VET news

The Scan’s year

Summer edition 2016

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Summer

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The Scan in 2015

Top TenThis 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. 

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Careers Australia caught up in enrolment scam

Careers Aust3 March 2015     |     One of Australia’s biggest private training providers is being accused of using salespeople who target disadvantaged areas and enrol poor students with fake entrance exams.     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.

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NSW university offers 2015UAC

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.

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Vice chancellor’s salary packages on the rise

Rocket increase

15 June 2015    |      Australia’s highest paid vice-chancellor, Michael Spence (University of Sydney) saw his salary package increase by $120,000 last year to reach $1.3 million, an analysis of annual reports by The Australian shows.   He was 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.

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Hundreds of Vocation qualifications recalled

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 Vocationaged 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.

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Victorian VET Funding Review announced

Bruce McKenzie15 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.  Government contributions to public TAFEs fell from $733 million in 2011 to $468 million in 2014, leaving many TAFEs at risk of financial collapse.

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Higher education reforms referred back to Senate Committee

12 February 2015   |     Labor, the Greens and four independent senators (Senators Xenophon, Lambie, Muir, Rhiannon and Lazarus) have joined Stephen Parkerforces 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, 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.”

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Academic gongs Australia Day 2015

Order of Australia226 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.

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Vic to blitz “dodgy” VET providers

Deloitte2

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.

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Birmingham releases “synthesis report” on HE reform

Birmingham28 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.

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Labor’s TAFE agenda in QueenslandAnnastacia3

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.

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The Zeitgeist 2015

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General relativity: How Einstein’s theory explains the universe, and more

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A century ago, in November 1915, physicist Albert Einstein unveiled a theory that would change the world — general relativity.  ABC science reporter Bernie Hobbs explains this mind bending theory – the development of which was driven by experiments that took place mostly in Einstein’s brain (that is, so-called “thought experiments”) .

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Einstein working at his desk

See
Research shows disorganised people are geniuses.
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What’s disrupting us

From Forbes Magazine

“The Mercedes-Benz F 015 Luxury in Motion research vehicle is offering a vision of autonomous driving in the future. The luxury saloon with total connectivity gives a preview of how the self-driving car of the future could become a platform for communication and interaction.”

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Best books1
As selected by the staff of Dymocks

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Best books2

“An emotionally-charged and often traumatic novel that is sure to shock you. Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster, the likes of which I have never before experienced from a book. It’s my must-read title of 2015.”

See
10 of the best books from 2015 to add to your summer reading pile

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Images

From The New York Times

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“This was the year of the great unravelling, with international orders and borders challenged or broken, with thousands of deaths, vast flows of migrants and terrorist attacks on some of the most cherished symbols of civilization, both Western and Muslim.”

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 A child standing near police controlling a rush of refugees into Macedonia.

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The year in music

From Spotify’s playlist

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Spotify

Listen1

See
Pandora’s playlist

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At the movies

From Vogue Magazine

“I’ve never seen a Cannes screening more hushed than it was during Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s story about a reluctant female assassin (ravishing Shu Qi) during the Tang Dynasty. Although the story is a bit puzzling and rarefied—Hou plunges us right into 9th-century China—the film is a triumph of pure cinema, staggeringly beautiful in its evocation of a distant time and sensibility. It has the mysterious radiance of a Vermeer.”

Assasin

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The year in cartoons

Pope

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Image is everything

6 April 2015

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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.

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Abbott & kid asleep

The kid couldn’t take it any longer.

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Noticeboard

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The VET Store

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The VET Store is a  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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Chakra1Chakra

Chakara at 179 Acland St, St Kilda, and 387 Hampton St, Hampton has an extensive range of quality and unusual gift items. You can order online through Chakra’s Facebook page.

Chakra6

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Caroline2

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Click to listen
Click to listen

Radio Double Karma on Pandora

Adult contemporary music

The Fray…London Grammar…Leonard Cohen…Dixie Chicks…Peter Gabriel…Of Monsters and Men…Krishna Das…Cold Play…Snow Patrol….Clck hereAretha Franklin

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

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Is there something interesting near where you live and/or work? Got an interesting story? Got an event coming up? Tell us about it!

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The Scan in 2015

 26 December 2015

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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. 

 

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Careers Australia caught up in enrolment scam

Careers Aust3 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.

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NSW university offers 2015UAC

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.

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Vice chancellor’s salary packages on the rise

Rocket increase

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.

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Hundreds of Vocation qualifications recalled

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 Vocationaged 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.

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Victorian VET Funding Review announced

Bruce McKenzie15 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.

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Higher education reforms referred back to Senate Committee

12 February 2015   |     Labor, the Greens and four independent senators (Senators Xenophon, Lambie, Muir, Rhiannon and Lazarus) have joined Stephen Parkerforces 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.”

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Academic gongs Australia Day 2015

Order of Australia226 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.

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Vic to blitz “dodgy” VET providers

Deloitte2

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.

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Birmingham releases “synthesis report” on HE reform

Birmingham28 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.

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Labor’s TAFE agenda in QueenslandAnnastacia3

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.

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Image is everything

6 April 2015

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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.

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Abbott & kid asleep
The kid couldn’t take it any longer

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Acquire in the dock

Fairfax Media   |   18 December 2015

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Acquire Learning is the latest training company to land in the Federal Court accused of unconscionable conduct and false or misleading behaviour after it sold tens of thousands of government-funded courses to vulnerable job-seekers.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has alleged before the Federal Court that the company bought the details of unsuccessful applicants on job websites, then cold-called them to sell expensive diploma courses.

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Acquire Learning1

The courses, funded under the federal-government funded VET FEE-HELP loan scheme, cost between $19,000 and $52,000.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims says the Victoria-based company took advantage of vulnerable consumers and used “unfair tactics” and placed “undue pressure” to convince consumers to enrol.

A script for Acquire call centre operators shows that people looking for jobs online were told by telemarketers: “We are all about helping people land their dream job.”

The script also promises a free computer or iPad for signing up to a course, which has since been made illegal under federal legislation. Job seekers were also promised “the edge over other applicants”.

