Debate continues between TAFEs, National interest groups and Victorian VET Regulatory body VRQA, after recent cuts to state funding caused by a surplus in funded enrolments over recent years (see our archive of 2012 Budget articles from May/June).
Articles recently published in the Australian Financial Review point the finger at the VRQA for allowing subpar RTOs to register in Victoria. Joanne Mather’s article (04-07-12) quoted Claire Field, ACPET, CEO who said there was a problem because “the criteria for offering government-funded places in not set high enough” and “the state regulatory body has not properly quality assured the market”.
The article also highlighted that while subsidies for diploma level qualifications were available during 2010-2011 the number of RTOs registered to deliver government-funded training went from 200 to 411.
Victoria remains one of two states to withhold their regulatory authority, although providers delivering courses in multiple states or overseas are required to register through the national body ASQA.
Pip Freebairn (Australian Financial Review 09-07-12) quoted Federal Skills Minister, Chris Evans who further damned Victorian authorities by saying “What the Victorians did was allow the supply side to run out of control. Training providers were generating courses and enrolling students without any direct connection to industry or to employment prospects.”
The article pointed out that since ASQAs inception in July 2011, 184 providers have been denied from operating courses or registration renewal.
Following this bout of media criticism the CEO of VRQA, Stuart Hamilton, wrote a letter addressing Michael Stutchbury, Editor or the newspaper, in defense of his organisation. The letter claims that the articles misrepresented the situation and that Victorian VET regulation is ‘the most rigorous of any state or territory in Australia’.
He goes on to say that since VET Guidelines were introduced in January 2010 over 400 providers have cancelled their registration, been refused registration or have had their registration cancelled at re-registration. He also claimed that Victorian Guidelines go beyond the AQTF to ‘strengethen and clarify quality, financial management, governance and consumer protection requirements’.
A recent fact sheet of statistical analyisis released by the VRQA shows that “ Victoria has the third largest number after Queensland and New South Wales. However, relative to the resident population, Victoria has the third lowest proportion of RTOs (along with Tasmania) -well below the levels in Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory.”
So it remains not entirely clear who is to blame for the unprecedented funding cuts recently made across the Victorian VET sector, however, perhaps it is time to start looking for the solution rather than pointing the finger.
One step has been made in this direction with plans being announced on the skills vic website to refocus the Victorian VET system which aims to ensure the quality of the system while also addressing sustainability issues along with access and equity and industry needs.
Is it all too little too late? Time will tell.
Pip Freebairn – The Australian Financial Review, 09/07/12
Joanna Mather – Australian Review ‘Education Regulator Caned’
Stuart Hamilton VRQA