET policy, and how it is impacting industry and students.”

Training ministers for NSW and Victoria also signalled last week their dissatisfaction with current vocational education policy, and the need for changes.

NSW skills minister John Barilaro says the ongoing private college issue is hurting the economy because small businesses are not getting the skilled workforce they need.

He told the Council of Small Business Australia that billions of dollars had been wasted because of a lack of proper outcomes for small businesses and young people:

Let me just make it absolutely clear – what you hear about VET-FEE HELP is a problem the federal government created, not the state

If the feds actually copied the NSW state’s process when it comes to vocational education and training, we wouldn’t have had this problem.

We should be funding training on outcomes not on sign-ups and enrolments. It’s been a race to the bottom on enrolments under the VET-FEE HELP process.

NCVER report reveals lack of scrutiny of VET sector

TDA News    |     10 November 2015

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Data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) show the continuing fundamental role of  TAFE, as the public provider network, but also demonstrate a worrying failure in scrutiny by policy makers, according to TAFE Directors Australia.

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The NCVER report Total VET students and courses 2014 reveals the huge growth in the VET sector to 3.9 million students – almost three times VET Reportthe number in the higher education sector.  The data also show:

  • TAFE and private providers deliver roughly the same number of training hours nationally (41% by TAFE and 45% by private providers) but TAFE remains the dominant provider of Commonwealth/state government funded training;
  • TAFE training is the preferred delivery for the trades, engineering and related fields, management and commerce and community and personal services – all areas vital to the economy;
  • The high average number of students in each TAFE institute relative to private providers demonstrates TAFE’s capacity to outstrip private providers in providing quality services for students;
  • TAFE remains the dominant provider of international trans-national VET delivery.

TDA director Martin Riordan says the report also reveals how ill-informed Australian policy makers have remained until now, on the operations of half of Australia’s training market.  Under the open market environment prevailing in the VET sector:

….private, for-profit providers have collectively exploded as an industry, with the data showing they now deliver to two-thirds of the VET student population.

While Parliament voted down the higher education deregulation legislation under former Education and Training Minister Pyne, the Commonwealth proceeded with VET FEE-HELP loans, in a deregulated open market, on an unprecedented scale.

Riordan points out that this occurred even after the federal regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), continually published warnings about the high risks of many private providers and their questionable marketing practices:

This data actually shows that more than half of the federal funding for VET and VET FEE-HELP student loans – totalling $9.1 billion a year – has been allocated to providers without the scrutiny and data disclosures required for other Commonwealth programs.

While TAFE has been held to account by rigorous reporting to respective state and territory governments, and has been transparent in contributing to NCVER’s national data collection, governments and communities have had very little information about the quality, credentials and motives of the majority of training providers, many of whom are for-profit.

Riordan says the ongoing risk raises a number of questions:

  1. What financial disclosures by training providers should be required in order to obtain access to public training funds and student loans?
  2. Why has it taken so long for lobby groups for private, for-profit colleges to come forward and support such information sharing? and
  3. What critical decisions about VET reform have been made by governments without access to the data, and what changes should be made to governance of this massive tertiary education sector?
See
Rorts and policies fuel training college explosion
VET: An industry in crisis is an investor’s worst bet

Time to remake VET funding arrangements – ACPET

15 June 2015

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  At a recent Australian Council of Private Education and Training (ACPET) forum, assistant education and training minister Simon Birmingham mused that it’s perhaps time to rationalise VET funding arrangements in Australia, which he placed in the context of the current review of Federation arrangements.   ACPET has come out, tentatively, in support of such a review, with chief executive Rod Camm saying  we need to “…admit that our national approach is seriously breaking down…. what are we looking for? Do we want a national approach or the current localised model ?”.   It is more than time to not merely review but to remake “national” arrangements, as argued in this extract from a submission made by the LH Martin Institute to a House of Representatives inquiry.

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VET Reform

Australia’s VET system is recognised internationally as having considerable strengths, including its framework for nationally recognised and industry-informed qualifications.

In this context policy-makers, 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.

There is a strong  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.

In particular, attention needs to be paid to funding arrangements, to place them on a basis that will sustain the sector and ensure some national consistency: Australia has, in effect, nine different funding models: the eight state and territory systems overlaid by the Commonwealth model.

Quite simply, the quality of training outcomes cannot be divorced from funding.  It is a matter of record that national funding of the VET sector has been in relative decline for a number of years: expenditure per hour of training in VET actually decreased around 25%. Whatever the perceived funding travails of the higher education sector, they pale in comparison to those of the VET sector.

Such a national review of VET would bring together and, as far as possible, synthesise the findings of the diverse reviews that have taken place in recent years.  It would enunciate a revitalised vision and mission for the VET sector in helping to meet Australia’s skills needs in a rapidly changing economic environment.  Importantly, it would clarify respective Commonwealth and State/Territory   roles and responsibilities, including funding.  The work of this inquiry would be an important contribution to such a renovation project.

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Brendan Sheehan, a senior fellow of the LH Martin Institute and the editor of The Scan,  was one of the authors of this submission. 

The Scan in May 2015

31 May  2015

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In May The Scan posted 60 items and published 3 editions (#168, #169 and #170) .  Regulatory issues in the VET sector continue to attract most reader attention, led by the troubles of  ASX-listed private training provider Vocation.  There’s more than one way to skin a cat and it seems that action under consumer protection laws may prove an increasingly  useful way to deal with dodgy providers.  The Victorian consumer protection authority successfully prosecuted one notoriously dodgy provider and the national agency has up to 10 providers in its sights for unethical conduct.  May is, of course, budget month. Universities Australia’s comment  that “research programs  take a hit as universities and students left in policy limbo”, aptly sums up the Commonwealth budget, while education and training funding was the centrepiece of the Victorian Labor government’s first budget.  There’s $4 million set aside in the Commonwealth budget for the “Australian Consensus Centre”, under the guidance of the “dark prince“, but no university has yet volunteered to grab it after the University of Western Australia pulled out of the deal, on the back of a storm of internal protest.