The ACCC says telemarketers signed up unsuitable people to courses, and misled them that the primary purpose was not selling an educational service, but getting the “client a job”.

In return, Acquire was paid large commissions by the training organisations they sold on behalf of, while students “did not receive the promised employment prospects and were left with a significant VET FEE-HELP debt,” according to the ACCC.

Fairfax Media has been told that 7%  or fewer of people signed to courses through Acquire actually completed the course.

One job seeker was told, falsely, “we actually put 4217 people … into jobs last month”.

Sims acknowledges that the behaviour, which took place between July 2014 and March 2015, was historical, and the company had made “large strides” towards improving it.

But he said while it was going on it was “so egregious that it can’t go unrecognised”.

Acquire has recently moved from being strictly a sales company, having bought a majority stake in jobs website CareerOne (where Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation remains a minority shareholder). It also bought its own training organisation, Franklyn Scholar.

 

See
ACCC targets training broker Acquire Learning & Careers

The Scan #176 16 December 2015

News

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Rebalancing Victorian VET

skills (1)

16 December 2015     |     The Victorian government has released the Final Report of The VET Funding Review (Mackenzie Report).  It’s a weighty document, both literally and figuratively, running to 173 pages and 109 recommendations. Skills minister Steve Herbert says the government accepts the “general thrust” of the report and its recommendations.  It will take the next year to work through design and implementation issues and to consult with stakeholders ahead of the introduction of a new funding model in 2017.  Certain matters, however, are given, such as restoring the public provider network (TAFE) as the bulwark of quality in the VET system, imposing stricter regulatory and contract compliance on providers and formally abandoning the “open market” approach of its previous government….[ READ MORE ]…..

VET -“more work needed”

14 December 2015    |      Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, state premiers and chief ministers have agreed to more closely review reforms and Race to the bottomregulation, which had begun under the original COAG National Partnership Agreement on skills – initially created in April 2012 under Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  The 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.”  Training ministers for NSW and Victoria also signalled their dissatisfaction with current vocational education policy, with NSW minister John Barilaro describing current VET FEE-HELP arangements as “a race to the bottom” ….[ READ MORE ]……

Job axe to fall at UWA

UWA

14 December 2015    |    The University of Western Australia (UWA) will lay off 300 staff as part of sweeping cuts aimed at reducing costs. The university will slash 100 academic positions and 200 professional positions early next year.  Fifty new academic positions will be created to enhance the university’s “capability and impact in areas of comparative advantage”.  UWA vice-chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said in a statement that 2015 had been a challenging year for the Australian higher education sector.  National Tertiary Education Union WA secretary Gabe Gooding said the union is outraged and that there is no justification for sacking 300 staff when the university made a $90 million operational surplus in 2014….[ READ MORE ] ….

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VET FEE-HELP skewering VET

11 December 2015      |       Explosive growth in the VET FEE-HELP scheme has masked massive direct public disinvestment in vocational education and training. While a report by NCVER shows a notional growth of 1.7% in 2014 over 2013 (plus $141.0 million, from $8512.4 million to $8653.4 million), it’s all in VET-FEE Help payments: actual direct expenditure by governments, including the Commonwealth declined markedly VET FEE-HELP. ….[ READ MORE ]…..

Innovating an “ideas boom”

Innovation

7 December 2015      |       Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled his much-anticipated Innovation Statement, saying he wanted to drive an “ideas boom”. The statement allocates almost $1.1 billion over the next four years to promote business-based research, development and innovation.  A key focus of the plan revolves around strengthening ties between the business community, universities and scientific institutions.
A $200 million innovation fund will co-invest in businesses that develop technology from the CSIRO and Australian universities. CSIRO will also get an extra $20 million to help commercialise research outcomes….[ READ MORE ]…..

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Milestones

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Neil Coulson named Victorian Skills Commissioner

16 December 2015

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Mr Coulson has extensive experience working in industry and was the CEO of the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) from 2000 to 2007.  He has also held a number of other senior roles in industry including Chief of Australian Manufacturer Jacyo Corporation from 2007 to 2012 and was a member of the Victorian Learning and Employment Skills Commission between 2001 and 2004.

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Neil Coulson

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Comment & analysis

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16 December 2015

Time to end the exploitation of vulnerable people

The case for REAL reform

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It’s hard to argue with the proposition that Australia’s vocational education sector is a mess.  Mary Leahy (University of Melbourne) writes that tightening regulation and tweaking some of the settings will contain the damage, but these measures alone will not address deeper problems in the sector.   Real, sustained improvement requires rethinking the funding and regulatory models but also the purpose and idea of vocational education.

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VET Reform

There is clear evidence of rorting and rent-seeking in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

The behaviour of some training providers, agents and brokers is nothing short of despicable. Thousands of students are being signed up to courses that they have little or no chance of completing.

The business model is fairly simple:

    • Register as a training provider and ensure your students have access to VET FEE HELP income-contingent loans.
    • Sign up as many students as possible for single or double diplomas.
    • The student takes on a VET FEE HELP loan to defer payment of course fees.
    • The training provider receives the VET FEE HELP payment from the government.
    • As long as the student is enrolled beyond the census date, the training provider is paid.
    • Even if the course is never started, the provider will receive funds from the government and the student is liable for the debt.

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One size does not fit all

The case for a new university type

Republished 16 December 2015

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Many of our universities are teaching focused rather than research focused.  Why is this a bad thing?  The Lisbon Council, which rated the Australian system highly, considered that while world-class research is an important aspect that allows some universities to turn out first-class students, for the system as a whole the educational mission is paramount.

The national protocols that govern our system ought to reflect the reality, that we have a continuum of university institutional types from research-intensive to teaching-intensive.It is past time we addressed the fiction that all universities are research-intensive and that all academics need to be research-active to be good teachers.

Across Australia there are multi-campus universities that cannot maintain the research activity on all campuses that is supposed to sustain the nexus. Many universities have recognised that good teaching is informed by scholarship by creating teaching-only positions that emphasise scholarship, being currency of knowledge and understanding, over the ideal of research as pure, original discovery.

