New federal legislation won’t protect vocational education and training students and won’t give TAFE colleges the guaranteed funding they need, Australian Education Union Federal TAFE Secretary Pat Forward said.
While scrapping the disastrous VET Fee-Help scheme was a good move, the new loans scheme did little to fix its key flaws.
The VET Fee-Help scheme went hand in hand with cuts to government funding for TAFEs and the end of the flawed scheme must see an increase in investment in TAFEs to ensure all Australians have access to quality vocational training. The new system would not protect students from dodgy private operators, who had used VET Fee-Help to make huge profits from substandard courses, Ms Forward said.
“The bill has been further weakened by senators accepting a compromise that would allow the federal Education Minister to approve private providers who would otherwise have failed to qualify for the new loans system.
“This adds yet another loophole to a system which does not require private providers to meet minimum standards of course delivery to qualify for government subsidies.
“There is still no requirement for private providers to deliver a minimum number of hours to qualify for the scheme."
Ms Forward said Mr Birmingham’s decision to allow TAFEs automatic access to the new system was recognition that public VET provided high-quality courses for students while the private sector had failed to do so.
“We need to take that a step further and ensure that at least 70 per cent of all government funding is reserved for TAFEs rather than have them continue to compete with low-quality private providers," she said.
Ms Forward said TAFE's share of government funding had fallen by 24 per cent in the past eight years.