Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

Goodbye and Hello

Monday, October 12 2015

A message from Martin Cass

Dear Members

As many of you would be aware, until the last AGM our constitution allowed for a sitting Board member to serve two consecutive three year terms. This amendment to our constitution came into being in 2009. As I have now served since 2008 my time has come to an end.

May I take this opportunity to thank you the members for allowing me to serve you. It has truly been an honour.

I would also congratulate incoming Board members, Warren Walmsley (QLD ) and Bruce Callaghan (NSW) on their successful election.

Serving on the Board carries significant responsibility and of course is very time consuming.

I thank the members of the Board with whom I have had the pleasure of working with. It is indeed rare to serve on a Board with such team spirit, focused on achieving the best outcomes for the organisation, a group of people I'm honoured to call friends.

Much has been achieved over the years by this Board, however there is still and always will be much to do. I have every confidence that this Board will continue to attend to issues as they come to hand.

I offer the new Chair Mel Koumides, Deputy Chair Bruce Callaghan and all of the  Board members my best wishes and my sincere thanks.

A message from Mel Koumides

I am pleased to be writing to you as the newly elected chair of ACPET.

At the outset I would like to acknowledge the tremendous contribution of the retiring chair Martin Cass. Martin made a very significant contribution to the industry over the last 6 years and particularly over recent times when difficult decisions needed to be made. Martin has a strong commitment to ethics and stands for what the industry needs to represent, quality education for students.

I would also like to echo Martin’s congratulations for our new Board members, Warren Walmsley and Bruce Callaghan. I look forward to working with them and Bruce specifically in his role as Deputy Chair.

I of course have previously been the Chair of ACPET’s Governance Audit and Risk Committee so am well placed to ensure we continue to influence the direction of Tertiary education in Australia. I look forward to working with the new Board as we face further difficult times. It is our responsibility to swing the debate to all that is right in our sector, quality provider’s making a difference to people's lives, while ensuring the removal of poor practice.

In that regard I was pleased to see the new Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, the Hon. Luke Hartsuker already introducing further legislation to protect the integrity of students. I think it is timely to identify just what changes are before us:

  • Banning inducements to students under the VET FEE-HELP scheme

Quality providers recognise that marketing and recruitment practices should enable prospective students to select a provider based on the quality and price of training offered, rather than the offer of an inducement. It is pleasing that all inducements have been banned.

  • Tightening VET marketing and recruitment practices

There are now strengthened requirements in relation to marketing and recruitment practices. The reforms simply ensure that advice and information about the availability of VET FEE-HELP is marketed accurately.

Providers  or agents can not market a VET FEE-HELP loan as “free” or “government-funded”.

The loan must be repaid.

  • From 1 January 2016, a provider must not accept a Request for a VET FEE-HELP loan form from a person unless two business days have passed from the date and time the person enrolled.

Also students will receive invoices from providers before each census date, ensuring they have all the information they need to make study and payment decisions.

  • To Improve the understanding of how the scheme operates, and students’ rights and obligations the Government will improve the information available to students and the broader community about the VET FEE-HELP scheme
  • It will be become easier for students to seek to remove a debt that was entered into inappropriately. Training providers will be made accountable for the repayment of loans received by students that occurred from poor recruitment and management practices which are in breach of the new guidelines,
  • The Government is strengthening the assessment criteria for, and ongoing scrutiny of, all training providers. Financial viability requirements for providers will be strengthened and there will be improved consistency in reporting, accountability and transparency requirements. The Government will introduce extra assessment criteria for new providers and a reassessment of the ‘bona fides’ of existing providers. The new criteria will focus on the training and trading history of the applicant. For continuing providers there will be an increased emphasis on assessing compliance with the VET Guidelines, including requirements related to the fair and equitable treatment of students.
    Importantly, new Penalties for breaches of the Guidelines will be introduced.
  • The Government will introduce requirements to ban the practice of training providers levying the entire VET FEE-HELP course debt in one hit, upfront.
  • The changes will establish minimum pre-requisite and prior education qualifications, including demonstrated literacy and numeracy requirements. From 1 January 2016, providers will have to publish an Entry Requirements Procedure document (including on their websites) that sets out the requirements that a person must meet to be eligible to enrol in each VET course of study. A provider will need to assess individuals against these entry requirements and be able to prove to the Department of Education and Training and/or the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) that this assessment has taken place.

Yes, rather heavy content I agree. However, the ACPET board intends to stand for and demand quality from the sector. You will therefore see over the coming weeks our demand for further changes to make sure only the best can prosper in education. Industry leadership has never been more important.

Watch this space!

On the ASTAS front, due to the unprecedented growth of VET Fee Help, ACPET is currently calibrating its insurance cover to protect student prepaid-fees for the current census study unit. What this means is that premiums for ASTAS will increase. ACPET is currently modelling different risk criteria to ensure premium is commensurate to risk. The risk criteria is being formulated with Actuarial support that ACPET has engaged, our insurer and with input from Government Departments. For transparency purposes the risk criteria will be published to our members but the risk weightings per provider will not.

For some of the very large providers it is important that we flag early that a mix of insurance and bank guarantees may be the only way ACPET can support you. In rare instances we may not be able to underwrite your risk.  What we can assure you is that we are investigating every avenue to minimise the increase that is passed on to our members.

Although the Board engages with members across a number of fronts, in the last 3 months for example I have participated in 27 ACPET meetings, many with other ACPET members, many other Board members carry a similar ACPET load, we know member accessibility to the Board can be improved. We will be seeking greater engagement with you across varying events throughout the year to seek your input, feedback and update you on Board focus areas.

On a final note, last week saw ACPET, together with Minister Birmingham and other industry leaders commit to and co-sign the Statement of Principles for the Ethical Recruitment of International Students by Education Agents. The London Statement is a genuine commitment to ensure it is the quality of education that will drive the future of Australia’s international sector.

Industry led regulation is an essential element of the framework.


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