 

 

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The importance of universities to Australia’s prosperity

28 November 2015

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 Universities Australia commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to analyse the contribution that universities make to Australia’s economic and social prosperity. This work was undertaken to inform the development of Universities Australia’s Keep it Clever—Policy Statement 2016.  The report seeks to present a comprehensive and coherent framework of benefits generated by universities. This includes examination of the conceptual role of universities in Australian society and how they contribute to the success of the nation, as well as a more detailed analysis of the benefits directly attributable to universities. The scope of the analysis does not include a detailed examination of the economic activity generated by university operations, but rather examines the contribution made to the productive capacity of the economy through universities’ teaching and learning, research discovery and adoption, and community service activities.

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As institutions, universities embody social, economic and intellectual resources which combine to generate benefits on a local, national and global scale. They equip students with the knowledge and skills that allow them to make greater contributions to society; they generate and disseminate knowledge which enhances productivity and improves living standards; and they provide a myriad of broader community benefits.

This report canvasses and examines the various ways in which universities contribute to our economic and social prosperity and how, given the economic imperatives confronting Australia, the sector’s role is likely to evolve and grow over time.

 

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Chakara at 179 Acland St, St Kilda, and 387 Hampton St, Hampton has an extensive range of quality and unusual gift items. You can order online through Chakra’s Facebook page.

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How teaching funds research in Australian universities

16 December 2015

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A report by the Grattan Institute report finds that universities earn up to $3.2 billion more from students than they spend on teaching, and have powerful incentives to spend the extra money on research. International students, who usually generate more revenue per student than domestic students, contribute a substantial proportion of this surplus. The report’s author, Andrew Norton, says the finding is concerning because, while university research matters to Australia, the evidence that it improves teaching is less clear. He observes that direct spending on teaching, by contrast, is far more likely to ensure that universities offer the high-quality courses students want. In this commentary in The Conversation, Norton observes that the priority of research within universities means that teaching does not always get its share of time and money. He proposes that any new funding system must ensure that money intended for teaching is spent on teaching.

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

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Reforming vocational education: it’s time to end the exploitation of vulnerable people

The case for REAL reform

Republished 16 December 2015

………………………………………………………………………………………………………Mary Leahy

It’s hard to argue with the proposition that Australia’s vocational education sector is a mess.  Mary Leahy (University of Melbourne) writes that tightening regulation and tweaking some of the settings will contain the damage, but these measures alone will not address deeper problems in the sector.   Real, sustained improvement requires rethinking the funding and regulatory models but also the purpose and idea of vocational education.

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VET Reform

How the business model works

There is clear evidence of rorting and rent-seeking in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

The behaviour of some training providers, agents and brokers is nothing short of despicable. Thousands of students are being signed up to courses that they have little or no chance of completing.

The business model is fairly simple:

  • Register as a training provider and ensure your students have access to VET FEE HELP income-contingent loans.
  • Sign up as many students as possible for single or double diplomas.
  • The student takes on a VET FEE HELP loan to defer payment of course fees.
  • The training provider receives the VET FEE HELP payment from the government.
  • As long as the student is enrolled beyond the census date, the training provider is paid.
  • Even if the course is never started, the provider will receive funds from the government and the student is liable for the debt.

Chasing the dollar

This has given reprehensible providers a stream of revenue without the expense or trouble of providing much in the way of education.

Fees have grown, with a number of providers charging over $10,000 for a diploma.

The figures are staggering. A total of $2.4 billion in VET-FEE HELP was paid to training providers in 2015 (up to November 15), a big increase from $1.7 billion in 2014.

Yet graduation rates for many providers were abysmal, well under 10%.

Other providers do graduate their students, pushing them through qualifications in improbably short times. The approach has been described as “tick and flick”.

In Victoria alone, around 9,500 qualifications were revoked in one year.

The suggestion that payment should be shifted from when a student starts a course to when they complete it will not prevent the rorting, although it may force some providers to at least go through the motions of offering an educational program.

This outcome was predicted

Some shake their heads and say that no one could have foreseen what has happened. But it was predicted.

Prominent academic Leesa Wheelahan consistently argued that the reforms would result in a race to the bottom. Others expressed similar views in the media and within the sector.

The TAFE institutes have been hit hard, with a significant reduction in market share. Conditions are also difficult for any private operators with a genuine commitment to vocational education when competitors offer quicker, easier qualifications.

How have governments responded?

Governments have taken some action. Training providers are no longer permitted to provide incentives such as laptops and iPads, although there is evidence the practice has continued.

Providers will no longer receive up-front payment for the whole course. Funding for the loans has been frozen.

The Department of Education and Training is preparing to receive loan applications rather than leaving the training providers to process these.

These initiatives are to be applauded.

Key government reviews into funding, quality and the private training providers have also been undertaken. The extent of their impact on government policy is still emerging.

Alternative options being considered

Other options are being debated across the sector. These include risk-based approaches to regulation of providers and/or qualifications.

It has been suggested that students should be charged a minimum fee so they have “skin in the game”.

Questions are being asked about the wisdom of allowing the same organisation to train, assess and issue a qualification.

There is interest in finding reliable ways of distinguishing between providers that seek to deliver high-quality education and training, from operations seeking to milk public funding.

There is also renewed interest in the practice of teaching, which has been marginalised over the past 30 years.

Significant profits have been extracted but scrutiny from various regulatory bodies and the media has had an impact.

A number of large training businesses are in serious trouble. The Vocation group has folded and Australian Careers Network’s shares have been suspended since October. More will follow.

How did we get here?

The current situation has been built by layers of reform intended to create a vibrant, responsive sector that provided greater choice and flexibility for students.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreements in 2009 and 2012 led to the implementation of demand-driven training systems across Australia.

The idea was to give students greater choice and make providers more responsive to students and employers.

Victoria was the first state to implement the reform. Rapid growth in subsidised training rather predictably led to a massive budget blowout.

