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Edition 580, 17 November 2014

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Another week beckons for the tertiary education sector

Monday, November 17 2014

The higher education reforms before the Senate remain a key focus for ACPET and its members. The Australian Financial Review Higher Education Reform saw plenty of commentary and it was pleasing to see significant support for the package of reforms, including enabling access for private higher education providers. There was recognition that by ensuring private providers get access to the Commonwealth Grant Scheme, even at reduced rates [compared with] universities, students will receive significant benefits through access to quality courses at substantially lower prices.

I have been visiting members across the country and have observed first-hand the real quality of facilities available. I attended the opening of the Think Group's new campus in Brisbane, the second campus Think opened last week (the other being in Sydney). Facilities and learning environments are of the highest calibre and are a show case of what students can expect with even better access through the reforms. I have also visited Holmes Institute in Melbourne and saw first-hand the interactions between students and teachers. Again impressive indeed.
ACPET will continue to showcase the outstanding quality that is evident in our sector and, in the current reform debate, what government, industry, students and parents can expect from the private sector - high quality innovative courses with great links to industry.
ACPET this week has met with Minister Pyne and his office to continue these critical discussions.

In the VET sector, our members are still suffering the significant fallout from the NSW Smart and Skilled Reforms. I doubt in my years in the sector I have ever seen such loud and constant criticisms from reputable providers. Members contact me and our staff every day with real frustrations and genuine concerns about trying to understand what has happened and the process used.

Readers would recall that in 3 November 2014 NMU article ‘No, Minister! ACPET reminds NSW Education Minister members are not happy’ we provided a copy of the letter our Chairman, Mr Martin Cass, sent NSW Education Minister The Honourable Adrian Piccoli. I am pleased to report that the Minister has now replied. You can view the reply through this NMU edition.

While I do appreciate the speed of response, unfortunately there has been no intervention to address areas of concern in relation to the procurement process. We will continue to work with the Minister and his Department. We will also act to engage with the government’s senior leaders. It is important that government and stakeholders do understand the real implications of Smart and Skilled and how reputable, proven, quality ACPET members, their students, clients have been impacted.

The Minister did strongly refute one element of our letter. The Minister in his correspondence states "Contrary to your assertion, TAFE NSW was not advised of any contract offers until 8 October 2014, when offers were made to individual TAFE Institutes at the same time as all other successful providers. I am advised that your letter to me was published in the 3 November 2014 issue of National Monday Update. I would welcome, in the 17 November 2014 issue, your publication of my confirmation that TAFE NSW did not receive advice of allocations prior to private providers”.

Members are continuing to prepare their own actions in response to the program. A well respected ACPET member, Karen Kearns, CEO of the International Child Care College has organised a meeting for RTOs and employers dissatisfied with the outcome of the program bid process on Monday 24 November at Warners Bay, in the state’s Hunter region. Members from anywhere in the state together with their clients are welcome. Smaller, specialised RTOs in regional areas are particularly encouraged.

Topics to be discussed will include transparency of the process, assessment and total funding available, logic to tender offers, the appeal process and of course where to from here. Organisers are seeking to collate further evidence of RTO discontent.
I am advised that the department has been invited to attend and I do hope this offer is accepted.
The event is scheduled at 7.00pm at Sinclair’s Function Centre, 270 Hillsborough Road, Warners Bay. Please RSVP: by 21 November via

Of course, the Australian Training Awards will be held this week in Adelaide. Congratulations to our members and their students who will be represented. Good luck and I hope to see you on the night.

On a final note, I met with many of our members in Hobart this week. We had a very engaging and informative discussion that centred on our need to demonstrate and demand quality from our membership, and their need for good quality information on relevant issues in the sector. I thank everyone for their involvement in the session.

Another busy week for our sector!


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