ACPET

Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

The gift that keeps giving

Monday, March 5 2018

Each week when I sit down and consider the message for the week, I start with what can I even talk about this edition?

And yet Tertiary education just keeps fronting up stories.

This week is about Higher Education, SA TAFE and just a hint of philosophy.

First some positive news, ACPET and our good friends at COPHE are planning a Higher Education Forum on 21 March 2018.

The day is all about discussion of the key topics impacting on independent higher education. You can see the full program here. Please get involved and participate in discussions around Higher Education Reform (an oxymoron surely), transparency, QILT and performance to name a few.

Both ACPET and COPHE are committed to both improving the recognition and standards of this much needed component of the sector. 

So, TAFE SA.

You well know my position on TAFE so this is not about kicking anyone while they are down!

However, the Commonwealth Senate Inquiry into SA TAFE released their report this week. The Inquiry was yet another opportunity for our political leaders to step up to the plate and chart a way forward.

Rather than my clumsy explanations, I’ll turn to the teacher of Alexander the Great himself:

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”

For TAFE SA, and perhaps all of us, that point is now.

Another:

“Excellence … is not an act, but a habit. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

So, before you begin worrying I am on the brink, my point is the Inquiry was an opportunity. Churchill himself proclaimed “Never let a good crisis go to waste”

I am firmly of the view this report did just that – wasted an opportunity. Yes, running a TAFE must have significant challenges. They do receive significant amounts of Government funding and grants to ensure they can compete, but there seems to be a real apprehension to tackle the hard issues of reform.

Blaming the market and blaming the competition as this report does might be fine but it does not drill down to the key challenges. There have been problems with poor providers and very poorly managed markets but it does not provide the narrative of much needed reform.

A quick background check: the Senate Inquiry was investigating the failures in TAFE SA that resulted in suspension of 10 qualifications, as well as quality issues with the provision of training.

The Committee took solace in ASQA's observation that TAFE SA's rate of non-compliance was comparative to, or lower than, rates of non-compliance found in other TAFEs and private providers.

How can that be? I am all about lies, damn lies and statistics but that is simply rubbish. 10 Qualifications suspended is not normal practice.

The business community participated in the review. Business SA , whose members need to employ the graduates, commented that the review needed to look at the board composition, the leadership and the executive appointments and the entire governance structure.

None of this featured in the recommendation.

Professor John Quiggin did not hold back: his view was that the Australian vocational education in general was in a 'state of crisis' and the problems that have recently emerged in the SA TAFE system are merely symptoms of a decade of policy failure by state and Commonwealth governments, involving cuts to funding and ideologically driven projects of marketization.

In terms of ASQA, he asserted the whole system is not fit for purpose as it looks at things compliance and non-compliance rather than aggregate outcomes.

The recommendation (there was only one) was to hold a National Review into the sector. Yes, it mirrored the ALP’s announcement earlier in the week.
A review I support, noting that it is also very ideologically framed.

Have a great week.

Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer


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