Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

It really is a long election campaign....

Monday, May 30 2016

While the length of the election campaign is testing those of us with short attention spans, it really is imperative that we ensure that the future Tertiary Education System is built upon the foundations of student choice, equity and quality.

Australia’s Higher Education System remains a jewel that produces astonishing results.

Private education and training fulfils a vital role in Australia’s national and regional economies, is valued by industry and is the pathway of choice for more than two million Australians who want to improve their skills and career opportunities.

We should of course be proud.

Our vocational education and training system is recognised around the globe for being high quality, responsive to industry’s needs for current and future skills, and delivering exceptional skills and employment outcomes for the vast majority of students. 

Over the past two decades, the sector has matured into a very large, highly respected and equitable system, which is based on the ability of students and employers to choose their preferred providers, and on achieving nationally accredited and portable qualifications, that deliver massive outcomes for the economy and the lives of everyday Australians. 

Recent behaviour by a small number of training colleges that exploited the Help loan scheme has now been stopped. ACPET has supported the reforms that have corrected these program design and regulatory failures. The Government has now embarked on a comprehensive review with the aim of setting the future direction for the program.

It is imperative that we all support an education and training system that delivers the skills and knowledge required in the future labour market.

For this to be achieved, employers, students and private and public colleges need a clearly articulated vision of where Government sees the future of Tertiary education - yes both in higher education and vocational education and training.  Our system needs long term stability and consistency in policy settings and funding certainty.

For Higher Ed, this means the introduction of Commonwealth Supported Places to our Private Colleges. It is now proven that students rate the quality of their educational experiences at private colleges as first class. If this is so why do they need to incur higher debts? At a minimum, the indefensible administration fee of 25% must be removed immediately. There is no justification to saddling students with extra debt just because they choose a smaller, better supported learning environment.

In VET, ACPET is concerned that a reversion to policies that unfairly favour the public provider, for no evidenced based reason, will remove the ability for students to select their college of choice.  If, as has been suggested, Labor directs 70 per cent of Commonwealth funds to Government-run training organisations, students and employers will have less choice and opportunity and any incentive for performance and innovation will disappear.

As evidenced in South Australia, protectionism means that the jobs of teachers at local private colleges will be lost and training numbers will collapse.

While TAFEs are an important element of Australia’s VET sector, their future must be based on the ability to reform and respond to the needs of students and industry. Building walls of protection will not produce a training system that supports jobs and innovation.

ACPET fully supports a system that restricts access to public funding to only the very best of providers and will work with Government to achieve this outcome.

We must all demand a future education and training system that is well funded, continues to give the right for students and employers to choose their preferred college, and is focused on delivering the highest quality outcomes that provide the skills and knowledge for the jobs of today and into the future. 

Private colleges delivering to Australian students contribute $5.8 billion per year to our national economy while supporting almost 100,000 students in higher education and 2.1 million out of the total of 3.9 million Australian students in vocational education and training each year.  International education contributes a further $20 billion to our economy.  Importantly, private colleges employ almost 100,000 people right across the length and breadth of this country.
The sector is highly innovative and responsive to the needs of industry and is the preferred choice for more than 50 per cent of all students.   The outcomes speak for themselves with 78.2 per cent of graduates being employed after achieving their VET qualifications, and an overall student satisfaction level in excess of 80 per cent.

Students in private higher education providers report extremely high satisfaction levels with the overall education experience (78 per cent) and quality of teaching (81 per cent).

While remaining proudly non-partisan, during this election ACPET will be engaging with the extensive student body of our private colleges, their teachers and network of employers, to encourage them to support the future of choice in education and training. 

We of course need everyone’s support to build equitable, well-funded and high quality market for the future of education and training in Australia with students and employers firmly at the centre of this market.

Rod Camm


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