Where VET went wrong

Rob Long
Adam Curlis

TAFE Organisers

An unrelenting environment of red tape and funding cuts

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) website currently lists 14 for-profit providers who have recently ceased trading, leaving thousands more vocational education students in debt for qualifications they have not been able to complete.

Meanwhile NSW TAFE Teachers continue to work in an unrelenting environment of funding cuts, compliance and red tape. Teachers and support staff report that more and more of their time is taken up completing compliance documentation and preparing for urgent audits. The focus of their work is increasingly being diverted from the real tasks of teaching and learning.

TAFE students face increased fees, high debt and pressure on their education with less time to learn. The support services that TAFE traditionally offers students have been eroded as government funding has been diverted to the scandal-ridden for-profit sector.

So, how did we end up in this mess? The Australian National Audit Office report in December 2016, “Administration of the VET Fee-Help Scheme”, is a damning indictment of the disaster caused by the implementation of the federal scheme and contestable vocational education market in 2012.

The Auditor’s Office report highlights the key elements of the problems caused by the implementation of this education market.

  • The VET Fee-Help Scheme in 2012 was weighted heavily towards supporting growth in the VET sector but an appropriate quality and accountability framework addressing identified risks was not put in place.
  • Focus on increasing participation overrode integrity and accountability considerations that would have been expected given the inherent risks.
  • VET providers were not effectively monitored and regulated by the federal Department of Education.
  • There was not an effective compliance framework for the scheme, noting the serious limitations in its compliance powers under the legislation governing the scheme.
  • Payments to approved providers were calculated on data submitted by the providers and not effectively controlled.
  • The Department of Education did not provide evidence that the scheme achieved objectives relating to quality, value and sustainability of the VET sector.

The report clearly states that market failure has “led to costs blowing out even though participation forecasts were not achieved and insufficient protection was provided to vulnerable students from some unscrupulous private training organisations”.

Both state and federal governments have burdened NSW TAFE with unrealistic compliance requirements due to the lack of monitoring and control of dodgy private providers.

Federation members will continue to campaign for guaranteed funding for TAFE. Guaranteed funding will remove TAFE funding from the market failure of VFH and Smart and Skilled as well as remove the untenable compliance and red tape requirements.

Read the report in full here.

VET Ombudsman

The Turnbull government will introduce a new VET Ombudsman from July 1. The Government states this will be a "strong protection" for students set up because of failed VET FEE HELP scheme.

Federation is sceptical of another "strong protection" announcement and questions why there were no other protections in place for students.