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Hundreds of Vocation qualifications recalled

Vocation snip22 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 and June last year, are affected….[ MORE ]….

Dodgy training provider fined $160,000 over fake job adsKeat2

7 May 2015    |     A dodgy Melbourne employment agency and unregistered training provider that advertised jobs that did not exist in order to lure potential employees into paying for training or internships with the company has been fined $166,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court.  Consumer Affairs Victoria took action against the now collapsed entity Keat Enterprises in the court last week, after it investigated several complaints last year over Keat Enterprises’ “bait and switch” tactics….[ MORE ]….

UWA’s Lomborg centre: impossible, after all

Bjorn Lomborg10 May 2015    |     Education minister, Christopher Pyne, has vowed to find another university to host the Bjorn Lomborg “consensus centre” and is seeking legal advice about a decision by the University of Western Australia (UWA) to hand back $4m in federal government funding awarded to establish the centre.  UWA handed back the funding and dropped its connection with Lomborg, saying that lack of support among its academics made the centre untenable.  Lomborg said he remained committed to setting up the Australia consensus centre because his research was “far too important to let fall victim to toxic politics” and “grossly misinformed attacks”….[ MORE ]…..

Victorian Budget 2015

5 May 2015     |     Victoria’s major projects agenda has been scaled back in favour of upfront cash for schools, TAFEs, hospitals and services in a first Education Budget2budget aiming to deliver election promises and consolidating Labor’s election win.   Spending increases over the next four years will be cranked up to 3% annually from 2.5% previously to the meet the demands of booming population growth and cost-of-living pressures. The budget includes $3.9 billion for students, schools, TAFES and early childhood development, with $325 million to refurbish and rebuild 67 schools and $111 million to build 10 new schools.  Some $350 million, which has been previously announced, is being invested to support Victoria’s struggling TAFE system….[ MORE ]……

The 2015 Budget: university sector comment

Budget 2015 (2)

12 May 2015    |    Universities have welcomed a number of positive measures announced in the Abbott government’s second budget but have expressed deep disappointment at cuts to research program and the level of progress made in providing much needed higher education funding and policy certainty.  Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said  an additional year’s funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) ($150 million), one year’s funding of the Australian Synchrotron, and $16.9 million over four years to improve initial teacher education are the brightest budget beacons for universities.  However, the $263 million cut to the Sustainable Research Excellence (SRE) program that assists in meeting the indirect costs of research, identified to pay for two years of NCRIS, has come as a severe blow to the sector….[ MORE ]…..

VET: the good, the bad and the unlikely

30 April 2015   |      The Abbott Government has been erratic in vocational education, as in many other areas, in its first 18 months of office, writes FilesGavin Moodie.  It started badly with early decisions to reduce quality controls, appoint supporters to key government advisory posts and further cut unions from contributing to policy on vocational education. These decisions seemed to have been driven more by ideological fervor and rewarding party supporters than evidence of what is good for vocational education, its students and the interest groups which governments these days insist on calling ‘stakeholders’. Unfortunately few so called ‘stakeholders’ satisfy the original meaning of those who provide crucial support to the organisation. However, within 6 months the Government acknowledged the need to strengthen quality assurance and remove or at least try to reduce the dodgy providers and practices which are costing governments so much in subsidies, as well as undercutting TAFE….[ MORE ]….

V-C salaries on the up

Rocket increase16 April 2015   |    University heads have been pocketing substantial salary increases while demanding the Senate pass government legislation to allow fee deregulation based on the argument their institutions are cash-strapped.  The biggest increase was for Sandra Harding, head of north Queensland’s James Cook University and chairwoman of peak group Universities Australia. Harding’s salary has increased 65 % in just four years — from $559,000 in 2010 to $927,000 last year, including a $79,000 pay increase last year.  The highest paid vice-chancellor in Australia is Australian Catholic University’s Greg Craven, who took home a package of about $1.2 million in 2013….[ MORE ]….

ACCC targets unethical providers

7 May 2015     |      The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says it expects to lay charges against unethical private training Rod Simscolleges after one of its biggest investigations.  ACCC chairman Rod Sims told the ABC the watchdog’s ongoing investigation into 10 unnamed private training providers around the country was at an advanced stage. We will end up taking some people to court to really send a signal about what’s acceptable and what’s not, he said.   Sims said the ACCC is investigating misleading and unconscionable conduct including vulnerable people being signed up without their knowledge, offered cash and free tablets as inducements, the deliberate targeting of low income people, and companies spruiking outside Centrelink and community centres…..[ MORE ]…..

The Victorian VET Funding Review

VET8 May  2015    |     The Victorian Review of VET Funding, headed by former Holmesglen chief Bruce Mackenzie, is due to make an initial report to the government in early June (with its final report at the end of August). Over 750 submissions were made to the review by VET providers, industry and employers, students, teachers, parents and other interested parties, including by TAFE Directors Australia (TDA), representing the public providers, the Australian Council of Private Education and Training (ACPET), representing private RTOs. Funding issues aside, on which there are significant issues, funding issues aside, TDA and ACPET aren’t worlds apart in what they propose….[ MORE ]….

Victoria’s “lunch club” scandal

7 May 2015    |    Readers outside Victoria will not know much about this scandal unfolding before the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Rosewarne(IBAC). But for anyone who is, or has been, involved in the Victorian education sector the revelations are gob-smacking. It’s a story of greed, graft and betrayal by certain senior officials who have, for more than a decade, been looting the schools education budget, to the tune of millions of dollars. As the hearings are only in their early stages, who knows where it will end up: there are over 40 more witnesses to be examined. This report in The Age, which has been instrumental in exposing this corrupt conduct, provides a pretty reasonable summary of proceedings to date….[ MORE ]….

