Feature Article: Key differences between compliance-focused and quality-focused approaches in RTOs

When it comes to implementing self-assurance in an RTO, there are two main approaches: compliance-focused and quality-focused. While both approaches aim to ensure that RTOs meet regulatory requirements, they differ in their underlying philosophies, priorities, and outcomes. A compliance-focused approach centres on fulfilling minimum regulatory requirements, whereas a quality-focused approach strives for continuous improvement and excellence in training and assessment. The quality-focused approach emphasises learner success and satisfaction, proactive engagement with stakeholders, and investment in staff development. Here are some key differences between the two approaches:

Compliance-focused approach:

A compliance-focused approach to self-assurance is characterised by an emphasis on meeting the bare minimum of regulatory requirements. This approach prioritises documentation and record-keeping, using these administrative tasks as the primary tools for ensuring compliance. However, it’s important to note that in this model, the scale often tips towards compliance at the expense of quality, as the pursuit of tick-box exercises may overshadow the pursuit of excellence. Compliance issues are typically addressed reactively, with remedial measures enacted post-issue rather than proactive prevention. Stakeholder engagement is often limited, as the operational focus is primarily internal and centred on meeting compliance obligations. Consequently, there is minimal investment in staff development, as resources are directed towards maintaining compliance rather than enhancing staff capability. Unfortunately, in this context, learner success and satisfaction may not be prioritised, with the emphasis on regulatory requirements and operational matters taking precedence over student outcomes. While this approach may ensure regulatory compliance, it may also limit an RTO’s capacity for growth, innovation, and service quality.


  • Emphasises meeting minimum regulatory requirements
  • Focuses on documentation and record-keeping
  • Prioritizes compliance over quality
  • Reactive approach to compliance issues
  • Limited engagement with stakeholders
  • Minimal investment in staff development
  • Learner success and satisfaction are not a priority

Quality-focused approach:

In stark contrast, the quality approach within an RTO centres on the pursuit of continuous improvement and excellence. This mindset does not merely focus on meeting regulatory requirements but strives to exceed them, prioritising quality over compliance. Learner outcomes and satisfaction are at the heart of this approach, with every effort made to ensure students not only meet but surpass their educational goals. This approach is proactive, with a forward-thinking strategy to identify and address potential issues before they arise, ensuring smooth operations and superior outcomes. Stakeholder engagement is robust and integral to this approach, with the belief that two-way dialogue can greatly enhance the quality of VET courses. Investment in staff development is substantial, recognising that the quality of education is directly tied to the skills and capabilities of trainers and assessors. Above all, learner success and satisfaction are not just an objective, but the ultimate priority. In this model, the RTO is not merely a compliance-driven entity, but a dynamic, learner-centric organisation committed to delivering the highest standards of vocational education.

  • Emphasises continuous improvement and excellence
  • Focuses on learner outcomes and satisfaction
  • Prioritises quality over compliance
  • Proactive approach to identifying and addressing issues
  • Engages with stakeholders to improve training and assessment
  • Invests in staff development to improve quality
  • Learner success and satisfaction are a top priority

Facilitate ongoing professional development opportunities for trainers and assessors: 

While compliance is important, a quality-focused approach can lead to better outcomes for learners, RTOs, and the VET sector as a whole. By prioritising learner success and satisfaction, RTOs can improve their reputation, attract more learners, and contribute to a skilled and productive workforce. Investing in staff development is also crucial for maintaining quality and improving outcomes. By providing ongoing training and support, RTOs can ensure that their staff are up to date with the latest industry developments and best practices. While compliance is necessary to remain in business, a quality-focused approach can lead to better outcomes for learners, RTOs, and the VET sector as a whole. By prioritising learner success and satisfaction, engaging with stakeholders, and investing in staff development, RTOs can improve the quality of their VET courses and contribute to producing a skilled and productive workforce.

Other feature articles:

7 signs there is something wrong with your RTOs self-assurance approach

How to create a culture of continuous improvement in your RTO

Five ways collaborating with industry experts that ensures trainers maintain current industry skills

How work integrated learning can enrich your VET courses and strengthen industry partnerships

How using industry advisory committees can benefit RTOs

Three key strategies for RTOs to enhance collaboration with industry