Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Red Tape Reduction Effort Requires Strong Advocacy

Monday, December 10 2018

ACPET National Monday Update – 10 Dec 2018
Troy Williams, ACPET Chief Executive Officer

Just over a week ago, the Senate Select Committee on Red Tape released its interim report reviewing the effect of red tape on private education. The conclusions of the report are welcomed by the independent tertiary education sector as the Senate Committee outlined its concerns that, despite opportunities presented over the past five years, stakeholders cannot discern any significant regulation or red tape reductions.

ACPET’s advice to the Senators undertaking the inquiry was that our members are currently facing the most challenging regulatory environment in the last quarter century. The raft of recent federal and state/territory government regulatory measures and funding cuts are significantly adding to the burden on quality independent providers.

The current level of regulatory burden presents a real challenge for the independent sector which does much of the heavy lifting when it comes to providing Australia with the skills it needs to tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century.  In the VET sector, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) reported 3,111 independent (private) providers delivered training to 2.47 million students in 2016 - 58.7% of the total of 4.21 million enrolments.  By comparison, TAFEs enrolled some 0.74 million students. Levels of satisfaction remain high, with the latest NCVER survey data reporting that independent VET providers enjoy very strong levels of student satisfaction with 86.3% of graduates satisfied with the overall quality of their training.

The challenge is that in order to continue to provide the quality outcomes required by students and business, the excessive and redundant regulation that exists in the sector needs to be lifted.  Here, the work of Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) merits consideration.

The work of ASQA needs to be assessed within the context of the Australian Government’s commitment to reducing the cost of unnecessary or inefficient regulation imposed on individuals, business and community organisations by at least $1 billion a year.  The Australian Government readily accepts that in order to achieve the Government’s goal of reducing the burden of regulation, it is essential to improve the performance of regulators. This includes supporting regulators to adopt consistent, risk-based approaches to administering regulation. ACPET has long welcomed the Australian Government’s commitments in this area.

The 2018-20 ASQA Regulatory Strategy states that it works to identify and treat systemic risks—those that are likely to affect a significant proportion of providers across the VET sector or specific industry sectors and represent a significant risk to the quality and outcomes of VET if left untreated.  To this end, it’s target areas of focus include those systemic concerns that presented the most significant risk to the quality of VET outcomes and that its resources are directed to this area. ACPET continues to engage cooperatively with ASQA to ensure that providers and the regulator have a shared understanding of each other’s needs in the environment in which they operate.

The challenge ACPET members have is the apparent disconnect between the Australian Government’s red tape reduction agenda, the 2018-20 ASQA Regulatory Strategy and the real-world experience of our members.  This has been acknowledged in the Senate Red Tape Committee’s findings into the effect of red tape on private education.  The Senate Committee noted that “regulators must do more to strengthen engagement with these providers and to incorporate their knowledge, experience and expertise into the regulatory environment”. ACPET not only endorses this conclusion but is actively working to progress it.

ACPET’s members provide us with daily examples of how red tape in the sector is hampering innovation and their ability to provide students and business with the quality outcomes they need.  My own work in setting up one Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and managing a large mid-tier provides me with the real-world experiences of the frustrations that government red tape brings.  As we work not only with ASQA, but also with other stakeholders across government, our commitment is to provide the independent sector with a strong voice to ensure that their experience in managing unnecessary red tape is understood by regulators.

Over the course of the past month, ACPET has met with Sen. Hon. Michaelia Cash, Minister for Small and Family Business, Skills and Vocational Education. The message has been clear and provided the Minister with a clear understanding the value that Registered Training Organisations (RTO) provide business and broader economy.

The sector needs a strong advocate and ACPET’s renewed focus on commitment is to work with our members to provide this.  ACPET’s objective is to achieve a regulatory framework for the independent providers that is based on a risk management approach designed to ensure quality outcomes for students, while at the same time freeing business industry from an unnecessary regulatory burden.

Troy Williams FIML MAICD
ACPET Chief Executive
Twitter: @TroyWilliamsAus


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