Australian VET is failing – here’s why

Australian vocational education policy is failing, and it’s not hard to see why.

That’s the key message from Professor John Quiggan, the University of Queensland, writing in Inside Story on 22 February 2018. Here, in summary, are quotes from Professor Quggin’s article:

The crisis

“Vocational education in Australia is in crisis. Traditional on-the-job training, through apprenticeships and traineeships, is in decline. Technical and further education funding has been slashed, leading to the closure of many TAFE colleges and large-scale loss of teaching staff. Billions of dollars have been wasted on ideologically driven experiments in market competition and commercial provision, most notoriously through the rorting of the FEE-HELP system.”

Problems with for-profit VET providers

“Most of the leading large-scale [commercial] providers have been exposed as essentially fraudulent, exploiting government subsidies and leaving students with worthless qualifications. But the pressure to respond to market competition has also had damaging effects.”

“For-profit educational providers have almost invariably failed to deliver good educational outcomes, particular when they have access to public funding. It is far easier to game funding systems than to offer good-quality education…. End [the] subsidies to commercial providers.”

Fund not-for-profit community providers

“Commercial education and training should have at most a marginal role and should not be subsidised through student funding schemes such as FEE-HELP and VET Student Loans. Non-profit and community providers should receive adequate funding, as should TAFE.”

Funding is a major problem

“Funding for vocational education and training has fallen drastically since 2011–12 and is now, in real terms, barely above the 2005–06 level.”

“The federal government has done little to resolve the crucial problem of funding.”

Community Colleges Australia (CCA) comments:

Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of CCA, comments: “The world of VET policy is a very noisy one. However, Professor Quiggin states his conclusions clearly and simply:

  • “For-profit VET provision should be the complement to TAFE and community education provision, not the centrality of VET, as it has become. They should not be receiving public funding, on which, of course, they ensure that they make a profit that disappears from the VET system.
  • “A large number of commercial providers are just set up to game the system. VET FEE-HELP was a symptom and not a cause.
  • “Marketisation of Australia’s vocational education and training is a central problem. As long as we ignore or dance around this issue, we will continue to face confusion, uncertainty and poor system outcomes.”

(Read more of Professor Quiggin’s posts here.)

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