Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

The week that was

Monday, March 26 2018

Last week it was a tremendous pleasure to be involved in the inaugural ACPET/COPHE symposium on all things in independent higher education.

The 100 participants played an active and engaging role in discussing and debating all of the key topics impacting on our sector. This included consideration of the real definition of oxymoron (higher education reform), admissions transparency, regulation, provider integrity, the ‘VETification of higher education and priorities for the future.

It was truly an absorbing day and having COPHE and its members there added significantly to the quality of the discussion.

I now must reflect on where to from here? I don’t intend giving you a detailed run down of all of the topics, but let’s touch on the highlights.

Certainly, Lisa Bolton’s presentation of the QILT data confirms just how well independent higher education providers are doing. Growing student numbers, despite the funding inequities stacked against them, best practice satisfaction rates and very high levels of achievement across most of the indicators. One does wonder how this nimble and innovative part of the sector was completely ignored in the federal government’s reform proposals last year.

Anthony McClaran also presented a very honest and informative discussion regarding TEQSA’s Risk Assessment Framework. I for one have been quite concerned that the framework is stacked against independent providers by design, where to put it simply profit appears to equal risk. Anthony did his best to emphasise that there are no demonic algorithms behind the framework and it was pleasing to hear his acknowledgment of the detailed feedback ACPET’s Higher Education members had provided to TEQSA and that the issues were under consideration.

While the sector is experiencing growing enrolments, it appears that TEQSA’s sliding timelines are the result of poor resourcing.

The lengthy delays in making regulatory decisions is perhaps the major issue independent providers have with TEQSA and Anthony acknowledged these concerns While they have recently been allocated some additional resources through the federal budget, it may be that some thinking needs to given to freeing-up the accreditation arrangements for high-quality providers 

The day didn’t skirt the hard issues and the session on the Higher Education VET interface looked at this complex issue from a number of different dimensions. Yes, the proposed higher education changes at the sub Bachelor levels would have proven catastrophic for independent and public VET providers alike, however regardless there remains perverse incentives for students to choose a higher education pathway over VET.

Of course, no day would be complete without a provocative, informed and very engaging presentation from Andrew Norton. Andrew hit the hard issues head on and the audience was left in no doubt about the prospects of real change ahead. Andrew’s proposition that independent providers have real market appeal was backed up by the data showing growth at 10% a year, despite the failures of public policy that disadvantage students (yes the 25% fee). He also gave some insights of his current work on attrition and I look forward to that report being published.

There were many other high points that you will no doubt hear about from the participants. However, I for one was inspired by the energy, positivity and enthusiasm to make a difference across the entire room.

Of course, language is everything so I will finish with one key nomenclature point.

It is simply disrespectful to categorise our Independent Higher Education providers as ‘Non-university providers.

The construct of the NUHEP tag needs to change and change quickly.



Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer


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