Overseas students choose Australia for quality VET

A growing number of overseas students are coming to Australia for vocational education and training (VET) and the national regulator is committed to ensuring quality learning experiences.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) report on its strategic review into international education finds that overseas students have good experiences studying in Australia, however work is needed to ensure this continues to be the case.

ASQA’s Chief Commissioner and CEO, Mark Paterson AO, said strong demand from overseas students has seen an increase in the number of registered providers delivering VET courses to overseas students and offering English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS), or delivering training offshore.

“Our latest report is a comprehensive response to risks identified in Australia’s international VET and English language education markets,” Mr Paterson explained.

“We have found that a very high number of overseas students are satisfied with their experience gaining qualifications in Australia, so we can be confident that the majority of providers are delivering quality training.

“However more work is needed to make sure providers meet their obligations, and to ensure we have the right data to monitor activity and eliminate poor behaviour.

“We are committed to working in partnership with other government and industry bodies and the regulated community to address the complex and dynamic issues facing this growing sector.”

The report contains evidence that some VET providers are not meeting their obligations to ensure overseas students receive accurate information about their courses, meet the prerequisites for courses and participate in a minimum of 20 contact hours per week. It warns that providers failing to meet these obligations can cause significant harm to overseas students, undermine the community’s confidence in the VET sector and the student visa program, and impact providers that deliver quality VET courses.

The report’s recommendations include amending the National Code to make it explicit that overseas students are required to attend courses on a full-time basis, strengthening collaboration across agencies to ensure consistent access to data and intelligence and ensuring offshore students have the same protections as students in Australia.

ASQA will publish clear information for providers about expectations for delivering training to overseas students and continue work to identify and take action against providers not complying with their obligations.

The findings of the report will inform ASQA’s ongoing risk-based regulatory focus.

The full report, Protecting the quality of international VET and English language education, is available via the link below:

/Public Release. View in full here.

Further falls in VET funding reinforces urgent need to prioritise reform

Today’s release of a report on Government-funded vocational training by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) showing a further decline in investment, reinforces the urgency of action to prioritise reform of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, Australia’s largest and most representative business network, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said today

“The NCVER report reflects the importance for all Governments – Federal, State, and Territory – to focus attention on Vocational Education and Training (VET),” Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson, said today.

“In 2018, 1.1 million students were enrolled in government-funded VET, a decrease of 1.9% compared to 2017. Student enrolments also decreased by 5.7% during the same period, reflecting a drop in both Federal, State and Territory government funding commitment for VET. This underlines the urgency of VET reform.

“Prime Minister Morrison is a champion of skills reform, and we welcome the efforts of the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Michaelia Cash, to promote vocational training around the country as an equal option to higher education for school leavers.

“The announcements in the Federal Budget to implement a National Skills Commission and provide extra funding to apprenticeships, along with other measures, will help to shift the dial.

“The medium to long term objective, to raise VET government funding and deliver high-quality outcomes can only be achieved through all Governments working cooperatively through COAG, and with industry, to achieve genuine reform and funding growth.

“Business and government need to work together with schools, career advisers and training providers to encourage students to choose VET as a career pathway.

“As a community, we owe our young people, as well as those retraining later in life for new jobs, the best chances and choices for the best careers.”

The Australian Chamber is Australia’s largest network of employers, speaking for over 300,000 businesses employing millions of Australians in every sector of the economy, in every corner of Australia. Our Small Business is a Big Deal campaign gives voice to what small businesses need from the federal government, and our Getting on with Business recommends ways to make Australia the best place in the world to do business, so that Australians have the jobs, living standards and opportunities to which they aspire.

/Public Release. View in full here.

More TAFE funding answer to reversing VET decline

The best way to reverse the fall in enrolments at government-funded vocational education providers is to restore funding to TAFE and return it to being the primary provider of vocational education in Australia.

According to a new report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), student numbers, subject enrolments and training hours at public vocational training providers all fell in 2018.

AEU Federal TAFE Secretary Maxine Sharkey said that the Morrison Government’s obsession with private vocational education providers at the expense of TAFE was already hurting the career prospects of thousands of Australians who need access to affordable and high quality vocation education.