The government’s commitment to the market model was ironclad, leaving adjustment to the subsidy or funding rates as its only response.

A dramatic cut in May 2012 was followed by other significant reductions. Other states followed, introducing variations of the Victorian model, all hoping to avoid the pitfalls.

The lack of certainty encouraged providers to game the system and direct students into the courses that attracted higher levels of subsidy. In some cases this was a matter of survival. This problem was compounded once access to VET FEE HELP was expanded.

Longer-term shifts in the sector have also impacted the quality of vocational education.

The marginalisation of teaching, which is starting to be reversed, is one factor. Another is a form of outcomes-based education that does not recognise development and growth and is stripped of the knowledge we need for employment and citizenship. This raises fundamental questions about the purpose and function of vocational education.

Key issues

One of the problems with a market in education is that only after the course has been completed can the quality of education and training be assessed.

Another issue is that the vocational education market is based on flawed assumptions about the way we form preferences and make decisions.

There is a body of research that demonstrates that we do not operate as rational economic agents. We are all influenced by the way options are framed. Our preferences are not fixed. Our assessment of risk is shaped by our circumstances, particularly the opportunities available to us and the timing of any rewards and costs.

These findings challenge the assumptions underpinning user-choice policies.

Choosing a VET course is complex. There are five levels of qualifications, thousands of providers and specific rules about entitlement to government subsidy and VET FEE HELP loans.

A number of research projects are examining young people’s choices about study and work. It is apparent that the difficult circumstances some face limit the meaningful opportunities available to them.

The behaviour of providers and agents that exploit the hopes of people seeking to improve their prospects should continue to be exposed and condemned. But we also need to examine fundamentally flawed funding and regulatory models that allow and reward the exploitation.

Looking forward

Measures to control VET-FEE HELP will rein in the worst excesses.

Some operators will leave the sector. Others are reviewing their policies and practices. Hopefully governments will act on recommendations such as those produced by the Victorian VET Funding Review.

However, considerable risks remain when there is pressure to extract a profit and limited opportunities to cut costs without compromising the quality of provision.

This is compounded when students are unable to judge the value of their course until it is too late.

Politicians, policymakers and commentators need to ask whether the market can deliver what was promised by reforms in this sector and by the recently adopted competition policy.

We also need to reconsider the type of vocational education developed and delivered in Australia.

Some researchers argue for a more coherent approach to vocational development. Qualifications will be organised within broad vocational streams such as engineering or care work. Social partners will play a role in identifying the capabilities that will underpin qualifications. Courses will be designed to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes a person needs to work in their vocational stream.

In this way people will be prepared for a career, not just for a job that may be transformed or disappear. The approach is designed to build trust in the quality and relevance of qualifications.

A system that demands robust vocational education will not be attractive to those focused on extracting excessive profits.

Wasting public funds is a serious matter, but more troubling is the trashing of the vocational education system and the exploitation of vulnerable people.

The Conversation

Mary Leahy, Academic, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Neil Coulson appointed Victoria’s first Skills Commissioner

16 December 2015

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Mr Coulson has extensive experience working in industry and was the CEO of the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) from 2000 to 2007.  He has also held a number of other senior roles in industry including Chief of Australian Manufacturer Jacyo Corporation from 2007 to 2012 and was a member of the Victorian Learning and Employment Skills Commission between 2001 and 2004.

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Neil Coulson

The Commissioner’s role is to work with industry to ensure that Victorian students get skills that will lead to real jobs and real productivity for industry and employers.

In announcing the appointment, skills minister Steve Herbert said Mr Coulson will draw on his knowledge to advise government on how the training system can better support the economy and jobs by addressing skills shortages.

He will also advise Government on how it can meet workforce training needs and boost productivity for employers as well as analysing the training needs of existing and emerging industries.

The appointment gives effect to an election commitment at a cost of $8 million over four years.

Rebalancing VET in Victoria

Review proposes “a more managed,sustainable training system”

16 December 2015

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The Victorian government has released the Final Report of The VET Funding Review (Mackenzie Report).  It’s a weighty document, both literally and figuratively, running to 173 pages and 109 recommendations. Skills minister Steve Herbert says the government accepts the “general thrust” of the report and its recommendations.  It will take the next year to work through design and implementation issues and to consult with stakeholders ahead of the introduction of a new funding model in 2017.  Certain matters, however, are given, such as restoring the public provider network (TAFE) as the bulwark of quality in the VET system, imposing stricter regulatory and contract compliance on providers and formally abandoning the “open market” approach of the previous government.

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Bruce Mackenzie who undertook review with Neil Coulson
Bruce Mackenzie who undertook review with Neil Coulson

In their introduction to the report, reviewers Bruce Mackenzie (formerly CEO of Holmesglen Institute) and Neil Coulsen, (formerly CEO of VECCI and newly appointed as Victoria’s Skills Commissioner) observe that there has been too much change, too quickly, with almost overnight changes in subsidy levels, which have proved highly destabilising to the VET system overall and laid waste to a significant public asset in the TAFE network (the latter is our interpretation, not their actual words).

They state their purpose as proposing measures to rebalance the system so the “design, incentives and administration promote quality training…to restore stability… and value to the system”:

In recent years, too much of the system has been driven by provider behaviour, rather than supporting students to make informed training decisions, or to protect them from opportunistic or unethical behaviour.  There has been too much emphasis on increasing both the number of providers and the intensity of competition between them, and not enough care taken in ensuring they are delivering quality training. There has been too much focus on increasing the volume of training, and not enough on whether the training leads to positive outcomes for the students such as employment and further education.

The report doesn’t bag the concept of contestability, just the way successive governments have gone about it:

Contestability can, if properly implemented, drive innovation, efficiency and improvement across the sector.  But government cannot simply declare something contestable, open up the market and hope that it works. It needs to design and administer the market more carefully, guided by the outcomes it seeks achieve.

That’s a pretty good summary of all that has gone wrong – all of it quite predictable – in Victoria, at least, over the last five or six years.