The Scan # 170 29 May 2015

Research snip

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News

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Victorian  unis “financially strong”

audit29 May 2015    |   The Victorian Auditor General has reported that Victoria’s eight universities are in a strong financial position but he was critical of lax procedures governing travel expenditure. The eight universities, and their subsidiaries, generated a combined surplus of $537.1 million for the year ending 31 December 2014. This includes, however, audit adjustments upwards of $259 million arising from qualifications concerning the treatment of certain income by Deakin University, the University of Melbourne and the Australian National Academy of Music. The auditor says that the surplus, when combined with the universities’ generally good liquidity position, means that the sector is in a healthy financial position and is a low financial sustainability risk in the short term. He reports that, over the long term, there are emerging risks the university sector should monitor. He reports that, while universities have policies and procedures in place for travel and accommodation expenditure, they are not comprehensive, and compliance with these policies and procedures is poor. Consequently, universities cannot demonstrate public money is spent prudently and to the benefit of the university….[ MORE ]…..

SA government “de-marketises” VET funding

28 May 2015     |    The South Australian government has stepped back from “open market” VET funding to reintroduce a virtual monopoly for TAFETAFE SA SA. Under its new WorkReady program, which will replace Skills for All in July, TAFE SA will provide 90% of new training places in 2015 -16.  Under the reforms approximately 81,000 training places will be subsidised in 2015-16. Of these places, 51,000 will be new and 30,000 will comprise students already undertaking courses. TAFE SA will provide 46,000 of the 51,000 new places. Of the 30,000 continuing places, about 16,000 will be delivered by private providers. The number of subsidised courses has also been cut from more than 900 to about 700.   ACPET has called on the federal government to withdraw $65 million in federal training funds to the state over the decision to “effectively ignore private training providers”. Federal training minister Simon Birmingham says he’s concerned about the new policy  and he’ll be having discussions with the state minister about whether or not that federal funding can continue to be available….[ MORE ]….

Qld govt turns back TAFE asset sell off

Qld TAFE28 May 2015 | The Queensland government has introduced a Bill to repeal the former government’s plan to sell TAFE assets and lease them out to third parties, as the first step in its $34 million Rescuing TAFE package. The minister for training and skills Yvette D’Ath introduced the Bill on 21 May to repeal the Queensland Training Assets Management Authority Act 2014. “QTAMA was created by those opposite to enable the sell-off of Queensland’s training assets to the highest bidder and removing access of TAFE to its own premises, its own equipment and leasing it out directly to the competitors of TAFE,” the Minister said. “Once these assets are sold, once there are longterm leases in place, there is no getting them back. This means that any future growth by TAFE Queensland would be restricted by a lack of facilities.”…[ MORE ]…..

VET numbers continue to dropVET

27 May 2015     |     The number of publicly funded vocational education students has dropped for the second year running, just as open markets have been rolled out across the country to encourage more training. Preliminary 2014 data shows the number of students fell 3.5%  last year, on the back of a 3.6%  fall in 2013. Australia trained 65,000 fewer publicly funded vocational students last year, with the open market pioneer states of South Australia and Victoria each losing more than 30,000 students. Victoria, which opened its training system to full private competition from 2009, surrendered 5% of its students last year. South Australia, which launched a fully contestable training scheme in 2012, lost a huge 22% of its students last year….[ MORE ]….

National science and research priorities announced

research226 May 2015    |      The Commonwealth Government has announced new national Science and Research Priorities and corresponding Practical Research Challenges, designed “to increase investment in areas of immediate and critical importance to Australia and its place in the world.” The nine cross-disciplinary priorities are food, soil and water, transport, cybersecurity, energy, resources, advanced manufacturing, environmental change and health. Universities Australia (UA) has commended the Federal Government’s setting of these priorities, noting the critical role of science and research in solving national challenges and improving the productivity and prosperity of Australia. UA expressed the hopes that the priorities will lead to increased public investment in science and research, with targeted funding to address these critical areas….[ MORE ]….

Australia’s university system efficient but underfunded – UA

universitas 21

21 May 2015     |     The latest Universitas 21 Report ranks Australia as one of the top countries for the efficiency of its higher education system despite disturbingly low levels of public investment compared with other countries, says Universites Australia.  Overall Australia’s ranking declined from 8th position in 2013 to 9th position in 2014 and now to 10th position (out of 50 countries) in 2015.On the measure of resources invested in higher education, Australia is ranked at 18th position and 44th for government expenditure. Yet Australia’s higher education system is ranked 7th for output which measures student participation rates and research performance.  UA’s  comments were echoed by the National Tertiary Education Union which  congratulated university staff for doing “remarkably well despite very low levels of public investment”….[ MORE ]…..

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Milestones

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New CEO at Melbourne Polytechnic

 20 May 2015

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Rob Wood has been appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Melbourne Polytechnic (formerly NMIT).

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Rob WoodMr Wood  comes to this role from his previous position of Acting Deputy Secretary, Higher Education and Skills Group, in the Victorian government.

Mr Wood joined the Victorian Department of Education and Training in August 2014 as the Executive Director, TAFE and Tertiary Education Support and Oversight Division, leading support to and oversight of Victoria’s TAFEs and university relationships.

He had to come to Australia with substantial experience in public administration in Canada.

Mr Wood was the Acting Deputy Secretary, Higher Education and Skills Group during a critical time of transition to the new Government. He has led the Group’s rapid response to the Government’s ambitious suite of election commitments, including establishment of the TAFE Rescue Fund, Back to Work Fund and the Review of Quality Assurance in Victoria’s VET System.

He will commence at Melbourne Polytechnic on Monday 8 June.