“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. However, it’s clear that years of funding cuts and official disinterest by successive Federal Coalition governments have left TAFE, our world-class publicly-owned vocational education provider, in a weakened state,” Ms Sharkey said.

“This has resulted in falling student numbers and TAFE campus closures. The solution is quite simple. We need a strong public TAFE sector that is fully funded.”

According to the NCVER figures, in 2018, compared with 2017:

  • estimated student numbers decreased by 1.9%
  • subject enrolments decreased by 5.7%
  • hours and full-year training equivalents (FYTEs) decreased by 6.4%

The figures also reveal that since 2013, the year the Federal Coalition was elected, the number of students in government-funded vocational education has fallen by 25%, from 1.48 million to 1.1 million. In addition, the number of hours of vocational education delivered has fallen by 28% between 2013 and 2018.

“The introduction of private-for profit education providers has been a disaster for Australia’s vocational education system,” Ms Sharkey said.

“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education – they are interested in profits.”

“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’ (read TAFE) out of business. Then it can jack up its prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Sharkey said.

“The Australian Skills Quality Authority, the Government’s own regulator, said parts of the Australian training market are already in a race to the bottom. The Productivity Commission has described the Australian VET system as a mess.”

Ms Sharkey said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Sharkey said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Marshall Govt’s VET plan will privatise TAFE by stealth

The Marshall Government’s new VET plan shows it is determined to sell South Australia’s TAFE system to the highest bidder and allow private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE students.

The plan will give profit-seeking private training providers access to TAFE SA sites at the same time that TAFE budgets in South Australia are being slashed.

AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe warned other states and territories not to follow suit, saying it would severely impact the ability of Australians to access affordable, high-quality vocational education. She said it would leave hundreds of thousands of trainees and apprentices across Australia at the mercy of profit-seeking private training providers.

“The Marshall Government’s agenda on vocational education is clear. It plans to wash its hands of responsibility for VET by privatising TAFE SA and allowing private training providers to line their pockets at the expense of students,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“It’s clear that big business is aligning with Liberal governments at both a state and federal level in a push to squeeze TAFE out completely and hand responsibility for vocational education to private providers.”

“The private sector’s idea of VET-sector competition is to drive down costs and standards and drive the ‘competition’-that means TAFE-out of business. Then it can jack up prices and force students to pay through the nose,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“TAFE is one of the crown jewels of the Australian education system. It has proudly provided vocational education for generations of Australians in everything from plumbing to nursing, childcare and IT.”

“The Marshall Government’s plan is a poorly-disguised bid by private training providers to line their own pockets at the expense of TAFE by hiding behind words like ‘choice’ and competition’,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that the Marshall Government’s new plan was the culmination of a years-long campaign to slash budgets and government support for TAFE SA:

  • SA government-funded VET student numbers have reduced from 150,000 in 2013 to just 63,000 in 2017
  • The SA Government’s total recurrent VET funding contribution has been cut by 40% since 2013, with recurrent VET expenditure per person now the second lowest in the country (after NSW)
  • Thirteen TAFE SA campuses have closed and more than 700 jobs have been lost, while moreTAFE campuses were earmarked for closure in the 2018 state budget

Ms Haythorpe said the moves by the Marshall Government to marginalise TAFE SA and favour private training providers were reflected nationally.

“Despite the clear and undisputed benefits that a robustly funded and administered public TAFE and vocational education sector provides our economy and our society, there has been a concerted and continual drive from successive Coalition governments to marginalise vocational education and deprioritise TAFE,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“This anti-TAFE push is gathering speed. In its first Federal Budget the Morrison Government included no additional specified funding for TAFE-amazingly, it failed to mention TAFE at all.”

“History has shown that private providers aren’t interested in quality education. ITECA represents profit-seeking private education providers and is focused on taking government TAFE funding and giving it to private providers,” Ms Haythorpe said.

