Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

In Focus

Monday, November 3 2014

I am told that my first week in ACPET was business as usual. If that is the case I am in for an exciting ride.

I have balanced my attention on the key issues in our sector and of course making certain that ACPET's house itself is in order.

A big development for our sector this week was the delivery of Report of the Senate Education and Employment Committee on the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014. The report released calls on the Senate to pass the Bill in the interest of student choice and improved quality.

This I obviously applaud and our higher education providers, who are already delivering outstanding results, will be able, if the Bill is passed, to play an even bigger role in producing skilled graduates for the Australian economy.

Interestingly, the principle of student choice is now supported by most governments across the country, as well as students and employers alike. Both Labor and conservative governments have introduced competition to improve the operations of education sectors. Despite this, it was disappointing to note that Labor and the Greens continued a negative attitude towards private education that included blanket statements about an unknown portion of private provider’s rorting the system or providing low quality education.

There is compelling evidence that student choice, supported by high quality standards and a strong regulatory regime, is the best way to ensure the highest quality higher education sector in Australia.

ACPET will continue to work with governments and regulators to ensure Australia’s tertiary education system is focused on quality, diversity and improved student outcomes.

On this note ACPET last week hosted a Summit, together with senior representatives from the from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Careers Australia; English Australia; Group Training Australia; the International Education Association of Australia; JMC Academy; Navitas; Restaurant and Caterers Australia; Study Group; and the Vocational Education and Training Board. The summit agreed to support an industry-led response to the issue to the instances of poor quality. Our industry is not going to bury its head in the sand and pretend there isn’t a problem with a small minority of providers. We will drive a multi-faceted approach to improving the quality arrangements in our sector, so that we can convince governments, industry and students that selecting an ACPET member is the best way to ensure a quality result!

This week ACPET also hosted an Election breakfast with Hon Nick Wakeling MP, Victorian Minister for Higher Education and Skills. The Minister committed support to the Victorian Training Guarantee and the role of the private sector. We will be seeking similar support from both sides of Politics. More on this next week.

On a more disappointing note, NSW has released their approach to introducing contestability to the State. The reforms, agreed as part of the Council of Australian Government’s roundtable in 2012, had the opportunity to reduce costs, increase students and drive innovation to enhance both productivity and job readiness. ACPET is ready to work collaboratively with the Baird government and other stakeholders to ensure the Smart and Skilled program delivers on its goal to drive innovation in the vocational education and training sector in NSW. It’s in everyone’s interest that we get the reform agenda right from the start so that providers can get on with the business of delivering quality training to students. However, in its current form it is a missed opportunity for NSW to grow the skills base despite the current fiscal environment.  It has missed the mark and it is difficult to see what the desired outcomes might be. Centralised planning where bureaucrats are deciding student choices and a centrally fixed price arrangement would appear to fly in the face of the COAG reforms and, more importantly, do not advance the interests in growing the skills base in the NSW economy.

I have included in the NMU the letter forwarded to the Minister from our Chair Martin Cass.

In a further development regarding National skills reform, the Minister for Industry The Honourable Ian Macfarlane has released two discussion papers on the design and implementation of training packages, focusing on improvements that lead to better outcomes. The first paper seeks comments on whether training packages are meeting the needs of industry, employers, students and the economy. The second examines contestable approaches for the development and maintenance of training packages. Due date for submissions are 24 December 2014 and 18 February 2015. Click here to view the papers.




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