Funding to the vocational sector has been dramatically slashed by the Federal Government, new figures reveal, with training providers copping a $1.6 billion cut to their combined budgets.The National Centre for Vocational Education Research has released its most recent financial report, from 2016, which shows funding declined by 27.3 per cent.
State governments have also cut back their funding to the vocational education and training (VET) sector by 13 per cent.
Unions said the figures proved the VET and TAFE sector had been routed.
“It really reveals a system in crisis,” according to the Australian Education Union’s federal TAFE secretary, Pat Forward.
“This is no longer a question of the system struggling, it’s not a bit of a problem around the edges, this shows a fundamental and very significant decline.
“The damage that this is causing in the system is really being shown every day.”
But the Federal Government said the figures proved its reforms to rein in massive cost blow-outs in the final years of the student loan scheme VET FEE-HELP had been successful.
Under the Gillard government, these loans became available to thousands of students at private colleges.
The Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, Karen Andrews, said a reduction in these loans to private colleges accounted for half of the decline in overall Federal Government funding to this sector.
“The figures show the effectiveness of the steps taken by the Government in 2015, and again in 2016, to curb unsustainable growth, address unscrupulous behaviour, and protect students and taxpayers,” Ms Andrews said.
The Government said while spending on non-government-provider loans had dropped significantly, total recurrent federal funding increased in 2016 to a “record high” of $2.2 billion.
The AEU described the Government’s explanation of the figures as “rubbish”.
Ms Forward said the claim that the funding cuts were based on changes to the student loan scheme did not add up.
“If you just look at the Government funding without counting VET FEE-HELP, you can see that the overall funding has declined at any even more significant rate than the VET FEE-HELP,” she said.