The Mitchell Institute’s Professor Peter Noonan says the student loan scheme needs to be extended to VET education.
Sweeping reforms to vocational education need to be made quickly so the sector doesn’t continue to suffer from state government funding cuts, according to tertiary education expert Peter Noonan.
Professor Noonan said the commonwealth needed to “quite unilaterally and quite determinedly” force the states to hold up their end of vocational education funding agreements.
Professor Noonan, from Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute, said that in the event of a Labor win at the next federal election, its promised inquiry into post-school education was unlikely to be completed soon enough to deal with the vocational education and training crisis.
“You could be looking at a two or three-year hiatus while the states continue to take funding out of VET,” he said.
Professor Noonan said major reform was needed.
“It can’t be incremental in nature, incremental change is a waste of time, particularly in VET,” he said.
Professor Noonan said the commonwealth should negotiate to revise the main VET funding agreement — the national partnership agreement for skills and development — to ensure that the states couldn’t withdraw funds without being penalised.
He also said the student loan scheme needed to be further extended to VET education so students in key vocational qualifications were not forced to pay upfront fees while higher education students escaped this burden.
Professor Noonan said it would be a big change to reform the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) to include vocational education, in “a full end-to-end design of the whole thing”.
He said people might find that daunting, but compared with the design and implementation of HECS in 1989, all of which happened in about 18 months, reforms shouldn’t be that difficult.
Professor Noonan said a new scheme needed to be properly actuarially costed, with income thresholds, pricing, and student and taxpayer contributions worked out.