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Comment  & analysis

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   29 May 2015

Keeping public priorities in public universities

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  The main purposes of Australian public universities — teaching, research and community engagement — are well established in law and practice. But differences of opinion exist on priorities, interpretation and accountability. A key tension is between academics as the strongest advocates of knowledge for its own sake, and government, students and the general public seeking practical uses for knowledge, writes Andrew Norton.

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Academics want to conduct blue sky research, but that’s not why people pay to go to university
Academics want to conduct blue sky research, but that’s not why people pay to go to university. AAP/Julian Smith

For academics, passion for a field of study, opportunity to develop new knowledge, and autonomy in working life are among the most frequent reasons given for pursuing an academic career. These aspirations create resistance to universities pursuing practical objectives set by others.

Academics are much more likely to apply for research grants where new knowledge is the primary outcome than grants aimed at promoting collaboration with industry. Academics criticise universities for becoming more “instrumental”.

The importance to academics of pursuing new knowledge has made teaching a second priority after research. Only 30% of academics say they prefer teaching or lean towards teaching in a teaching and research job. Another survey found that 67% of academics wanted more research time, but only 15% wanted more teaching work.

Although few people seriously dispute that knowledge for its own sake is important, there are broader expectations of public universities. What makes them “public” institutions is their establishment by government to meet a range of needs associated with advanced knowledge.

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Australia dumbs down?

29 May 2015

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  Australia is betting on plumbers and coffee-shop owners over scientists and researchers to drive the nation’s next wave of economic growth, writes Michael Heath in BloombergBusiness.

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Coffee

The country that brought you refrigerators, black-box flight recorders, bionic ears and Wi-Fi will cut its research budget by 7 percent over the next 12 months, and another 10% in the following three years. At the same time it’s offering tax cuts and write-offs in this year’s budget for small firms to buy equipment like espresso machines and lawnmowers as the centerpiece of a plan to build a “stronger and more prosperous Australia.”

The government is reducing spending in the face of budget shortfalls after a 30% drop in commodity prices in 12 months and an end to the country’s mining investment boom. Helping small businesses to pick up some of the slack has lifted consumer confidence to its highest in 16 months and boosted shares of retailers like Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd. and JB Hi-Fi Ltd.

“Having this reliance on the bottom end of the economy, like small businesses, is a short-term fix,” said Andrew Hughes, a lecturer at the College of Business and Economics at Australian National University. “Cutting back on research is insanity.”

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21 May 2015

The VET Store

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The VET Store is a new service by the VET Development Centre which provides access to a range of information to support VET practitioners in the work they do.

VET Development Centre
Click image to find out more!

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ACPET Forum2
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Life & stuff

21 May 2015

A glimpse into the first 21 days of a bee’s life

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We’ve heard that bees are disappearing. But what is making bee colonies so vulnerable?

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Photographer Anand Varma raised bees in his backyard and teamed up with the bee lab at UC Davis to film and get a up close view of the first three weeks of a bee’s life in unprecedented detail. This project, for National Geographic, gives a lyrical glimpse into a bee hive — and reveals one of the biggest threats to its health, a mite that preys on baby bees in the first 21 days of life.  With his incredible footage, set to music from Magik*Magik Orchestra, Varma shows the problem  in this Ted talk … and what’s being done to solve it. There’s also a condensed 60 second clip.

See
Honey bees

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One Hundred Stories

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Monash University’s commemoration of the Great War.

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Wall of Commemoration
The One Hundred Stories are a silent presentation. They remember not just the men and women who lost their lives, but also those who returned to Australia, the gassed, the crippled, the insane, all those irreparably damaged by war. The Great War shaped the world as well as the nation. Its memory belongs to us all.

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Curriculum and course development

Business/ Hospitality ————————- Child care

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Curriculum1A dynamic and reputable education and training provider is looking to expand its offerings into higher education, initially at AQF Level 5 (Diploma) and AQF level 6 (Associate Degree) in the fields of Business/Hospitality and Childcare.
The provider is seeking to develop curriculum and course materials for these courses and requires the services of an experienced curriculum writer to assist it in this project.

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Adult contemporary music

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You do need to sign up to listen but it’s free (for the first 40 hours a month)

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TDA comment on 2015 Budget

TDA Newsletter    |   18 May 2015

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The training and skills portfolio was largely untouched in the in federal budget, although there were a number of changes that will have an impact.

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TDA Logo snipped

These include:

  • $14.5 million in funding in 2015 16 to expand the Adult Migrant English Program for one year to include refugees who hold temporary substantive visas, including Temporary Protection Visas, Safe Haven Enterprise Visas and Temporary (Humanitarian Concern) Visas.
  • $18.2 million in funding over four years from 2015 16 to implement an enhanced compliance regime for VET FEE- HELP.
  • An extension of the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) repayment framework to debtors residing overseas, estimated to recover $26.0 million over four years.
  • The Education and Training portfolio will have funding reduced by $131 million over four years through savings and changes to programs. This will include the redesign of the Industry Workforce Training program, the Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education program, the Endeavour Language Teacher Fellowships program, and the National Workforce Development Fund. A competitive tender for the further development and support of the My Skills website will also be conducted.
  • There will be savings of $1.6 million over five years from 2014 15 by replacing seven vocational education and training governance bodies with the Australian Industry and Skills Council.

