What happened to community education in 2016?

We will have to wait until July to get the full picture of what happened to community-provided vocational education and training (VET) in Australia last year.  However on the basis of recent trends, we fear that the community VET numbers dropped again in 2016.

Community Colleges Australia (CCA) has analysed data from the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER), in particularly the publication Historical time series of government-funded vocational education and training from 1981 (NCVER, July 2016).  Complete data is available for the 20-year period 1996 through 2015.  Here are some key findings:

  • The community education “share” of Australian government-funded VET during the period dropped from 15.4% to 5% – a loss of more than two-thirds.
  • In 1996, community education providers had 207,100 government-funded VET students, which rose to 235,800 students in 1999 and maintained that level until 2001. From 2002, the numbers started to drop, continuing a decline to the current low of 80,300 in 2015.
  • The total number of government-funded VET students in Australia has risen gradually (although not consistently) from 1,341,200 in 1996 to a peak of 1,924,100 in 2012 and then dropped significantly to 1,597,800 in 2015.
  • TAFE (and other government providers) maintained consistent numbers (up to 1.3 million) each year until 2013, with a dramatic drop to 944,300 in 2015.
  • Private for-profit providers started at a very low base of 23,100 students in 1996 (1.7% of the total), and then plateaued at about 150,000 to 160,000 from 1999 to 2005, and then increased dramatically from 2007 (218,200) to 2014 (583,800), ending up with 34.7% in 2015.
  • TAFE’s share of government-funded VET has dropped from 82.8% in 1996 to 59.1% in 2015.

See the two tables below, which have been taken from the NCVER Report, and which show these trends pictorially.

The questions that arise from this analysis are:

  • Were there specific national and state policies that discouraged and purposefully cut community education-provided government-funded VET?
  • If so, where and why?
  • If not, why has there been such a dramatic drop in community-provided VET?
  • What has happened to Australia VET since 2012 that our government-funded VET numbers have dropped?

CCA believes that the absence of any real policy towards community-owned not-for-profit VET providers – one that has resulted in a dramatic 20-year decline – is a glaring inadequacy of Australia’s VET system, and is consistent with the apparent decline of quality.

Welcome to 2017.

Our priority for this year?  Arrest the long-standing decline in government-funded community-provided VET activity.  We welcome your participation and support.


(image above: government-funded VET by provider type, absolute numbers)


(image above: government-funded VET by provider type, as a total percentage)

Both images are from data extracted from the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER) publication Historical time series of government-funded vocational education and training from 1981 (July 2016).

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