Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

The Main Game

Monday, March 12 2018

Firstly, I am pleased to share with you that registrations and call for abstracts are now open for this year’s annual ACPET Conference and APIEF in Canberra from 29-31 August. Continue to visit the conference website for regular updates.

Now, is it just me or is there rarely a week that goes by when there isn’t some review or inquiry announced, with consultations planned, submissions sought and reports duly produced.

I was reflecting on the number of submissions and consultations ACPET has been involved in recently as I considered two more submissions to the federal government – on unduly short course issues and training product reform in the VET sector.

Both important topics no doubt but it is hard to find time to accommodate and think about all of them.

There are, of course, significant issues impacting on the products that are delivered to students and industry identified in these consultation papers. But I do question if any reforms arising from the reports ultimately produced will achieve their desired outcomes without complementary reforms to the basic governance, regulation and funding of the sector. I still also wonder about what precisely Government expects the final outcome to look like.

In our submission on issues relating to unduly short courses, for example, it is made clear the problem cannot be solved by mandating minimum durations for training. In fact, unduly short duration training is symptomatic of more fundamental problems of governance, regulation and funding.

To paraphrase our submission, if a poor provider is able to get and maintain registration and they have no ‘competitive advantage’ based on quality training, student experience and outcomes, then they will look to cut corners - through shorter courses or, slashing prices. Mandating minimum durations might respond to issues with a particular qualification, but it’s important we have regulatory regime that helps prevent these issues arising in the first place. Otherwise we repeat the past where the whole sector pays the price for the behaviour of a few.

That’s why the current review of the National VET Regulator Act is so important. We need a regulatory framework that prevents poor providers entering the market (or exits them quickly) and recognizes and encourages quality providers. Yes, that element is important – regulation must be about building quality not just compliance.

We need to get the fundamentals right.

Of course, the other core issue that needs to be addressed to support stronger quality outcomes is the governance and funding ‘shemozzle’ that bedevils the tertiary sector. As regular NMU readers will know, ACPET has long advocated for an overhaul of the governance and funding mishmash posed by the different Commonwealth and state and territory arrangements. The recent announcement by Labor of an inquiry into post-secondary sector, if elected to government, responds to this need to sort out the fundamental governance and funding architecture.

But that depends on an election outcome and it would most likely take several years to implement reforms - and frankly the need for action is now and needs to be significant.

Peter Noonan at the Mitchell Institute voiced the need for urgent action only last week when he highlighted the need for major reform to stop the slide in funding and training occurring right now as a result of state and territory cut-backs. To quote Peter, “Incremental change is a waste of time, particularly in VET”.

ACPET will continue to advocate its members views on the many and varied consultations, but let’s not forget the main game.

Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer


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