VET regulator underfunded and overworked

Sue Simpson
Research Officer 

Resourcing to monitor the quality of Australia’s 4100 vocational education and training providers in a timely manner was inadequate, the Australian Skills Quality Authority Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson told a recent Senate Budget Estimates hearing.

ASQA charges Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) for provider registration and course accreditation. It was established to eventually become self-funded from fees from training providers. The recent Federal Budget was forced to provide an additional $15 million to offset a projected shortfall in revenue.

Mr Robinson revealed to the hearing that 22 per cent of applications to set up a RTO were rejected and around 11 per cent of registration renewals were rejected.

“Most of those would involve noncompliance with the core business of an RTO, poor delivery strategies and implementation or poor assessment, or it might be teachers without the appropriate qualifications. But usually it is all of those things, not just one. It may well be a number of other things as well,” he said.

This failure rate is hardly a convincing endorsement for federal and state government policy to have all government VET funding subject to tender.

On the matter of cutbacks in funding to TAFE in Victoria, Commissioner Robinson said: “We have not finished our regulatory work in Victoria by any stretch of the imagination. There have been quite a number of providers there of concern. We have taken action against many of them. We have a lot of work in the pipeline in Victoria. I think there are a lot of strengths in the Australian VET system, but my view would be that there are some areas of concern where strong action is needed to get rid of players in the market who are providing very poor quality product.”

Under Smart and Skilled more government funds will go to private providers at the expense of the publicly accountable provider TAFE. Federation’s submission to Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART’s) inquiry into the pricing of VET qualifications in public and private providers pointed out that TAFE already has mechanisms to monitor quality and is subject to parliamentary scrutiny for the use of taxpayer funds. Too many private providers are already failing the test of AQSA let alone not being required to answer questions by elected parliamentarians.

Federation’s recent submission to IPART on the pricing of VET under Smart and Skilled, the policy that will turn the respected public institution NSW TAFE into just another VET provider, questioned standards of quality in the VET sector and the adequacy of existing regulation of the VET sector.