The proposed measure that’s attracted immediate attention is the introduction of a price signal (or “co-payment”, if you prefer).  The rationale is that reintroducing a standard fee is a way to make students or their employers more conscious that a training entitlement, under the Victorian Training Guarantee, is limited and not free.  If student makes a poor choice enticed by “no fees”, the student might exhaust their entitlement.  Disadvantaged students would get concessional rates.

While the overwhelming bulk of Victorian RTOs are covered by the national regulatory regime, through the Australian Skills Quality Authority, state governments have significant de facto regulatory heft through their control of funding levers: they can determine who does and who doesn’t get access to public funding (in Victoria through the Victorian Training Guarantee – VTG).  The report portends a further tightening of access rules (which have tightened considerably over the past year already), which would include empowering the Auditor–General  to audit private providers in receipt of public funding.  It also proposes a system of “classification of providers, based on VET capacity and financial and organizational stability.   Allied to this would be the negotiation of “compact” agreements with highly rated providers which would encompass outcomes-based funding and include performance measures. The successful attainment of performance measures would result in lighter auditing and reporting arrangements.  While smaller and specialist providers would not be excluded from VTG funding, in a budget capped system (as already announced by the minister and provided in the review’s terms of reference), it would mean that providers in compact arrangements would be, in effect, “preferred” providers.

To manage training expenditure within the existing budget, it is proposed that enrolment limits be placed on individual providers.

The VET budget (currently capped at $1.2 b a year) would comprise:

  • a general pool of contestable VTG funding – that is, all funding for enrolments in training at both government and non-government providers;
  • an allocation to support provision in thin markets (which might be allocated on a tender basis):
  • funding to continue concession arrangements;
  • an allocation for a workforce innovation fund, which would focus on initiatives to improve workforce productivity at an industry or firm level and perhaps provide some funding for applied research
  • a specific allocation to meet the costs, obligations and restrictions placed on TAFE institutions; and,
  • an allocation for community service grants (which might also be allocated on a tender basis).

To manage training expenditure within the existing budget, it is proposed that enrolment limits be placed on individual providers.

It is proposed that restrictions on subcontracting by VTG providers be further tightened so that a small portion of the delivery of a qualification can be delivered be delivered by another provider.  This is to prevent, for example, where a qualification appears to be from a capable provider, but a significant part of the training is undertaken by a lower-capability provider.

At the heart of this report is restoring the much rundown fortunes of TAFE in the VET system.  In addition to recent government initiatives, such as the Rescue TAFE Fund, the report proposes a number of interventions to improve the position of these institutes and to make them sustainable as It says that TAFEs face costs, obligations and restrictions that other providers do not and which inhibit their capacity to compete in the training market. The measures include:

  • the minister making a clear statement about the role of TAFE institutes in Victorian VET (and we would add the economy and community);
  • funding institutes for some of the obligations imposed upon them by virtue of public ownership; and,
  • developing a compact which involves TAFE institutes responding to government priorities, as well as identifying their communities’ educational and training needs, negotiating these with government and meeting agreed outcomes.

The review also gives a big tick of approval to the concept of a “polytechnic university” (as long advocated by Mackenzie himself – and The Scan).  As defined in the report, a polytechnic university would be a type of university offering higher education underpinned by VET programs, that meet the needs of industry, enterprises and students by being applied in nature and closely demonstrating the link between theory and practice.  The target group would be students who do not follow conventional pathways to tertiary education and training.  It proposes a detailed examination of the utility and place of such a type of institution in the Victorian tertiary landscape.

In what might be seen as something less than a tick of approval of ASQA, the report proposes the establishment of a VET Quality Assurance Office to develop standards (and presumably police them) in relation to market entry requirements for a VTG contract, protocols for training, standards for marketing VET courses, registration of brokers and aggregators (such as Acquire Learning) and “other matters associated with maximizing student outcomes”.

In addition, the office would have a role in conducting strategic reviews of industries and qualifications, identifying and investigating systemic issues and risks, and would have responsibility for outsourcing activities such as the development of the proposed provider classification system.

A VET Quality Funding Office would be responsible for contractual arrangements and managing the State’s relationship with training providers, including payments. It would be responsible for the development of an investment plan and monitoring provider performance and contract compliance.

The Victorian government generally only funds training for those people seeking to undertake a qualification at a higher level than the one they hold.  The Review some refinements to the upskilling requirement that in some circumstances, people can receive government support to re-train at the same qualification level. Exemptions proposed are:

  • people under the age of 24;
  • long-term unemployed (greater than 12 months);
  • workers who have been retrenched; and d. people with qualifications older than 7 years.; and,
  • people returning to the labour force after an extended absence from the upskilling requirement.

People exempt from the eligibility exemptions would be required to attend an approved provider in the first instance, TAFE institutes.

In response, skills minister Steve Herbert said the government supports, in general, the review’s proposals for “a more managed, targeted and Steve Herbertcontestable system that better links training to industry and job outcomes, guarantees additional funds for TAFEs, and ensures only quality training providers receive government funding.” He said:

A training system that delivers quality and industry relevant skills is vital to improving productivity, creating jobs and increasing Victoria’s economic growth. The Andrews Labor Government will take a more hands-on role in the VET system to support strong public TAFEs and Learn Local organisations.

He said matters that would be given attention include general adherence by VTG_approved to the notional volume of learning in a qualification and rationalisation of courses that would be eligible for funding under VTG (from something like 3,000 to 700 as in NSW.

The reforms to be developed over the coming year would revolve around six themes:

  • a clear vision for VET in Victoria, targeted to meeting industry need and providing job outcomes;
  • a responsive and sustainable model that promotes lifelong learning;
  • defining clear roles for TAFEs and community sectors to ensure strong and sustainable systems;
  • transparency for students, industry and employers;
  • supporting quality and continuous improvement; and,
  • promotion of equity for learners of all abilities.
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One size doesn’t fit all unis

 

“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.