Ms Haythorpe said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to restore confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Haythorpe said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

ITECA – TAFE SA Partnership Heralds New Training Era In South Australia

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) represents independent providers in the higher
education, vocational education and training sectors. It has entered into a new agreement with TAFE SA that
is designed to foster collaboration bet ween independent and pubic providers of vocational education and
training (VET) and TAFE SA to support students get the skills they need to support a growing economy.

The agreement will see ITECA and TAFE SA working together through joint policy priorities, professional
development initiatives, closer liaison regarding the scope of delivery offered by providers and access for
independent providers to publicly owned resources.

“This is an important agreement that signals the intent of the ITECA membership and TAFE SA to provide
the workforce with the skills that the South Australian workforce will need into the future,” said Troy
Williams, ITECA Chief Executive.

Beyond looking at what type of training is most needed, the agreement also paves the way for independent
providers to use TAFE SA’s facilities to support the provision of courses.

“This innovative agreement will enable all education and training providers, both public and independent.

to complement each other ensuring maximum benefit from the expertise and resources available in the
VET sector. As a result, South Australia will obtain greater value from the increased use of taxpayer -funded
facilities with benefits going to those in training.” Mr Williams said.

The South Australia n Education Minister, John Gardne r MP, said that this agreement is an important step
that ensures government and industry are working together to deliver the workforce South Australia needs
in the future.

“South Australian students and employers are the biggest winners from this announcement, which will see
both organisations strive to better coordinate course offerings and ensure the needs of industry across the
state are being met,” Minister Gardner said.

The ITECA State Of The Sector Report shows that in 2019 there were of the VET students resident in South
Australia, 134,700 were with an independent Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and 52,1200 with

“Th ese student numbers highlight the importance of th e relationship between the ITECA membership and
TAFE SA in suppo rting the training and reskilling of South Australia. It’s an agreement that serves as a
model for what can be achieved nationally when independent providers and the public TAFE system look at
the student needs and develop collaborative approaches that pu ts them first,” Mr Williams said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Concerns for TAFE SA following MOU sell out

The Australian Education Union (SA Branch) has raised serious concerns over today’s announcement by Minister Gardner regarding the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between TAFE SA and the Independent Tertiary Education Council of Australia (ITECA).

The agreement opens the door to private providers taking up residence at TAFE sites, directing policy and cherry picking the delivery of profitable courses.

ITECA is open about actively pursuing its reform agenda by increasing its private provider members’ share of the vocational education and training sector.

Australian Education Union South Australian President Howard Spreadbury is wary of how TAFE SA and ITECA will work together under this new agreement.

“The two organisations are in direct competition within the same market. Minister Gardner’s statement confirms he will allow private providers to further erode TAFE’s market share, compromise its independence and allow ITECA to push its own agenda,” said Mr Spreadbury.

Instead the AEU is calling for the Marshall Liberal Government to recognise the value of TAFE SA and to return appropriate investment levels, suggesting this would be a more effective way to make it more competitive and sustainable in the long term.

“TAFE SA is the largest provider of vocational education and training in the state and must be valued for its place within the community. TAFE SA provides quality education that is accessible to all, offering pathways for many who may otherwise miss out on opportunities.”

The AEU asserts that TAFE SA is already responsive to the needs of employers and works with industry groups to deliver quality training to build a skilled and sustainable workforce for South Australia.

There are concerns about how TAFE SA facilities may be used in the future. It may end up being more ‘competitive’ for TAFE SA under its new management to lease out its facilities rather than provide courses for students.

“It is like having a ‘fire sale’ after the place has been gutted. Instead of supporting and investing in TAFE SA, the Marshall Government is surrendering its responsibility and handing it over to private providers who are driven by profit,” said Mr Spreadbury.

“Letting private providers access taxpayer-funded facilities and set up in direct competition on TAFE SA’s own doorstep has the potential to undermine TAFE program delivery.”

/Public Release.

Ai Group welcomes focus on VET to drive economy

“Senator Michaelia Cash has today drawn a welcome line in the sand in placing vocational education and training on the same footing as higher education,” Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

“Australian industry is acutely aware that our transforming economy needs workers with the skills and capabilities developed through both sectors if we are to compete globally.

