The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has produced a series of reports on the almost four million Australian vocational education and training (VET) students and studying with 4,601 providers. Provided are "Total VET students and courses 2014" and "A preliminary analysis of the outcomes of students assisted by VET FEE-HELP", which contain some worrying statistics concerning very low student completion rates. This is important as student loans (VET FEE-HELP) for the VET sector has meant a rapid increase in students at private training providers.
NCVER have carried out an analysis of the completion rates of students. These are consistent with conventional wisdom for education. Students most likely to complete are on-campus or blended mode, employed and undertaking a diploma level course, with a 43% completion rate. Students least likely to complete are studying on-line, unemployed and undertaking an advanced diploma, with a 8% completion rate.
What should be causing concern for government policy makers is that the fastest increase in new enrollment is in unemployed student studying on-line and who are least likely to complete. The result is likely to be at a cost of billions of dollars to the taxpayer with minimal improvement of the education of the workforce.
Another worrying finding is that the likelihood of a student completing their course varies between providers from 1% to 96%. The nature of VET is such that the completion rate will vary widely and the average of 21% is not unexpected, but providers with a completion rate of less than 10% should be of concern.
The Australian Government is considering reforms to the scheme, but these will likely only apply a cap to the fees providers can charge and curb pressure selling tactics. The government does not appear to be addressing changes such modular qualifications (where the student only commits to a short course, as a step to a diploma) and techniques to address the low completion rates of on-line courses.
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