Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

One never sleeps in Tertiary education

Monday, May 9 2016

On Monday I published in News bulletin Edition 652 under the title “One never sleeps in Tertiary education” information concerning ACPET’s decision to terminate the membership of Unique International College.

In that publication I stated that Unique had chosen not to avail itself of an appeal to the membership.

In fact, I am advised that Unique International College has chosen to delay its appeal to the membership at an extraordinary general meeting pending the outcome of proceedings commenced in the Supreme Court of NSW seeking, amongst other relief:

1.         to declare that the decision to terminate its membership was void; and
2.         that pending the outcome of those proceedings ACPET should be prevented from terminating Unique’s membership of ASTAS, which is due to expire on 12 May.”

As weeks go by I keep thinking next week will be quieter. Dare I say I must be thinking of somewhere else.

Lots of news this week.

The Minister for Tourism and International Education Richard Colbeck has announced the membership of the new Council for International Education.

This Council will work with Government and the sector more broadly to implement the National Strategy for International Education 2025.
International education remains critical to both our industry and the economy.

The Council members are:

  • Brett Blacker, CEO, English Australia 

  • Tim Beresford, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Macquarie University 

  • Rod Camm, Chief Executive Officer, ACPET
  • Claire Field, Principal, Claire Field and Associates 

  • Phil Honeywood, Chief Executive Officer, International Education Association of Australia
  • Jenny Lambert, Director, Employment, Education and Training ACCI 

  • President of CISA (rotating membership, currently Nina Khairina) 

  • Simon Maddocks, Vice-Chancellor, Charles Darwin University 

  • Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive, Universities Australia 

  • Helen Zimmerman, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Navitas. 

Of course with an Election looming the winds of politics have picked up pace.

The Australian Labor Party last week released its policy on VET FEE HELP reform.

Unfortunately, students and good quality training providers will be the victims of the unfair training loan caps announced. Labor announced it would impose a price, with no reference to market forces, of $8000 a year on the sector.

Across Australia every day when given a choice students are overwhelmingly choosing to study at private training colleges in their pursuit for innovation, flexibility and best practice. Our strong, vibrant Internationally recognised sector already worth $20 Billion to the Australian economy, is evidence of how a quality VET market works, where 88% of students choose private providers.

In a sign of impact, the Labor Member for Chifley commented on the 7.30 report that students will have to pay more as a result of the cap – that means up-front fees. This of course means many students will only be able to choose courses they can afford, rather than ones than will maximise their opportunities.

The policy will put an end to student and industry choice. It seems to be a policy that will wind-back two decades of reform that has brought greater choice and flexibility for students and industry.

The amount of $8,000 appears to be a totally random number and without evidence to support its selection. The release unfairly compares the cost of heavily subsidised TAFE training, where all infrastructure costs are paid by State and Territory Governments with those of private training providers.

As an industry, we fully support any strategy to guarantee that only the very best of providers have access to such an important program. We also support measures to remove any provider that exploits the student in any way, the creation of an industry Ombudsman to focus the attention and the fair support of TAFE. We are genuine about protecting students but also want them to have access to the best programs, rather than mandating mediocrity.

An attack on the private training system, which employs over 100,000 people and delivers the majority of training across the country, will see quality providers removing themselves from the program and others simply cutting quality to the $8,000 price.

No innovation, no reform, no choice.

It is designing a future system based on the behaviour of a small number of poor providers, instead of establishing barriers to ensure only the very best can participate and deliver high quality outcomes.

In higher education the Commonwealth budget of course provided no policy clarity.

The $10.1 million provided to TEQSA over four years and $8.1 million over four years to support the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) website to improve information to students are good outcomes.

However, more broadly the Government has made the decision to delay the reforms announced in the 2014/15 budget (that were mostly not passed by the Senate) and engage in further consultations with the sector. Any reforms will not be introduced until January 2018 and it is worth noting that full fee deregulation will not form part of the reforms.

A discussion paper has been released to support these consultations. This paper canvasses a number of options to achieve more sustainable funding arrangements. The recent concerns with the growth in HELP are strongly reflected in the paper. It is worth noting that the paper does identify the anomaly in loan fees paid by FEE-HELP funded students which is an issue ACPET has been advocating needs to be addressed.

The consultations will provide an opportunity for ACPET and our members to advocate for a non-discriminatory higher education funding regime that addresses issues like student loan fees and greater access to Commonwealth Supported Places. 

Rod Camm


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