“Senator Cash’s speech at the National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference recognises that the VET system is critical to ensuring industry has the skilled workforce it needs to grow and to compete internationally. It provides the technicians, the tradespeople, the supervisors and the para-professionals that are needed in an Australian workforce adapting to new technologies and higher-level skills and capabilities.

“Digitalisation is transforming the economy and disrupting skill needs. Employers are facing significant skills shortages, particularly for technicians and trades with STEM capabilities, reflecting the changing tasks and jobs being created as new technologies enter all industry sectors. As with higher education, VET is under pressure to develop people with higher order STEM skills and broad enterprise skills for the digital economy. At the same time, it must develop the workers for occupations with innate people skills, such as the growing Community and Personal Services sector.

“Equally welcome is Senator Cash’s call for the VET system to better connect with industry and to have clear, consistent funding. Ai Group maintains that industry must have a stronger role at all levels to work through the current challenges dogging the system. We have previously highlighted that the funding of the VET system is inadequate, in terms of both the level and composition and its resourcing relative to both the higher education and school sectors.

“Ai Group has welcomed the recommendations of the Joyce Review, notably the implementation of a National Skills Commission, the National Careers Institute, apprenticeship reform and the pilot Skills Organisations. All these reforms strengthen VET, ensuring that industry is at the heart of the system that will be vital to develop skills for our future workforce.

“While we welcome the Government’s $525 million skills and training package, seeking amongst other measures to create up to 80,000 new apprentices, Ai Group is keen to work with the Government to implement broader reform. More can and must be done to:

  • align skills from education and training outcomes with industry needs through improved skills forecasting;
  • address critical workforce STEM skills shortages through education and skills training and funding for initiatives that enhance the VET sector’s role in filling these gaps, such as Ai Group’s Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeships;
  • review apprenticeship incentives, placing greater priority on high-skill occupations that will play key roles in the digital economy. In particular we call on the Government to extend the doubling of Commonwealth Employers Incentives to the engineering trades to ensure adequate trade skill development for the large defence procurement and ship building program and the supply chain;
  • support industry to develop workforce plans around their digital strategies, assess existing workers’ capabilities and train when necessary;
  • improve the foundational language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills of entrants to the workforce;
  • increase work-based and work integrated learning models underpinned by closer partnerships between industry and the education and training sector.

“Many of the challenges facing the VET sector are equally those that higher education faces. Ai Group believes there can be greater coherence between VET and higher education which would benefit the nation. Ai Group’s position paper, Realising Potential: solving Australia’s tertiary education, identifies the challenges and makes recommendations for post-secondary education in Australia.

“If the Australian economy is to continue to prosper and remain internationally competitive, it is vital to have access to a highly skilled and qualified workforce. With the rapid advance of technology and digitalisation, a higher level of skills for the workforce is more important than ever,” Mr Willox said.

/Public Release. View in full here.

Escape from country, but not your student loans

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will be contacting Australian expats this year reminding them that leaving Australia doesn’t mean leaving their student loans behind.

As at 31 January, there are over 3.2 million Australians with outstanding student loan debts, totalling over $66 billion. The ATO will be engaging with the Department of Home Affairs to identify those who leave or have already departed Australia. Individuals who leave or have already departed Australia with Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), Vocational Education & Training student loan (VSL) and Trade Support Loan (TSL) debts can expect to be contacted by the ATO in the coming months.

“We know it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving overseas. That’s why we’re reminding expats about obligations they may have forgotten back home,” said Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat.

“On average, it takes someone nine years to pay off their HELP debt. But for Australians who travel overseas and don’t make any repayments, it takes significantly longer.

“Moving overseas does not cancel student loan debts and your repayment obligations do not change with your address. Current laws give us the power to pursue these debts overseas,” Ms Foat said.

Under new rules, Australians with an income contingent loan travelling overseas need to notify the ATO of their new address and lodge an overseas travel notification. They should also report their worldwide income if they earn over $11,470 (AUD). Expats can lodge their tax returns through ATO’s online services via myGov.

“Expats should know that once their income reaches the new threshold of $45,881 for 2019-20, they need to be making repayments, just like anyone living in Australia,” Ms Foat said.

