Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Stating the Obvious

Monday, May 21 2018

You would forgive me for saying that the last few weeks have not been the best for independent providers of tertiary education and training. At the federal level, the Government ‘let the ball go’ and failed to respond to the decay of the VET sector with only a dogged commitment to its Skilling Australians Fund that has not delivered training to single student a year after it was launched.

Indeed, it seems the Government is committed to making it just that harder for VET and higher education providers to support students with the move to full cost recovery for the regulators, TEQSA and ASQA and new administration fees for providers wishing to deliver training to students through the Higher Education Loans Program (HELP). This at a time when publicly-funded VET enrolments are the lowest in more than a decade.

I continue to wonder how this will help?

At the risk of repeating myself, Independent higher education providers receive no funding from government to support their students who already pay a 25% FEE-HELP administration fee. So, in addition to their students already being slugged with a massive penalty for not choosing a public university, these providers are also going to be hit with new charges to help administer FEE-HELP. Seems to me there needs to be review of the administration costs of HELP before more fees are imposed. I’d be particularly interested in some justification of a 25% administration charge for FEE-HELP but not for HECS-HELP.

My key point though is that contemporary policy development was once built on the premise of an evidence base. Specifically, what are the facts and what problem are you fixing?

This makes the current approach to Tertiary Education even harder to fathom, particularly when considering the release last week of the 2017 Student Experience Survey (SES) national report that forms part of the Government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) initiative.

As in previous years, the SES highlighted that higher education institutions, public and independent, enjoy strong levels of student satisfaction with 79% satisfied with the overall experience - independents (79%) and universities (78%). For postgraduate students, 79% of independent provider students indicated overall satisfaction with their study experience, compared to 75% for their university counterparts. These are inspiring results.
Several of the independent providers, singled out for attention in the report, had overall student satisfaction levels well above 90%.

Clearly these providers are responding to the needs of their students and providing real choices for them. Yet as I’ve highlighted many times the students cop a 25% FEE-HELP fee on their full-cost tuition fees. Let’s not forget public university student fees are heavily subsidised through Commonwealth supported places.

This latest QILT data simply reinforces the case for the abolition of this penalty for studying with a provider that respond to their needs. It staggers me that there is no drive from anywhere in the political spectrum to fix the inequity.

Last week my colleague Craig Robertson at TAFE Directors Australia called these loan fees a “regressive tax on the poorest of students”. I couldn’t agree more.

In other news, many of you would now be aware of the industry certification program we are offering to members; the program has been designed to enable certified members to demonstrate their commitment to students. With Members now participating in the process, I am looking forward to the outcomes. From day one we have always said that industry also has a responsibility to protect the interests of students.

I also look forward to our VET forum in Melbourne on Wednesday. We have a strong program with guest speakers from ASQA and the Higher Education and Skills Group. If you can make it please get involved.

Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer


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