Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Yes another week slips by (or is it a year).

Monday, September 21 2015

As you read this we will all be examining the details of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s new cabinet. Much speculation but few facts so it will make it an interesting Monday and an intriguing week.

For the VET sector it is time (again) for some very direct talking. Monday sees our inaugural Roundtable, where a group of our Industry’s thought leaders come together to establish a clear way forward for both us as an organisation, and us as a sector.

So where can we go?

To be frank, incredibly poor behaviour and quality has significantly damaged reputations. However, let us be honest, we all know it is only a small number of providers so why has it been allowed to continue?

No seriously, why?

Badly designed training markets and even worse contract management arrangements sit at the heart of this. Growth beyond imagination, poor completion and insufficient investment in teaching and training and student support has grown exponentially in the face of ‘let’s hope Adam Smith can solve it’!


Anyway back on topic – our quality roundtable.

In my view there are three very simple, yet confronting questions.

What more can ACPET do?

I will always start from the angle of this is our responsibility to young and working age Australians. So what can we do? To create the race to the top (I admit this is not my phrase) do we need a stronger position on what our members are both aspiring to and achieving? The race to the top is the space many of our high quality members with a real commitment to quality are already in. However, this is being drowned out by the other version of the race!

At a minimum, a quality provider’s scorecard should include:

  • Personal accountability at every level to the educational quality of the student. Yes, the student.
  • Commitment to our Code of Ethics. Compliance with standards and rules is one thing. However, embracing a Code is a much higher order. This pledge should see an organisation’s culture develop to ensure every decision is about an ethical approach, without failure. Whether rules are written or not, the culture must be about ethical decision making.
  • A transparent approach to governance that separates the commercial aspects of a business from the academic and quality decisions.
  • Transparent Student Recruitment and Educational Support – need I say more? If I do perhaps this industry is not for you.
  • Output Benchmarks. Now let’s not get caught up in a debate about minutia. What are the outcomes students and their parents should expect?
  • A high percentage of completion through quality education and support?
  • Best practice satisfaction rates?
  • A high level of engagement with industry and therefore a job?
  • A cap on broker commissions?

What more should Governments be doing?

I have already touched on this. Yes design the market but please also administer it. There are some clear risk factors in managing contracts and it is a government’s responsibility to focus on this to protect the student and our great providers.

Have a read of the Harper report on National Competition Policy – evidence will show you the way. I should add there are some really good examples of very good practice where poor behaviour was jumped on, and yes, it stopped!

What more should regulators be doing?

We need a strong and active national regulator, so what additional powers are needed? My final comment is to reflect on some of the stories I have read recently. Yes the practices seem poor. But journalists need to investigate some of the governance issues that led to the poor outcomes – I assure you there is a much bigger story here.


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