Individuals within Australia who have an income contingent loan are also required to make compulsory repayments against their study or training loan debt. The income threshold for 2019-20 is $45,881. It is important to tell your employer you have a study or training loan debt, so that the correct amount is withheld from your salary or wages.

More information on overseas repayments: ato.gov.au/Individuals/Study-and-training-support-loans/Overseas-repayments/

More information on study and training support loans: ato.gov.au/Individuals/Study-and-training-support-loans/

Details of the ATO’s data matching strategies are published at ato.gov.au/datamatching

Accessing myGov from overseas

If you can’t receive security codes by SMS to your Australian mobile number overseas, before you travel download the ‘myGov Access app’ to update your myGov sign-in option.

If you have a myGov account linked to the ATO and answer a secret question to sign in, you can continue using this option whilst overseas.

If security codes by SMS are switched on but you don’t have access to your Australian mobile number overseas, you will not be able to login your account. You’ll need to create a new myGov account and link to the ATO, you can do this whilst overseas using the ‘myGov Access app’ as your sign-in option.

Income contingent loans include:

Income Contingent loan No. of individuals Amount owed
HELP (Higher Education Loan Program) 2.8 million $62.9 billion
SFSS (Student Financial Supplement Scheme) – scheme closed in 2003 165,409 $2.1 billion
SSL (Student Start-up Loan) 161,768 $406 million
ABSTUDY SSL 3,119 $7.2 million
TSL (Trade Support Loan) 88,926 $631.6 million
VSL (Vocational Education & Training student loan) from 1 July 2019 n/a n/a

Top 5 international destinations for Australians with income contingent loans

Top 5 Country Number of Australians
1 United Kingdom 12,296
2 United States 5,569
3 New Zealand 2,632
4 Canada 2,444
5 Hong Kong 2,111
/Media Release. View in full here.


EDministrate is a consultancy business focused on helping providers of Vocational Education and Training services grow and improve. We offer a range of specialised products and services related to quality, audit and compliance for Registered Training Organisations.
We are committed to providing excellence in the work we do to support our clients, focusing on improving productivity and performance for their organisations as we understand the dynamic and challenging environments they operate in.

Vocational education and training in spotlight at roundtable talks


  • Indonesian-Australian talks will focus on VET in mining and tourism sectors
  • Indonesia is the biggest economy in South-East Asia


Asian Engagement Minister Peter Tinley will participate in roundtable talks today aimed at improving Western Australia’s offering of vocational education and training (VET) in the mining and tourism sector for Indonesia.

The roundtable was jointly organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, Canberra; the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Perth; the Indonesian Investment Promotion Centre, Sydney; the Indonesian Trade Promotion Centre, Sydney; and the Australia Indonesia Business Council.

Western Australia already contributes up to 40 per cent of Australia’s total exports to Indonesia. Events such as the Indonesia-Australia Roundtable are key drivers to supporting the upskilling of Indonesia’s workforce through the promotion of VET opportunities.

It is anticipated that the March signing of the long-awaited Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) will come under the spotlight during the roundtable.

The IA-CEPA offers new opportunities for Indonesians to receive training from Australian training providers in both Indonesia and Australia, and to grow the number of Indonesian students seeking to study in Australia.

Indonesian students made up 2.2 per cent (1,121) of WA’s international student population in 2018 – the 16th biggest student population by nationality in the State.

Increasing the number of Indonesian students will help boost the local economy, create jobs and add to the social and cultural vibrancy of the broader community in WA.

As stated by Asian Engagement Minister Peter Tinley:

“Roundtables such as these are vitally important for WA’s VET ties with Indonesia which is already a key regional and global player and forecast to become the world’s fourth biggest economy by 2050.

“Given our special relationship with our nearest Asian neighbour, we need to work harder to improve its current ranking of 16th place in the rankings by nationality of students in WA and encourage more Indonesian students to live and study in Perth.”

As stated by Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery:

“These roundtable discussions help develop important networks and increase VET opportunities in neighbouring countries.

“Encouraging Indonesian students to engage with WA’s education service providers will help boost our economy and create jobs.”

/Public Release. View in full here.