 

See
Department of Education and Training Portfolio Budget Statements
Portfolio media releases
Opposition media release

The Scan # 169 15 May 2015

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GDP spending on higher education set to fall to half OECD average

15 May 2015    |    Spending on higher education as a proportion of GDP will fall from 0.56% in 2015 down to 0.48% in 2018, well below the OECD average of 1%, an analysis of the 2015 Budget Education Budget2figures has determined. According to Vin Massaro, an honorary professorial fellow with the Centre for the Study of Higher Education, higher education spending is slated to drop from $9.3bn in 2015, to $8.9bn in 2016, $9.1bn in 2017 and back to $9.3bn in 2018, representing a drop in GDP every year. Massaro told The Australian that “we need to have a serious conversation about the sustainability of uncapped enrolments if the per capita funding levels are going to continue to slide and each place is to be funded at the same level irrespective of the institution and its research performance.” While the budget was based on an assumption the government’s reforms would pass the Senate, the Grattan Institute’s Andrew Norton says there would be both positive and negative consequences on forward estimates of the reforms not passing….[ MORE ]….

Former Fosters boss to head new skills body

Pollaers15May 2015   |     Former Fosters and Pacific Brands CEO John Pollaers has been appointed chair of the federal government’s Australian Industry and Skills Committee designed to put employers in charge of choosing which vocational qualifications are funded by government training packages. Assistant Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham said the new body will “put industry at the centre of the system”. Pollaers will head a 12-member body of industry representatives, including one nominated by each state and territory government, and a rotating member from the three main business groups, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group. The new committee is part of the government’s new model for training package development which will end the role of the 12 industry skills councils funded by government and replace them with a contestable system. The committee will sit above a new structure of industry reference groups – which will advise on the training qualification needs for each industry sector – backed by skills service organisations to provide administrative support….[ MORE ]….

Skills entitlement to be reviewed 

15 May 2015     |    The National Partnership Agreement on Skills, including the student entitlement to training, is to be reviewed, following the COAG meeting of federal, state and territory skills ministers in Melbourne on 8 May.  Simon Birmingham.  The ministers agreed to a “simpler, more responsive training system” under projects agreed by the meeting, according the Commonwealth skills minister Senator Simon Birmingham. Birmingham said he expects to see this work delivering changes, particularly relating to quality and relevance, in coming months….[ MORE ]…..

Science and innovation prizes

15 May 2015    |         The Victorian government has opened applications for two prestigious science and innovation award programs. The government will offer two Victoria Prizes for Science and Vic Science PrizeInnovation, in physical sciences and life sciences, alongside 12 Victoria Fellowships – six in physical sciences and six in life sciences.  The 2015 Victoria Prizes for Science and Innovation, valued at $50,000 each, are to recognise outstanding leaders in science and their research contributions to the Victorian community.  The Victoria Fellowships, valued at $18,000 each, support researchers in science, engineering and technology, who are in the early stages of their career and would benefit from an international study mission.  Recipients of these awards in 2014 included researchers in nanomedicines for the treatment of cancers and cardiovascular disease, and translational neuroscience in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.  Other research areas included sports engineering, cloud computing, materials science, environmental health, preventative therapies and mental health.  The two Victoria Prize recipients and 12 Victoria Fellows will be announced at an awards ceremony later this year….[ MORE ]……

No consensus on Lomborg centre

10 May 2015   |   Education minister Christopher Pyne has vowed to find another university to UWAhost the Bjorn Lomborg “consensus centre” and is seeking legal advice about a decision by the University of Western Australia (UWA) to hand back $4m in federal government funding awarded to establish the centre. UWA handed back the funding and dropped its connection with Lomborg, saying that lack of support among its academics made the centre untenable. In a statement to staff, UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said that the planned Australian consensus centre, which would have been linked to Lomborg’s Copenhagen consensus centre, would have done important work, but “unfortunately, that work cannot happen here”….[ MORE ]….

Pyne’s research budget fix

8 May 2015    |   Science research infrastructure that was threatened by the government’s Budget cutscontroversial higher education reforms will receive a $300 million lifeline in next week’s budget – but at the expense of other research funding. Cutting the $1.8 billion a year research block grants is an easier option that doesn’t needing parliamentary approval or targets specific projects, but it will still hurt research. It’s reported that funding for the National Collaborative and Research Infrastructure Strategy will be given a two-year reprieve, with funding until 2017, totalling $300 million. Grattan Institute higher education expert Andrew Norton said the cut can be expected to reduce research. In contrast, he said a better option would be to cut the Commonwealth Grants Scheme that funds teaching and make up for it with a minor increase in student fees that won’t have any impact on participation. However such a move would need parliamentary approval….[ MORE ]….
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Budget 2015 (2)

University sector comment

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quote marksResearch programs take a hit as universities and students left in policy limbo.

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quote marksDespite more than three quarters of Australians opposing deregulation, and the Senate rejecting their plans for $100,000 degrees twice, the Abbott Government has kept its plans for university deregulation in this year’s budget.

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Budget 2015

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ABC News’ comprehensive summary of the 2015 Budget

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The Zombies that make the numbers look good

13 May 2015

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Zombies2The Australian’s editor-at-large Paul Kelly says the 2015 Budget has “one idea above all else right at its heart and that’s about saving the Abbott government.” Quite clearly The Oz’s stable of writers and analysts think it’s very much about positioning for an early election, should the portents seem promising.

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Too right it’s about positioning for an early election. As Fairfax Media’s Peter Martin observes, “the coalition’s second budget is propped up by “zombie measures” from its first. Announced a year ago but not yet passed in the Senate, they are politically dead but not yet formally abandoned, meaning the income or savings they would have raised can be used to dress up the second lot of budget forecasts regardless of reality.”

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Why UWA was right to reject the $4m Lomborg bribe

15 May 2015

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The spectacularly misnamed Australian Consensus Centre (as High Wired has appropriately called it) has been mired in controversey from start to its (apparent). Not a skerrick of consensus to be found anywhere. Critics of the decision by the University of Western Australia to walk away from it decry the decision as “soft censorship”, a denial of academic freedom, suppression of free speech. Well, it’s none of those things: universities are full of “contrarians” such as Bjorn Lomborg, in every field that you could name, and they’re of all persuasions. The objection here is not about Lomborg’s views (although plenty of people inside and outside universities do object), it’s about how he forms his views and how he chooses to portray them (and, to some extent, it’s about the company he keeps). Tristan Edis, the environment writer for Business Spectator, points to the logical flaws in his argument that there are higher priorities for public expenditure that dealing with climate change. Monash University academic Michael Brown says his conclusions aren’t the outcome of robust academic endeavour.

