Private education companies want the Morrison government to merge the entire tertiary education system into one operation.
A new lobby group, the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia (ITECA), is being launched on Thursday with the aim of ending what it says is excessive red tape, duplication of effort and discrimination against some students.
The council represents 500 private training-sector companies with enrolments in excess of 2.5 million students.
Chief executive Troy Williams said higher education providers such as the major universities benefit from unparalleled stability and predictability in funding and student loans.
But private educators, which work mainly in the skills training sector, face uncertainty in regulation and finance.
He said this worked against students, especially as the economy was evolving and workers increasingly needed to switch between higher education and the training sector to refresh their skills.
“We need a single funding system for higher education and training,” he said. “Then we can let public and private educators compete to attract students. Students should be able to work with the provider of their choice.”
ITECA has been created out of the old Australian Council for Private Education and Training.
Mr Williams said the council wanted to drive reform of the higher education system. “Australia deserves an integrated tertiary education system in which the higher education, vocational education and training sectors operate as one to deliver students and their employees with the outcomes they are looking for,” he said.
He said sectors should retain their separate identities but, to avoid inequalities like fee discrimination, they should be managed at one level.
Dual-sector universities had to duplicate all their reporting because they answered to two lots of regulators – an excessive cost and time burden.
On Monday TAFE Directors Australia called for the training sector to be put back into the education department. Training was split off the education department in the Morrison cabinet reshuffle in August.
TDA chief executive Craig Robertson said it would be better if all of the education functions of government were under one portfolio and one minister.
Both the university and the training sector said they were having to revise the outlook in view of the Coalition win.
The training sector had been expecting a big boost for TAFEs under Labor and universities had been promised an extra $10 billion.
Labor also promised a review of all post-secondary education which was widely tipped to bring training and universities together.
This would also have equalised the student loan system, which favours university students over people doing training and has led to a sharp rise in university enrolments at the expense of skills enrolments.
The Business Council of Australia has been calling for a single, sector- neutral funding model for post-school education.
This would give all would-be students a subsidy which they could use for skills training or university.
BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott called for a single system of information on higher education that would show students the true cost of the course they are doing, the return they could expect and how long it would take to get their qualification.
The Group of Eight universities supports reform for the skills sector arguing it would be better for the economy overall.
CREDIT: Robert Bolton Education editor