In response to federal Labor’s decision to cap VET Fee-Help debts at $8000 a year, the Australian Education Union (AEU) says federal Labor can do more — by guaranteeing that at least 70 per cent of vocational education and training (VET) funding is reserved for TAFEs.
“Labor’s announcement will go some way towards controlling the growth of low-quality private operators by cutting the profits they can make at taxpayer expense,” AEU Federal President Pat Forward said.
“But with VET Fee-Help debts hitting $4 billion for 2016 alone, this action doesn’t go far enough.
“The VET Fee-Help scheme must be suspended while a full independent inquiry is held.”
“All political parties need to recognise the damage that privatisation policies have done to TAFEs, which have been forced to compete with low-quality private operators who have often used unscrupulous and misleading methods to recruit students,” Ms Forward said.
“TAFEs have been damaged by being required to compete for funding with these operators while trying to maintain quality.
“Private providers are poorly-regulated and not required to offer minimum hours for their courses.
“Nationally, more than $2.4 billion (around 46 per cent) of government funding is now allocated contestably, not including VET Fee-Help — more than $1.5 billion of this funding goes directly to private for-profit providers; an increase of 222 per cent since 2005.
“We need to ensure that at least 70 per cent of government funding is reserved for TAFEs so that they can continue their role at the heart of the vocational education system.”
“Without guaranteed support we run the risk of losing the quality, capacity and experience of TAFE,” Ms Forward said.
If that happens, she warned, “ the standards of vocational training in Australia will fall”.
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