The Scan #175 11 December 2015

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VET FEE-HELP skewering system

 

Calculator11 December 2015      |       Explosive growth in the VET FEE-HELP scheme has masked massive direct public disinvestment in vocational education and training. While a report by NCVER shows a notional growth of 1.7% in 2014 over 2013 (plus $141.0 million, from $8512.4 million to $8653.4 million), it’s all in VET-FEE Help payments: actual direct expenditure by governments, including the Commonwealth declined markedly VET FEE-HELP.  VET funding through state and territory governments fell almost $320m, while fee-for-service ¬revenue — largely contributed by businesses — fell more than $130m. Federal government funding through channels other than VET FEE-HELP fell almost $500m.  Financial information 2014 shows that VET FEE-HELP is supplanting traditional forms of VET financing, as state governments and businesses withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars from the sector. Government spending fell $416m last year, even though Canberra shovelled an extra $1.06 billion into VET FEE-HELP….[ READ MORE ]…..

Innovating an “ideas boom”

Innovation

7 December 2015      |       Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled his much-anticipated Innovation Statement, saying he wanted to drive an “ideas boom”. The statement allocates almost $1.1 billion over the next four years to promote business-based research, development and innovation.

A key focus of the plan revolves around strengthening ties between the business community, universities and scientific institutions.
A $200 million innovation fund will co-invest in businesses that develop technology from the CSIRO and Australian universities. CSIRO will also get an extra $20 million to help commercialise research outcomes.
The mechanisms for funding university research are being simplified, with more focus on industry collaboration and less on publishing articles in academic journals. The six block grant schemes will be collapsed into two, with equal rating for research excellence and income from industry. The government will add $127 million in funding for university research over the next four years.
The previously endangered National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme will receive $1.5 billion over 10 years for projects such as ocean monitoring, advanced manufacturing and medical research.
There will also be $800 million over the decade for two major scientific projects: the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne (which uses light beams a million times brighter than the sun to generate discoveries) and the Square Kilometre Array (the largest radio telescope ever constructed).
The government will spend $84 million “inspiring” Australians in digital literacy and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). This includes new money to upgrade teachers’ digital skills, educational apps and $13 million to boost the participation of girls and women in STEM….[ READ MORE ]…..

Research quality soars

5 December 2015     |     The inaugural State of Australian University Research 2015–16: Volume 1 ERA research2National Report comprehensively details the quality of Australian university research benchmarked against world standards.  It identifies the excellence in research across a broad range of universities and the outstanding performances in areas of specialisation. Overall the quality of Australian university research continues to improve. The report confirms Australia’s university research performance is amongst the best in the world. In 2015, 89% of the assessed research areas in Australian universities is rated as world class, up from 68% in 2010….[ READ MORE ]…..

Phoenix crashes…and burns

Phoenix

5 Decemebr 2015    |      Melbourne’s Phoenix Institute has shut down its “real world division” (that is, its face-to-face, classroom rather than online delivery) as a result of a federal government crackdown which has seen VET FEE-HELP funding to the entire sector frozen and legal action initiated by the ACCC. Some 260 transpersonal counselling and art therapy students are affected by the closure.  Phoenix is one of a large number of colleges to have grown exponentially through its sale of online diplomas around Australia, using government money under the VET FEE-HELP scheme.It started the year claiming $200,000 per month from government to pay for courses, but by September, it was applying for a variation, claiming an annual payment of $300 million – or $25 million per month – a 125-fold increase….[ READ MORE ]….

Crackdown looming 

Crackdown1

4 December 2015    |    New rules to better protect students in the vocational education and training sector will come into effect from 1 January 2016 with the passage of the Higher Education Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015 on 3 December. The changes a requirement providers assess the student’s capacity to undertake the course for which they are enrolling.  Ahead of the introduction of a new funding model in 2017, the total loan limit for existing VET FEE-HELP providers will be frozen at  2015 levels. There will also be tougher entry requirements for registered training organisations seeking to become a VET FEE-HELP provider….. [ READ MORE ]…..

Vocation collapses entirely

Vocation snip30 Novemebr 2015    |    Less than a week after going into voluntary administration education and training services company Vocation has been closed down, leaving 150 of its 180 employees without a job and more than 10,000 students in limbo.  In a statement on Monday 30 November 2015, administrators Ferrier Hodgson advised that as a result of further customer contract terminations, the lack of available liquidity to fund operations and the lack of ongoing support from key stakeholders, the voluntary administrators of Vocation Ltd have had no alternative but to cease the majority of the company’s operations effective from 30 November 2015...[ READ MORE ]….

ACCC hits up Phoenix for $106 m

26 November 2015    |  The Australian Competition and Consumer

Carpetbagger
Loot in the bag…?

Commission (ACCC) has accused leading VET provider Phoenix Institute of false, misleading and unconscionable conduct and is seeking recovery of $106 million in Commonwealth funding through VET-FEE HELP.   The ACCC claims Phoenix tricked disadvantaged people into signing up for multiple courses and incurring large debts to the Commonwealth.  The alleged victims included those with intellectual disabilities, and people on Aboriginal communities. Sales people authorised by Phoenix signed them up to multiple online diploma courses which cost $18,000 each, even though some did not have access to the internet or computer skills.  The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)  has also announced that it proposes cancelling Phoenix Institute’s registration as a training organisation, meaning it will then be ineligible for further government funding ….[ READ MORE ]….

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UA News

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NCVER Insight November 2015

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Milestones

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Murdoch names new vice-chancellor

3 December 2015

……………………………………………………………………………………………………… Internationally experienced university leader and academic, Professor Eeva Leinonen has been selected as Murdoch University’s next vice-chancellor, which has been shaken for more than a year by power struggles and a probe by the West Australian Corruption and Crime Commission..

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Eeva

Professor Leinonen is currently a deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Wollongong, a role she has held since 2012. Prior to this she was Vice Principal (Education) at King’s College London.

She has an academic background in linguistics and psychology and has extensive experience in higher education in the United Kingdom, Europe and internationally, including 19 years at the University of Hertfordshire, where she served as Deputy Vice Chancellor and Dean of Health and Human Sciences.

