Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

This week sees the potential for the tertiary education sector to continue its evolution

Monday, March 16 2015

There is expected to be some further consolidation across the sector, as providers focus on establishing a platform to deliver high quality qualifications across the broad spectrum of the AQF.

Of course, this looks like the action week for Higher Education! I won’t try and promulgate a potential path forward – there are enough voices already. I also won’t try and predict the outcome, that would require a much higher commitment to astrology. However, I will say that the Senate gets an opportunity to address a concerning inequity.

The debate has been dominated by discussions of budget cuts, $100,000 degrees and concerns about the potential behaviour of Universities. This, put simply, is not the opportunity for the Senate. Whether deregulation, pricing authorities or even the Chapman proposals get traction is but an interest. The REAL chance this week is for the Senate to offer CSPs to non-university providers and remove the 25% administration fee on our students. These changes would open up our sector to grow Australia’s knowledge base. They would also mean students who don’t choose University pathways will be able to achieve their dreams with a significantly lower amount of debt.

Let’s hope the Senate doesn’t miss this opportunity.

Last week was an important one for VET. The Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham had a big week. On Thursday he announced big, and long awaited, changes to VET FEE HELP. I won’t repeat them here as they have been widely reported. ACPET certainly supports them and they will make a difference to some of the poor recruitment strategies seen in both the public and private sector.

The Assistant Minister on Friday also launched ACPET’s Code of Ethics and Code of Practice. This is also a significant step.

There has been a long history of competition in tertiary education. However, over recent times there have been a number of practices develop in the VET sector that have undermined the Sector’s integrity.

Like many of you, I remember when enrolment in a VET course required long queues, on a set day and time and the hope that you were far enough up the line to get a spot.

We have moved beyond this and that is one of the positive impacts of contestability. Growing our sector, increasing the pathways and innovations on offer should be celebrated.

Competition policy is essentially about giving people choice and diversity over issues that impact on their lives. I noted with interest comments last week by Professor Ian Harper, Chair of the Competition Policy Review Panel. Professor Harper said that the key to success in introducing markets is establishing independent regulators to police service providers, encouraging private sector delivery, making poor performers susceptible to replacement, boosting information including user feedback and allowing funding to follow the choice of the people.

We have all of these elements, though it is critical that all of the components work together.

I am pleased that the industry is taking its own steps to lift the quality of tertiary education.

The Codes establish the professional standards expected of our members, most importantly to act with integrity in all dealings with students. The Codes also establish a detailed a framework for the recognition and management of agents and brokers working or partnering with an ACPET member, to provide students, the community and government with confidence in the integrity of the agents/brokers used by ACPET members. 

The Codes also establish the requirement for the rigorous self-assessment of compliance with standards, management of brokers and the evaluation and peer review of outcomes for learners, teaching, learning and assessment and leadership.

Just as importantly these assessments will be made available to regulators.

On that point we are not the regulator. We will be using the Codes to inspire quality and to drive real improvements to what is already a fantastic sector.

The ACPET membership will be seen as a badge synonymous with quality.

The Codes of course will not improve practice in isolation. Our approach will be supported by a range of initiatives, including:

  • A Health Check program aimed at assuring member compliance with National Standards and the Codes
  • Spot checks to test compliance with specific provisions
  • Professional development to lift the quality of governance, learning and assessment and student support, and
  • A targeted program of professional development aimed at third party brokers working in the sector.

On a final note, a message to our valued stakeholders. I can assure you of the enhanced attention our members will place on quality. I can give no such assurance of the practices of non-members, who don’t engage with their industry.


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