Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 16 2017

Well yes our fabled Christmas break has come and gone – too quickly I am afraid.

2016 is behind us and a good thing too.

We now must focus on the future – regardless of our fears and any turbulence that undoubtedly will lay ahead – it is time to recreate what was once considered a critical industry. I recognise that many Colleges are still facing difficult issues. We will support you but must still create a new way forward.

Tertiary Education should be about giving Australians the opportunity to get skills and qualifications that respond to their career aspirations and the needs of business and industry and the economy - though 2016 seemed to be all about the trials and tribulations of a very poorly designed and implemented VET FEE-HELP program. The discourse should be about valuing tertiary education and the benefits that it brings.

Yes, there are many concerns about public policy and administration – but let us just reflect on the business that we are in.

Education is the third largest export industry in Australia, behind the resource industries. Much of Australia’s future in terms of innovation, productivity and international relations (yes the importance of Alumni) can be built around tertiary education.

Of course, in economic terms, the graduates of the Tertiary sector earn significantly higher salaries, are more employable and consequently pay more tax over their lifetime. This means there is both a public and private benefit to our industry. There is also a positive relationship between education and health – another key outcome. 

Ok so an important industry.

It is imperative the sector is valued rather than simply seen as a government budget balancing item that is spoken to and not heard.

Yet, the paradox is that in the era of fiscal austerity and vertical fiscal imbalance, Australian governments have been cutting back their investments, either by imposing more student loans onto students, or (and) by cuts to the State/Territory government spend in vocational education and training.

With the pending expiry of the National Skills Partnership in June, this trend may get a lot worse, and in higher education we have a funding model that disadvantages students who choose a private college.

So regardless of what part of tertiary education you represent, or whether you are in the public or private sector you are not doing it easy to maintain your commitment to students and of course your business.  

It is a little difficult to comprehend the declining commitment to tertiary education, when anything and everything you read about Australia’s future says we are dependent on a workforce that is more highly skilled and productive than now.

Australia already ranks quite poorly in terms of its public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP – and yet it is getting worse.

So, my message is that we cannot sit idle while the system spirals around us. Industry in all of its forms must drive for meaningful change – or students and industry will be affected – not to mention the loss to the Australian economy and community.

As educators, we must be at the table and be listened to in the debates ahead.

In that regard ACPET must also consider our priorities.

2017 will see considerable shifts in how we reach out and drive for a strong private sector.

Such turbulence must be met with changes to our engagement, our business models and of course our services.

Our Board is already considering these issues and this year will see a more active strategy for the Board to be proactive and reach out to the industry, to ensure that we are connected, are influencing the real decisions and are genuinely leading our industry.

The future must see the Australian Council for Private Education and Training as a representative of only professional education bodies, who are leaders in their field, independently quality endorsed, with a deep commitment to ethical education and respect for students and industry. Our association will put more focus on industry engagement, the leadership of our sector and provide more ways that the voice of our sector can be heard.

We put the platform in place for this position amongst all the noise in 2016. 2017 will now be about delivery.

ACPET will also shift its policy focus to drive harder the thinking and publication of innovative private sector Tertiary Education policy. There will be many elements to this.

The voice of the sector of course remains a high priority. 2017 will see ACPET engaging with members, stakeholders and the broader sector to create a genuine coalition to drive recognition of the value of private tertiary education.

The future will be bright – be part of it.

I know I want to.

Rod Camm


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