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 Lomborg’s false choices

quote marksIf we want advice on how we should best prioritise resources for the greatest good, there are better people to get it from than Bjorn Lomborg. Oh and by the way, they’ll provide this advice without a $4 million price tag.

Lomborg creates a process and set of artificial and arbitrary constraints that drive those involved (including economics Nobel laureates) towards prioritising between a range of things that are all extremely important while ignoring the need to question a far broader array of far less worthwhile and often downright wasteful things.

He is a man who has developed a routine, an act which the media find useful as a contrarian voice to achieve “balanced” reporting. So when a range of scientists and political leaders suggest global warming is a really serious problem, Lomborg jumps in front of the cameras and says something utterly unremarkable and well understood by development economists which seeks to downplay the problem by highlighting another serious problem like, for example, indoor air pollution.

 

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Climate inaction, the one point of consensus

quote marksLomborg’s approach lacks the academic rigour we expect from our top universities.

Lomborg’s Consensus Centre at UWA has been controversial, and many have welcomed the announcement that UWA will not be the centre’s host. While some political warriors are claiming this is a defeat for academic freedom, this is unjustified and overlooks Lomborg’s history.

Lomborg consistently misinterprets and makes selective use of scientific studies, to portray an overly optimistic view of climate change and its costs. The Copenhagen Consensus Centre process includes unrealistic assumptions that, by design, lead to arguments against immediate action on climate change. Lomborg’s approach lacks the academic rigour we expect from our top universities. Despite this, Lomborg is an effective lobbyist and popular with some politicians, so he will continue to have a significant media profile, even without the Australian Consensus Centre.

In a time of tight government spending, one has to wonder if federal dollars for Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre were intended to fund rigorous academic activity, or provide intellectual cover for the government’s inadequate climate change policies.

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Oliver on balancing debate

15 May 2015

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US talk show host John Oliver moderates a mathematically representative climate change debate, with the help of special guest Bill Nye the Science Guy.

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Shift happens

Redefining education

14 May 2015

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Digital technology has changed how society relates to knowledge. Deloitte’s Australian Centre for the Edge has investigated how this change in our relationship with knowledge might affect the education sector. Its White Paper, Redefining Education, released on 11 May , explores the future of the education sector and what it means to be ‘educated’.

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Deloitte 2Digital technology has changed how society relates to knowledge. Deloitte’s Australian Centre for the Edge has investigated how this change in our relationship with knowledge might affect the education sector. Its White Paper, Redefining Education, released on 11 May , explores the future of the education sector and what it means to be ‘educated’.

Lead author of the paper, Pete Williams, said the changes digital technology is driving might redefine how we view education.

Basically we are finding that the focus on what people know is being replaced by an emphasis on their ability to find and share new knowledge and ideas,At the same time, the relentless rise of digital technology means that traditional means of acquiring an education are being disrupted.

The White Paper identifies two emerging trends that highlight why the sector might be about to go through a change in paradigm.

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Keeping The Conversation going

13 May 2015

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The Conversation is an independent, not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from the academic and research community. The Budget confirmed that the funding support it has received from the Australian Government since 2011 has ended. The funding The Conversation was seeking over 2 years ($2 million) is equivalent to 2 years funding the government proposes for the Lomborg Consensus Centre. Here’s a message from Andrew Jaspan, The Conversation’s editor, seeking donations.

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Life & stuff

14 May 2015

Red Cross Pop Up Op Shop

National Volunteer Week

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The Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are:

Red Cross Principles

The RMIT Bookshop on Little La Trobe St Melbourne has provided space for a Red Cross Op Shop at its entrance until the end of the month.

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Red Cross volunteer Chris with a customer.

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Impact1

Impact for Women was founded in May 2006 by Kathy Kaplan OAM and a group of her friends with the specific goal of making a difference to women and children in crisis – specifically to Victorian women and their children living in crisis accommodation as they flee domestic violence. It has aspirations to go national.

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One Hundred Stories

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Monash University’s commemoration of the Great War.

25 April 2015

 

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Wall of Commemoration
The One Hundred Stories are a silent presentation. They remember not just the men and women who lost their lives, but also those who returned to Australia, the gassed, the crippled, the insane, all those irreparably damaged by war. The Great War shaped the world as well as the nation. Its memory belongs to us all.

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Curriculum and course development

Business/ Hospitality ————————- Child care

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Curriculum1A dynamic and reputable education and training provider is looking to expand its offerings into higher education, initially at AQF Level 5 (Diploma) and AQF level 6 (Associate Degree) in the fields of Business/Hospitality and Childcare.
The provider is seeking to develop curriculum and course materials for these courses and requires the services of an experienced curriculum writer to assist it in this project.

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COAG agrees to review the national entitlement to skills

TDA Newsletter    |    11 May 2015

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The National Partnership Agreement on Skills, including the student entitlement to training, is to be reviewed, following the COAG meeting of federal, state and territory skills ministers in Melbourne on 8 May.

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Simon Birmingham

The ministers agreed to a “simpler, more responsive training system” under projects agreed by the meeting, according the Commonwealth skills minister Senator Simon Birmingham.  The meeting agreed to:

  •  Simplify the current 67 different training packages covering over 17,000 units of competency embedded in around 1,600 qualifications as well as 1,283 accredited courses;
  • Review the operation of the National Partnership Agreement on Skills Reform in light of recent experiences by jurisdictions in delivery of student entitlement systems; and,
  • Improve existing surveys and data collections to provide more information to students and potential students, as well as employers, about training, and to reduce the compliance burden on students and providers.

