|National Monday Update — 23 September 2019Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive|
Australia’s independent tertiary education system has a track record of providing students and their employers with the quality outcomes they are looking for. This is best demonstrated by the fact that more than 70% of the 4.1 million students in vocational education and training selected an independent provider, and close to 10% of the students in higher education also selected an independent provider.
The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), with the great support of our members, has been working to build the reputation of the sector. The effort has been considerable, working to create the regulatory environment that allows quality independent providers to develop innovative ways to support students whilst ensuring that minimum safeguards are in place. The biggest challenge that ITECA and Government has faced has been in defining what quality looks like.
That said, it’s easy to say what quality isn’t when it comes to tertiary education. The record $26.5 million penalty awarded against a rogue provider serves as a case study. The Federal Court has handed down a decision that highlights the business model of this provider, developed under the VET FEE-HELP program, which showed little care for students and that has caused immense damage to the reputation of the sector.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was right to take action and it is pleasing that an independent judicial process has identified the provider’s activities as having a callous indifference to students. ITECA supports strong and decisive action in these circumstances.
At the time the VET FEE-HELP program existed, ITECA advised the Australian Government of our concerns with the architecture of the program. Although the flexibility embedded by the program enabled many students gain valuable skills, it was also a program that was sadly exploited by some unscrupulous operators. Since the program closed a lot has changed.
Of course, recent examples in South Australia and Victoria have demonstrated that difficulties exists across the public and independent sectors in achieving the quality that best serves students and their employers. The reputation of the entire tertiary education system suffers when problems of this magnitude develop. These issues, and the overriding concern for the good health and reputation of the sector, underpins ITECA’s focus on using the positive experience of our members to support government as it seeks to reform the current regulatory and funding landscape.
ITECA has been at the forefront of changes to support quality in the independent tertiary education system. Our members played a key role in establishing the ITECA College of Vocational Education and Training Professionals that recognises the commitment of individual trainers, assessors and managers to quality.
Using the experience of our members, ITECA is actively engaged with the Australian Government to create a student-centric approach to regulation. The Joyce Review into the vocational education and training system is one important part of this policy advocacy.
The biggest task that ITECA has, and a challenge before government, is to define what quality in tertiary education looks like. Once we’ve done this, we can measure it and from there we can work with government to develop a co-regulatory model that protects students without creating mountains of red tape.
ITECA members are actively working to define quality across the independent tertiary education sector and it’s a great time to get involved in this work.
ITECA Chief Executive