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Comment & analysis

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Venting about VET 

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25 November 2015     |    An RTO operator, who wishes to remain anonymous (fair enough),  laments that the reputable “sprats”, such as herself, are being caught up in the net intended to catch the “sharks” in the VET ocean.

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Governments in Australia extol the virtues of small business – for their contributions to employment and innovation, for example – but in the training industry “small” is starting to be an impossible feat.  It’s getting to the point that an RTO can only survive if it has an extremely large scope and doesn’t specialise, as that gives it the flexibility to game the system to survive constant funding and regulatory changes.

…what we have seen in recent times is the proliferation of “sharks” in the VET ocean – alpha predators, who are big mean and nasty.  Governments are casting a net – not before time, either – to at least rein them in.  But the VET “sprats” – smaller reputable providers – are emerging as “collateral damage”, caught in the net intended to capture the sharks and subject to an ever increasing burden of regulation which, in context, is unnecessary.  By and large, the sprats aren’t the problem authorities are trying to net.

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Once was TAFE

8 December 2015

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There’s been a growing chorus of outrage over the looting of VET FEE-HELP by a handful of VET providers, coupled with disbelief that the government and regulatory agencies could have had such lax safeguards as to allow this to happen. It was all perfectly predictable. On 29 April 2012, The Scan published Once was TAFE, a commentary on the then Victorian government’s introduction of so-called “competitive neutrality” in the public funding of VET. It’s a piece that has stood the test of time. It does beggar belief that having been witness to the chaos that was occurring in the Victorian system courtesy of open access to funding and manifestly inadequate regulatory procedures, the Commonwealth could basically repeat the mistakes of Victoria in extending access to VET FEE-HELP – and then let it run unchecked for a couple of years. 

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The past couple of years have been like Christmas time for carpetbaggers in the Victorian VET sector. The “skills reform” initiated by the former Labor government opened up public funding of vocational educational and training provision to all comers.  And as to the field of dreams, the private RTOs have flocked.   At the end of September 2011, 721 providers were delivering government subsidised enrolments in Victoria, almost 80 more than at the same time in 2010 and 160 more than in 2008. The share of government subsidised enrolments by private providers increased from 14% in 2008 to 36% at the end of September 2011 and is now in excess of 50%.

These are sudden and dramatic shifts, which have resulted in the apparent destabilisation of a number of the public TAFE institutes.  In 2011, the combined surpluses of the 14 standalone TAFEs in Victoria, which fund really important things like infrastructure and facilities, halved, from$192m to $98m.  Analysis by sector specialist Gavin Moodie reveals that if you discount one-off capital items, the underlying operating results are pretty bleak, with only 4 of the 14 standalone TAFEs operating in the black.

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9 December 2015

Beggaring belief

Fairfax Media reports on the $1 million cost to taxpayers of completed Human Resource Management Diplomas at the so-called Australian Institute of Professional Education (AIPE) – Aussie dollars$111 million paid out in VET FEE-HELP in 2014 for just 117 completions.  Meanwhile The Oz reports that the Australian Competition an Consumer Commission is taking a third provider – Empower Institute – to court over allegations of “misleading or deceptive and unconscionable conduct” when marketing its courses to remote communities across the country (it will follow Unique International and Phoenix College to the Federal Court dock) – it enrolled 14,000 in 2014 for just 5 completions, which would work out at over $10 million for each completion !!!  

And while  VET FEE-HELP was being looted, what was ASQA, the sector regulator, doing?  Not a lot it seems: it got around to launching an investigation into AIPE in November 2015 – that’s right, last month. 

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Anatomy of a scandal

How did the Australian VET system get here?

8 December 2015

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Jim Davidson, a former senior official of both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments and now a Senior Honorary Fellow of the LH JimMartin Institute, dissects the  crisis now enveloping the VET sector. As as he asks: How  could this have happened?  Good question. He says future policy responses by government need to deal with the root causes of the current growth in VET FEE-HELP and not further exacerbate the issues caused by the current policy settings.  And he proposes that an immediate measure should be  a moratorium on VET FEE-HELP loans for online course delivery and establish an enquiry to formulate appropriate requirements and costings for online delivery of nationally accredited qualifications including a benchmark completion rate.  It’s a bit of a no-brainer: ALL the providers under investigation and/or being prosecuted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have one thing in common: online delivery.

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8 December 2015

ACPET dismayed, too

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Rod Camm2ACPET’s Rod Camm expresses dismay over the raft of changes in relation to VET FEE-HELP legislated last week  -and fair enough, too, because the blameless will be collateral damage in cracking down on the utterly blameworthy rorters.  But Camm also poses the question that has occurred to most VET sector participants and observers: how could this have been allowed to happen?  He answers the question thus: 

Without….checks and balances this could only mean Government has been approving this phenomenal growth, in a relatively small number of public and private providers, blind.

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Print

Of course the last week was, and the week coming, will be dominated by discussion about the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015.

As you would all be aware, the Government introduced the changes with no forewarning or consultation.

On hearing of the changes, I flew to Canberra to meet with Ministers, the Opposition and Senators in an attempt to rectify the problems, particularly the Freezing of VFH accounts at 2015 levels. Unfortunately, the Bill was passed that day, less than 24 hours after it was introduced.

Many members have expressed their concerns and it is important that you continue to do so. What disappointed me was that I, along with other representatives from the sector are appointed to a VFH Reform Working Group. To be on this group we were required to sign detailed confidentiality agreements. The Group only met a week ago where we discussed a range of reforms. Unfortunately there was not a word of the changes the government was about to introduce. Not sure I will attend this group again.

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The importance of universities to Australia’s prosperity

28 November 2015

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 Universities Australia commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to analyse the contribution that universities make to Australia’s economic and social prosperity. This work was undertaken to inform the development of Universities Australia’s Keep it Clever—Policy Statement 2016.  The report seeks to present a comprehensive and coherent framework of benefits generated by universities. This includes examination of the conceptual role of universities in Australian society and how they contribute to the success of the nation, as well as a more detailed analysis of the benefits directly attributable to universities. The scope of the analysis does not include a detailed examination of the economic activity generated by university operations, but rather examines the contribution made to the productive capacity of the economy through universities’ teaching and learning, research discovery and adoption, and community service activities.