Birmingham said he expects to see this work delivering changes, particularly relating to quality and relevance, in coming months.

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COAG Industry and Skills Council Meeting communiqué.
Commonwealth media release.

New Senate inquiry into VET

24 November 2014

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A wideranging inquiry into the regulation and funding of private vocational education and training providers is set to kick off in the Senate  amid concerns about private VET providers misusing public funding and warnings that proposed  higher education changes could see shoddy practices emerge in the higher education sector.

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Piggy bank The inquiry’s terms of reference, negotiated between Labor and the Greens, and apparently supported by sufficient of the cross bench to get the proposal up,  call for examining: private sector access to public funds; regulatory regimes governing the sector; the VET FEE-HELP scheme; the overall quality of education provided; associated learning requirements; and graduate outcomes for those completing training with private providers.

It’s also proposed that the inquiry will scrutinise marketing and promotional techniques both private providers and third-party brokers employ, incidents of non-compliance with regulatory frameworks and political donations from private providers.

The inquiry would follow the Coalition Government’s recently announced crackdown on “unscrupulous or misleading behaviour by ‘brokers’ who act as an intermediary between students and training providers, as part of the new standards for RTOs”.

This comes amid industry efforts to weed out poor performing providers in the wake of Australian Skills and Quality Authority (ASQA) data released earlier this month that revealed high rates of initial non-compliance with national regulatory standards amongst providers.

The data led to ASQA and ACPET defending the sector, saying providers swiftly addressed most non-compliance issues and that action was being taken to identify and deal with a minority of firms that were ruining the industry’s reputation. ACPET plans to release a draft code of conduct and new set of guidelines dealing with these issues before the end of the year.

Opposition spokesperson  Kim Carr told New Matilda the inquiry would have implications for the Government’s plan to deregulate the university sector, a key plank of which is to open an $800 million pool of public funding to private providers of higher education courses.

Carr said he is particularly concerned about the Victorian VET experience, where deregulation of the sector by Labor Premier John Brumby allowed private providers to massively expand and take advantage of public funding.

He attacked the Liberal state government for moving further towards a system more advantageous for private providers and suggested federal legislation may be needed to bring the private providers back into line.

This is so important for individuals and for the country. This is not just an isolated set of allegations now and I’m concerned to see there is quite strong action taken by the parliamen.

Rodd Camm, CEO of the Australian Council of Private Education and Training, welcomed the inquiry, but denied rorts in the VET sector are “widespread”.

You can’t be opposed to [the inquiry]. We’re willing to have the sector scrutinised. I do not think there is widespread misuse [of public money], I think it’s at the margins of the sector, but not withstanding that there have been some fairly high profile failures. We have to stamp it out.

Camm said it is “a bridge too far” to link problems in the VET sector to the higher education sector, which he said had higher benchmarks and barriers to entry.

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Senate VET inquiry launches today

The Scan's top ten reads – September 2014

1 October 2014

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In September The Scan published 67 posts, although we also extracted 39 submissions to the Senate inquiry into the  government’s higher education reform legislation.  Scan readers seem to be drawn to a whiff of controversy , with the suspension of a vice-chancellor and the suspension of a listed company’s trading (albeit temporarily) topping the most read list. The Senate submissions feature third, which is pretty good for that sort of subject. As usual, the travails of the TAFE sector in the era of skills reform features highly, particularly in Victoria, where it could be a prominent issue at the election due in November. Top reads bottomed out with a reprise of a post from July.

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 Murdoch suspends vice-chancellor

Richard Higgott19 September 2014    |    Murdoch University suspended vice-chancellor Richard Higgott on full pay on 19 September as a result of the outcomes of a recent investigation by the university, which have been referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) for further assessment pursuant to section 28 of the Corruption and Crime Commission Act (2003). The decision to suspend Higgott was a unanimous resolution of the Murdoch University Senate. Murdoch University chancellor David Flanagan said the decision to suspend Higgott was regrettable but necessary as a result of the findings of the investigation and the policies of the university….[ READ MORE ]…

Trading in Vocation suspended

vocation (1)19 September 2014   |   Trading of shares in ASX-listed VET provider Vocation was temporarily suspended on 19 September at the request of the company, given ongoing speculation regarding its Victorian government funding contracts. Trading resumed on 22 September. Since listing in December 2013, Vocation has derived 80% of its revenues from subsidiary BAWM, most of which (90%) comes from Victorian government VET funding. However, that funding is being withheld, pending the outcome of an audit of courses provided by Vocation. It’s reported that the audit may relate to the practice of “channelling”, whereby a provider enrols students in courses other than what they originally intended to enrol in, in order to receive a greater level of government subsidy. A previous audit of BAWM, in December 2013, found evidence of channelling. …..[ READ MORE ]….

Sector submissions to the Senate Inquiry

25 September 2014    |    The government’s higher education reform package – the Higher Education and Research Reform Submissions1Amendment Bill 2014 – was referred on 3 September to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee for consideration and report by 28 October. The committee has published the 139 submissions it received on its website. There is almost unanimous support for passage of the package, particularly fee deregulation, on the basis that the long run decline in public funding is damaging the sector. Several submissions express opposition or concern about the extension of public subsidies to private providers (ACU stridently so). There is a united view that the package needs to be amended, particularly to at least ameliorate the burden of debt on future generations of students, that would follow from the combination of substantial fee increases and the imposition of a real interest rate on student loans (although no unanimity on how that might be achieved). Deakin University says the proposed changes to the HECS repayment scheme are unfair and rejects any compromise on this issue. The Regional Universities Network and the Group of Eight have formed a unity ticket on additional support for regional universities and their students. Stephen Parker (vice-chancellor, University of Canberra) and the National Tertiary Education Union make strange bedfellows in urging rejection of the package in its entirety…..[ READ MORE ]…..

