Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Welcome back

Tuesday, January 28 2014

Welcome to 2014 and the first National Monday Update for the year, out this week on a Tuesday!

As summer fun and relaxation fade slightly in our memories, it’s time to look ahead to what will no doubt be another busy year.

Higher education

This year will see the release of the review into demand driven funding and the ongoing implementation of the recommendations of the TEQSA review. Equitable funding arrangements for students choosing a private higher education provider, improved regulation, academic governance, HEP benchmarking and graduate employability remain key issues for the sector.

With so many issues looming for private higher education providers, ACPET is delighted that Education Minister, the Hon Christopher Pyne, has agreed to deliver the keynote address to our upcoming higher education symposium. Now in its third year, ACPET’s annual higher education symposium is one of the key fixtures on the higher education calendar. We are anticipating a strong demand for places so register your interest now.

And if you’re interested in some of the latest statistics on private higher education, this video of a presentation I gave late last year to the Higher Education Compliance and Quality Network conference, may be of interest to you. The report ACPET commissioned ACER to undertake is also available on our website.


For many of us in 2013 the VET sector felt overlooked and left behind in terms of policy coherence and action to support an increased skills effort across Australia. At this stage of 2014 the future looks positive, although there is a lot to do.

The review of ASQA is at the forefront of many minds and it’s been disappointing to see that so far, communication with the sector about the review has been largely non-existent. In this relative vacuum there seems to be a view emerging that ASQA has set the framework for its review and it’s deliberately trying to keep the review off the public radar. To be clear, the review is a Ministerial initiative (agreed by the Commonwealth, States and Territories back in June 2013). It’s these same decision makers and their officials who decided that ASQA would operate on a full-cost recovery basis - not the regulator itself.

While there are clear areas for improvement in ASQA’s systems and processes, the funding it receives and the fees it charges are crucial to its ability to operate effectively as a regulator. The need for ongoing government financial support for VET regulation, as well as specific areas for ASQA improvement, are points ACPET has made strongly on behalf of its members to the consultants undertaking the review and the Commonwealth and State officials involved in the review. We’ve made practical suggestions to the reviewers about where and how regulation should be wound back for proven, low risk providers. We’ve also identified the system and process changes we think are needed for ASQA to improve its operations (noting that those we’ve suggested in the past have been acted on by ASQA, and that some of the improvements will require major changes to the IT system ASQA was given when it started operations). I note some consultants (and others in the sector) feel left out of the review with its focus on peak bodies and providers. While ACPET has been well listened to we believe the review would be stronger for having a broader focus. (Never one to take 'no' for an answer, if I were a consultant I'd craft a submission on behalf of the RTOs I worked with and submit it under their joint signature).

The reports of the strategic reviews undertaken by ASQA in 2013 put forward eminently sensible suggestions to lift quality in the sector. Relative to the unworkable changes the NSSC wants made to the VET provider standards, Ministers should instead pick up the ASQA recommendations and implement them in their totality. I note that nowhere in the ASQA strategic review findings are there calls for bureaucratic 'solutions' like LTOs or individual lesson plans for each student enrolling in VET! That tells you these NSSC proposed changes are unnecessary and instead an evidence-based approach to change is what's required.

I’ve also been pleased recently by ASQA’s leadership on identifying the staggering number of changes to Training Packages made by ISCs in the past three years. At the request of ACPET and other peak provider bodies, ASQA analysed the number of changes made to each Training Package each year for the last three years. See for yourself - the results are staggering. ACPET understands that following ASQA’s intervention the NSSC is now focussed on tackling an issue that has clearly got completely out of hand.

And what else for VET? The decision by Minister Macfarlane to meet with key representatives from the sector this week and for leading ACPET members and other RTOs to also be invited to national workshops to discuss a range of strategic VET issues is welcomed.

Funding for VET and the inequities and inconsistencies in the approaches of each State and Territory to the implementation of a national training entitlement (through skills reforms) clearly needs rethinking, as does the governance of the VET system. ACPET looks forward to the draft report of the Commission of Audit to be released in February which I anticipate will have a lot to say on these critical issues.

There will be more strategic reviews in 2014 of training for the security, childcare and equine industries. Given the extremely high levels of non-compliance found in the 2013 strategic reviews, if you are a provider delivering in these industries and you have not yet had an ASQA re-registration audit, contact your ACPET state office urgently to schedule a healthcheck of your operations. An ACPET healthcheck will ensure you're meeting the NVR Standards; a much better approach than finding yourself shelling out for costly, last minute rectification advice, expensive legal assistance, and ASQA fees for follow-up audits.

There’s more on ASQA specific issues you need to be aware of in today’s Domestic Policy Matters section.

International education

There’s plenty of work that ACPET’s doing on behalf of its members – most of which is occurring behind the scenes at the moment and as such won’t get an airing in National Monday Update. If you want to know more and be part of our activities then either register for the upcoming In Conversation with the CEO sessions and/or make sure you register your interest for upcoming International Education Forums in Melbourne and Brisbane. This year we intend that our forums will all have a ‘member-only’ session where we can speak more openly and frankly with members on what's really going on in the sector.

Integrated solutions

Aside from the policy decisions which affect your business, ACPET has also spent time reflecting on how we can provide better support to our members’ business operations. While we’re confident from the feedback you give us, that the suite of products and services we’ve developed is serving a need, we’ve also become increasingly aware that what we offer is fragmented and relies on you knowing what services you want/need from us. This year we’re looking at ways in which we can build on our current suite of offerings to provide more tailored, integrated solutions to the issues below that our members raise with us:

• Government keeps changing funding policies: it’s killing my business

• I’m getting ready for my re-registration audit, which is due in 3 months time

• Competition is killing me!

• I have staff who commenced recently

• My international student numbers continue to slide

• I think my business costs are too high, but I’m not sure

• I am currently using an external consultant to prepare my RTO for audit

• The constant changes in Training Packages are impacting my business, with the need to review and update my material all the time!

• I am thinking of expanding into off-shore operations

• I’m worried about my compliance with state funded compliance contracts

• I’m worried I can’t find and attract quality trainers

If you need help with any of these issues then get on the phone to your local State offices, and as ever we welcome your feedback on other assistance we can provide.

Claire Field
Chief Executive Officer



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