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As institutions, universities embody social, economic and intellectual resources which combine to generate benefits on a local, national and global scale. They equip students with the knowledge and skills that allow them to make greater contributions to society; they generate and disseminate knowledge which enhances productivity and improves living standards; and they provide a myriad of broader community benefits.

This report canvasses and examines the various ways in which universities contribute to our economic and social prosperity and how, given the economic imperatives confronting Australia, the sector’s role is likely to evolve and grow over time.

 Universities’ operations make significant contributions to Australia’s economic output

Australia’s university sector directly employs over 120,000 staff and supports the delivery of education to over one million students. The operations of the university sector generate significant contributions to Australia’s economic output and national income.

    • The sector contributed around $25 billion to the Australian economy both directly and indirectly in 2013, accounting for over 1.5% of Australia’s GDP and 160,000 fulltime equivalent (FTE) jobs.
    • In 2014–15, education related exports accounted for 5.7% of Australia’s total exports, representing the largest service export and the third largest export category overall. Higher education is the single biggest contributor to this, representing around two-thirds of the total value.

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How teaching funds research in Australian universities

28 November 2015

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A report by the Grattan Institute report finds that universities earn up to $3.2 billion more from students than they spend on teaching, and have powerful incentives to spend the extra money on research. International students, who usually generate more revenue per student than domestic students, contribute a substantial proportion of this surplus. The report’s author, Andrew Norton, says the finding is concerning because, while university research matters to Australia, the evidence that it improves teaching is less clear. He observes that direct spending on teaching, by contrast, is far more likely to ensure that universities offer the high-quality courses students want. In this commentary in The Conversation, Norton observes that the priority of research within universities means that teaching does not always get its share of time and money. He proposes that any new funding system must ensure that money intended for teaching is spent on teaching.

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UnisNo-one knows exactly how universities spend their money. But questions are asked about how universities have financed huge growth in the amount of research produced over the past 15 years – and a new report by the Grattan Institute could have the answer.

It finds that, in 2012, universities spent at least $2 billion on research that was meant for teaching. This means that around one dollar in every five was spent on research rather than tuition.

Universities are not doing anything improper in spending money this way.

The current legislation pays universities on student numbers, but is silent on how exactly the money should be used.

But the absence of specific teaching funding makes it hard to ensure that any extra money intended to benefit students is actually spent on students.

So why are universities so focused on funding research? And is there a need to be more transparent about how universities spend their money?

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Life & stuff

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A  candle in memory of David

8 December 2015

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On 9 December 2006,17 year old David Iredale and three mates went for a hike in the Blue Mountains as part of their Duke Of Edinburgh Award program.  They planned it pretty carefully and they had detailed maps and stuff. But it all went terribly wrong: the maps indicated a fresh water source along the route, which wasn’t there. It was hot -mid-30s centrigrade- and they’d run out of water. Somehow, David became separated from his mates – my recollection is that as the strongest of the hiking party, he struck out ahead of the others to seek assistance. He became severely dehydrated and rang emergency services on his mobile phone. It was very poor reception but he tried to get across to the operators the dire circumstances of his plight. He made a number of calls, to no avail. Various operators kept asking for his street address. He kept telling them he was on a big rock near a walking trail in the Blue Mountains. But they kept demanding his street address. He asked for a helicopter to be sent.  He was told off for being abusive. In the event, nobody did anything. David’s body was recovered some days later. Each year at this time, I reflect on this terrible episode and remind myself to be not indifferent to the plight of others.  I tell my kids, if you get into any sort of real trouble, you ring me and/or your mother FIRST; we might argue later, but we’ll address the trouble first.

And I light a candle in memory of David.

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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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The VET Store

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The VET Store is a  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
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VET FEE-HELP “skewing” system

Direct public expenditure on VET dropping

The Australian   |     10 December 2015

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Explosive growth in the VET FEE-HELP scheme has masked massive direct public disinvestment in vocational education and training.  While Calculatora report by NCVER shows a notional growth of 1.7% in 2014 over 2013 (plus $141.0 million, from $8512.4 million to $8653.4 million), it’s all in VET-FEE Help payments: actual direct expenditure by governments, including the Commonwealth declined markedly VET FEE-HELP.  VET funding through state and territory governments fell almost $320m, while fee-for-service ­revenue — largely contributed by businesses — fell more than $130m.  Federal government funding through channels other than VET FEE-HELP fell almost $500m.

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NCVER Financial 2014

Financial information 2014 shows that VET FEE-HELP is supplanting traditional forms of VET financing, as state governments and businesses withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars from the sector. Government spending fell $416m last year, even though Canberra shovelled an extra $1.06 billion into VET FEE-HELP.

The figures predate an even bigger shift to the training loans this year. As observed by John Ross of The Australian, “they suggest that Australia’s world-recognised public VET system is being colonised by a rort-ridden scheme which graduates fewer than one-fifth of its students.”

Victorian Skills Minister Steve Herbert said the scheme was “skewing the entire training system”, inducing students and colleges to abandon state-funded VET:

People who should have done lower-level qualifications closely linked with jobs (are) being sucked into high-cost diplomas that they never complete.

NCVER managing director, Craig Fowler, said the figures suggested there may have been a “significant rebalancing” in the sector. He said other centre research indicated that the loan scheme had increasingly attracted unprepared students studying online — all indicators that they were “more likely to fail”:

Many appear to have come from backgrounds and educational circumstances which meant they were poor recruits into a program at that level.

The federal government has moved to revamp the scheme following  reports of widespread rorts and poor completion rates, Fowler said the figures suggested that many more ill-prepared students had already taken out loans this year and “he outcomes may well continue to be less than good.

 

State spending on staff plunged by $397m, reflecting widespread job losses in TAFEs.

 


 

Key Points

 

NCVER Key points


 

See
Financial information 2014