VET funding in Australia and the role of TAFE

tafe-image4 September 2014   |    Policy neglect and funding cuts are steadily eroding Australia’s vocational education and training sector, according to VET sector veteran and now academic Peter Noonan. Noonan told the TDA national conference that VET students, many from poor backgrounds, are at risk of having a “hoax” perpetrated on them as government training subsidies are progressively cut and they are forced to pay rising fees while funding for schools and universities has soared. Underscoring the scale of the under-investment in VET, Noonan said between 2004 and last year total operating spending by all governments rose by about 15% to $6.8 billion a year, but that was dwarfed by a 23% rise in school spending to $40bn a year and a 40% rise in higher education spending to $23bn a year…..[ READ MORE ]…..

Swinburne reconsidering its VET provision

22 September  2014     |   Dual sector Swinburne University is flagging a major restructure of its vocational training after Swineburne2falling short of revenue targets on the back of state government funding cuts and increasing competition from private providers. In a consultation paper issued to staff, Swinburne said revenue from vocational education and training had slumped from $123.5 million in 2012 to a now projected $70m this year. But it said its current organisational structure was predicated on the university generating at least $90m a year from VET, and alternative options now need to be considered. VET at Swinburne is currently spread over three separate centres, plus foundation provider Swinburne College and short course provider Industry Solutions. Their combined total revenue is just over the $80m a year, or similar to that generated by Swinburne’s smallest university faculty, the faculty of business and enterprise…..[ READ  MORE ]….

 Vic TAFE share continues to crash

decline (1)2 September  2014      |      Victoria’s TAFE system is near collapse, according to the Labor opposition, after $1.2 billion in government cuts, the Victorian Training Market Half Year Report has revealed. It shows that TAFEs’ share of the training market dropped from 48% in the first half of 2010 to just 27% in the first half of 2014. Overall, government subsidised enrolments continued to decrease for the first half of 2014, with a 5% drop from the same time in 2013. TAFE enrolments in the first half have fallen 28% to 100,200 compared with 138,300 a year ago, while private providers have increased their enrolments by 20% to 214,300 from 180,000 a year ago. Labor spokesperson Steven Herbert said that if this trend were to continue under a future coalition government, TAFEs’ share would continue dropping to unsustainable levels, predicted to be as low as 8%. ….[ READ MORE ]….

Camm to head ACPET

1 September  2014    |  After just a year as managing director of NCVER, Rod Camm is moving on to become CEO of the Rod Camm2Australian Council of Private Education and Training (ACPET), which became vacant following the sudden resignation of Claire Field in early July 2014. Camm has had a long career in the vocational education and training (VET) field. Prior to his appointment at NCVER he held the position of CEO of Skills Queensland. Before that he was Associate Director-General of the Queensland Department of Education and Training, and CEO of Construction Skills Queensland. He has performed numerous other executive roles across government and has sustained a strong relationship with industry…..[ READ MORE ]….

UWA sets undergraduate fee at $48,000

23 September 2014    |    The University of Western Australia is the first university to reveal its student fee structure under mortar boardthe government’s fee deregulation plans, advising a Senate committee it would charge an annual fee of $16,000 – $48,000 for a three year degree – for the five basic undergraduate courses it offers. That’s an increase of 160% for a degree in humanities disciplines (based on the 2015 student contribution of $6152 pa – $18,456 over three years). And it does mean a price tag of around $100,000 for “professional degrees”, such as law, medicine, architecture and engineering. Medicine will likely break the $100,000 mark under the new price structure and law will be around $95,000. UWA says this is “commensurate’’ with its status as one of the leading universities in Australia and as one of the world’s top 100 universities. The new fees would take effect from 2016 provided Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s reform package passes the Senate, where it is facing heavy opposition from Labor, the Greens and Clive Palmer’s crossbenchers. UWA’s pricing will set a benchmark for other elite Group of Eight universities as they reformulate their fees……[ READ MORE ]….

Sweeping VET deregulation

12 September 2014    |   Industry minister Ian Macfarlane has announced sweeping deregulation of the vocational educationMacFarlane and training (VET) sector with “high performing” VET providers delegated the authority to manage their own scope of registration and no longer needing the regulator’s permission to change courses or introduce new ones. Under the proposed changes, registered training organisations (RTOs) can apply to the Australian Skills Standards Agency (ASQA) for a delegation to manage their scope allowing RTOs to “get on with what they do best — delivering the high calibre training that meets industry and economy needs”. Macfarlane told a national VET conference that “quality training speaks for itself” and that, in a highly competitive environment, the best way to ensure an RTO delivers high quality training is to “let it stand on its reputation – not fill out reams and reams of paperwork and jump through endless hoops.” ASQA’s regulatory role will focus on dealing with “rogue operators” and providing education and guidance to ensure “voluntary compliance” with VET standards by RTOs. ASQA will no longer transition to a full cost recovery model as had been planned and its fees will remain unchanged in 2014-15……[ READ MORE ]….

Skills reform a “shemozzle”Jeff Cunningham

24 July 2014   |  Skills reform in Australia is an “absolute shemozzle” and is jeopardising a world-class vocational education and training system, says Jeff Gunningham, recently retired chief executive of  TAFE South Australia.  But the apparent troubles besetting TAFE are the invention of a “misinformed media”, according to the Victorian minister.  Gunningham told the Victorian TAFE Association conference that bureaucratic bungling and an obsession with the bottom line is degrading training and threatening the existence of public TAFE institutes.  He said TAFE is at risk in Australia, driven by a Council of Australian Governments policy on entitlement which is simply not working. “It’s a dog’s breakfast.”…..[ READ MORE ]….