More evidence that the marketisation of Australian VET is not working

Here’s more evidence that the marketisation of Australian vocational education and training (VET) is not working.

Professor Leesa Wheelahan (University of Toronto) has published a short paper that concludes, “Successive government changes to marketise vocational education over the last 10 years have resulted in a collapse of publicly funded vocational education, the decimation of TAFE, the shift to for-profit private providers, and disinvestment by governments in vocational education.”

Professor Wheelahan examined the changes to government funded hours in VET from 2009 to 2016, looking at “hours of delivery rather than student enrolments, because funding is tied to training hours rather than the number of students.” Her findings include:

  • In Australia overall, TAFE’s share of government funded hours declined from 81% in 2009 to 54% in 2016.
  • The number of hours of delivery declined by 30% in TAFE, while it increased by 194% in private (for profit) providers in that time.
  • Funding per hour was cut by almost 10%, and by 15% if you go back to 2007.
  • “The national picture disguises diversity between the states…. Victoria is the most notorious, having implemented scorched earth marketisation policies more aggressively than any other state,” with TAFE’s share of government funded VET dropping from 78% to 42% by 2016, while it rose in private providers by almost 333%.
  • “Queensland is even more alarming.” TAFE’s share of government funded hours was 30% in 2016, down from 77% in 2009. In 2016, private providers’ share of publicly funded hours was 68% and the number of hours they delivered increased by 322% from 2009 to 2016.
  • “Policy in South Australia has combined marketisation with chaos, as governments there lurch between funding TAFE and full marketisation.”
  • “New South Wales is in chaos…. It looks as if funding per hour has been improved in NSW, but this is only because enrolments have collapsed. NSW used to have the biggest vocational education system, reflecting the fact that it is the most populous state…. Victoria now has a bigger system than NSW, and has had since 2011.”

Professor Wheelahan used data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER, 2017) and the Australian Government Productivity Commission (2018).

Her article notes that, “adult and community education (ACE) is excluded from the analysis because their share of publicly funded hours is very small; in Australia in 2016 ACE accounted for 4.2% of publicly funded VET hours,” although was 8.4% in Victoria.

Read her paper here.

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