AFE Queensland’s financial performance is at risk because of declining student numbers, the state’s auditor-general has warned.
According to a Queensland Audit Office report, TAFE Queensland is struggling due to decreasing student numbers and revenue, without an equivalent reduction in expenses.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at Acacia Ridge’s TAFE Skill Centre during the 2017 election campaign.CREDIT:TRACEY NEARMY/AAP
“There are risks to its sustainability,” Auditor-General Brendan Worrall’s report reads.
“TAFE Queensland requires ongoing support from the Queensland government to remain financially sustainable.”
TAFE Queensland’s attempts to reduce expenses were unsuccessful, largely due to employee costs and system implementation issues, the report said.
TAFE was expected to make an $11 million loss in the 2019 financial year, while its operating surplus plunged from $19.96 million in 2017 to $1.42 million in 2018.
The competitive market also heaped pressure on TAFE, with 69 per cent of students enrolled in courses in Queensland being delivered by private providers.
TAFE Queensland delivered training to more than 120,000 students in 2017-18 across 530 programs.
The Queensland government provided grants and subsidies of $762.1 million to public and private providers last year, of which $336.7 million was given to TAFE Queensland.
Training Minister Shannon Fentiman accused the federal Coalition government of cutting funding but said no other provider could match TAFE Queensland for scale and location options.
“TAFE Queensland ensures high-quality outcomes for students and employers – more than 85 per cent of students are employed or in further study after completing their course,” she said.
In a letter to the auditor-general, TAFE Queensland chief executive Mary Campbell said the body serviced rural and remote areas of the state and supported students affected by the closure of private providers.
“This responsiveness and high quality of TAFE Queensland’s education and training provisions is fundamental to the successful operation of (the) vocational education and training sector in Queensland, however it must be acknowledged that this comes at a cost,” she said.
LNP leader Deb Frecklington accused the state government of not having a plan to manage the body.
“Under (Premier) Annastacia Palaszczuk and her TAFE system, we’ve had senior execs being wined and dined and flown around the world at a cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayer of Queensland,” she said.
Last year’s estimates hearings revealed TAFE’s hospitality expenses doubled in three years and $687,525 was spent on international travel.