Representing quality private education
providers in Australia


Monday, March 30 2015

My heart goes out to the victims, and their families, of the tragic Germanwings plane crash in France this week. A terrible tragedy and my sincere condolences to the families of the 2 Australians on that plane.

We live in a troubled world.

Education of course is the pathway to everyone’s future. Year 12 completion plus a tertiary level qualification is a key to employability and improved earnings. This fact places enormous responsibility on all of us charged with developing policy, designing funding systems, delivering qualifications and regulating quality.

As I mentioned last week, if all of these elements don’t work together, the system can let down those relying on us.

This we just cannot allow – education is far too important.

I am forever amazed at the passion and quality of the many colleges I now visit, and of the real interaction with students. Of course, there are also some perverse outcomes in any fast growing system. These currently most appear in the VET FEE HELP program. The recent changes by both government and ACPET will make a difference. It is always pleasing to move in the right direction.

However, there is still work to do.

Each State and Territory has embarked on their own approach to Entitlement and contestability, with no apparent view to a national approach. In a modern economy where the labour market is national and international this approach is at best perplexing and at worst a failure of public policy.

This different approach to entitlement systems across the country has created even further complexity in a system that is already difficult to comprehend.

As States and Territories reduce their investment in VET, VET FEE HELP is growing rapidly.

This on first view looks fine. However, VET qualifications, which were once characterised by being too cheap (and therefore putting quality at risk), are now in many areas too expensive to get a real return on a student investment. How is it that students do not appear price sensitive?

This would appear to be driven by opaque pricing and poorly informed choice.

Peter Noonan’s work at the Mitchell Institute is perhaps the only policy thinking looking at solving the riddle. We need the work fast tracked.

In the interim we have a responsibility to deliver a quality product a fair price.

Again it comes back to the sector taking responsibility.

On another front the week that was saw ACPET host a very informative breakfast with the Victorian Minister for Training and Skills and Minister for International Education, the Hon Steve Herbet. The Minister spoke honestly and frankly to his audience. While he is committed to rebuilding TAFE, the Minister also stated that the government would not be backing away from its commitment to a viable training market, albeit a more tightly managed one.

The Minster said he saw the training market developing much like the well accepted and supported competitive arrangements between public and private schools. He also applauded ACPET’s own attempts to improve the quality of its membership and saw opportunities to use our approach as a precursor to improving the quality of Victorian VTG providers.

The Minister expressed concern about the growing risk of VET FEE HELP bad debt, as the State shares this risk. Members’ emphasised the importance of ‘skin in the game’ from all parties to improve outcomes. That is, a student up-front contribution and an emphasis on completion by providers.

The event was well attended and it was fantastic to have two ACPET life members in the audience, Julie Moss of the Photography Studies College and David Windridge of MEGT. Their presence added to the discussion enormously.

My final point this week relates to student protection.

The issues identified above relating complexity, fragmented funding approaches, information asymmetry and high prices means it is now time to push more assertively for the creation of a National Training Ombudsman. ACPET called for this last year and the time is right. I note the new Queensland government has committed to creating a State level training Ombudsman and South Australia already has a training advocate. I met this week with Victorian Consumer Action Law Centre and we had a very informative discussion about the options.

I will be working with the Industry in the coming weeks to get this idea moving. Of course government has an important role to play but we as an industry, again, must take responsibility.

It is all about the students.


Rod Camm


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