Saturday, June 23, 2018

Report on Australian Vocational Education and Training Regulation

The Australian Government today released the review of  Vocational Education and Training (VET) regulation, by Professor Valerie Braithwaite (2018). Professor Braithwaite made 23 recommendations the to government on 31 January 2018. The government has announced it will progress 10 recommendations, and "support in-principle" another 11. However, is not clear what the government doesn't support, or why it has taken almost five months to release the report.

The report provides useful recommendations (collected below) for improving the legislation under which VET operates. However, what is needed is a broader review of vocational education, as an industry and as a service to the community. Also the relationship between VET and the university sector. There are calls for universities to provide more job ready skills for graduates and more responsive to industry needs, which up until now has been the role of VET.

Professor Braithwaite begins by pointing out what has been achieved with VET regulation in Australia, with national regulation introduced in 2011. A patchwork of state oversight was replaced by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). No major deficits were found preventing  ASQA from regulating VET, However, the report recommends "... a higher bar for gaining and maintaining registration as a VET provider". 
The report notes that 81.4% of VET students are part time, with business services the most popular program. Students may be at a large TAFE campus, small RTO, or online. Unfortunately the report does not detail what proportion are at each. While there have been concerns over VET quality, the report notes in 2017 that 87% of students were satisfied with their provider.
"Recommendation 1: ASQA develop and implement processes to enhance its capabilities and opportunities to proactively engage in regulatory conversations with students, teachers, RTOs, industry and other interested stakeholders. The desired outcomes are to improve the value of the student-focused regulatory approach and involve the sector in developing the regulatory culture that drives ASQA’s use of its legislative powers.

Recommendation 2: In order to enhance transparency and consistency in the use of the legislative framework, ASQA should build on its regulatory conversations and practice reflections to develop and clearly articulate to the regulatory community the principles applied to the interpretation of legislation and the use of powers.

Recommendation 3: ASQA works with RTOs to develop positive assurance flags to include in the ASQA risk matrix and develop a mutually agreed method of communicating this information publicly without increasing the compliance burden on RTOs.

Recommendation 4: The Australian Government amends the legislative framework to ensure that entrants to the registered training market be required to clearly demonstrate educational commitment and knowledge of how to provide best practice support to students. This statement of commitment should be required as a condition of registration and include quality performance objectives, which, if breached, could lead to sanctions and ultimately de‑registration.

Recommendation 5: The Australian Government strengthens the fit and proper person requirements and change notification requirements under the NVETR legislation and where appropriate aligns them with TEQSA and ESOS Act provisions and any other relevant legislation.

Recommendation 6: The Australian Government amends the legislative framework to ensure greater scrutiny of new providers to:
  • provide that where an RTO without reasonable justification does not commence providing training within 12 months of being registered, or during its registration ceases to provide training for a 12-month period, its registration automatically lapses, meaning that it would no longer be registered.
  • prevent RTOs changing the scope of the courses they deliver where an RTO has been operating for less than 12 months.

Recommendation 7: The legislative framework be revised to require an RTO to assess the quality of its teaching workforce and develop teacher quality improvement actions, which must be submitted to ASQA annually as a part of the Quality Indicator Annual Summary report.

Recommendation 8: The Training and Education Training Package be reviewed with the purpose of creating a career path for teaching excellence in vocational education and training.

Recommendation 9: The Australian Government leads a process to raise the standards of teaching and training excellence and professionalism in the sector through creation of the role of Master Assessor. A Master Assessor would be placed at the pinnacle of the VET teacher/trainer career path with the responsibility to mentor through professional development programs and assess the quality of an RTO’s next cohort of graduating students.

Recommendation 10: The legislative framework be amended to increase the frequency of data provision to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research to quarterly for all RTOs.

Recommendation 11: The Australian Government prioritises the improvement of policies and systems that allow for transfer of real-time data for timely use by other agencies with regulatory responsibilities for identifying and responding to emerging sectoral and provider‑based issues.

Recommendation 12:
  1. The Australian Government and the National Centre for Vocational Education Research explore ways to increase student response rates to the Student Outcomes Survey, and
  2. The National Centre for Vocational Education Research, ASQA, and the sector identify a module of questions that directly addresses the quality of the student journey in the Student Outcomes Survey.

Recommendation 13: The legislative framework be amended to enable the National Centre for Vocational Education Research to make the RTO level data it holds publicly available and identifiable.

Recommendation 14: The Australian Government explores ways to strengthen the regulatory framework by expanding the circle of dialogue around improving the quality of the student journey pre- and post-audit to include all stakeholders who could contribute to future improvement in an RTO’s performance.

Recommendation 15: The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 be amended to require ASQA to publicly release audit reports.

Recommendation 16: The legislative framework be amended to require RTOs to publish nationally consistent consumer information that is accessible and meaningful to students and meets the basic needs for decision making (for example, course entry requirements, course length, employment outcomes, and fees, including subsidies and course cancellation fees).

Recommendation 17: The legislative framework be amended to strengthen ASQA’s ability to take action under a general prohibition against misleading or deceptive conduct which reflects Australian Consumer Law requirements.

Recommendation 18: The legislative framework be amended to require RTOs to strengthen consumer protection in student enrolment agreements through the adoption of contracts that avoid unfair terms as defined in Australian Consumer Law.

Recommendation 19: The legislative framework be amended to require RTOs to keep electronic records showing a minimum of student completions of units, courses and qualifications over the life of the RTO, preferably using an AVETMISS-compliant student management system.

Recommendation 20: The Australian Government investigates ways in which, in cases of administration and liquidation, priority is given to the timely provision of student records to ASQA and the protection of students’ investment in their education.

Recommendation 21: The legislative framework be amended to explicitly address student safety and wellbeing in alignment with the Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 2015.

Recommendation 22: The Australian Government considers strengthening tuition assurance by assuming responsibility for the operation of all tuition assurance and protection arrangements and ensuring that the scope of these arrangements protects all VET students.

Recommendation 23: The Australian Government establishes a national Tertiary Sector Ombudsman."
From Braithwaite, 2018


Valerie Braithwaite, All eyes on quality: Review of the NationalVocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 report, (Canberra: Australian Government, 2018). URL

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