An approach that is not very well thought out can cause significant knee jerk reactions. This is exactly what we all are experiencing from ASQA. The poor implementation and monitoring of VET FEE-HELP scheme and the way a few private and public organisations took advantage and rorted the funding is still causing significant nightmares for private organisations.
Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), is at present, playing a cat-and-mouse game. The impression is that the focus is not to promote and enhance education standards and training outcomes but rather finding the “bad people in the sector”. The problem is the rule book of “bad people” is developed by the regulator, approved by them and implemented without much needed industry consultation or any sort of background history of involvement in any kind of unethical or criminal activities.
There is no doubt that ASQA’s audit processes are inconsistent and that RTO’s are being deemed critically non-compliant for minor administrative issues and at the same time not allowed a forum for raising questions or concerns.
None of us have time for truly bad performers, but the vast majority of independent VET providers are focused on providing students with quality outcomes.
Good providers attempting to do the right thing need to be able to rely on advice and guidance from the regulator to help them strengthen their compliance.
There is a significant difference between administrative non-compliance and criminal activities, and we believe that organisations should not be punished or penalised for minor administrative mistakes. No one is perfect and expecting organisations to be or otherwise imposing a penalty on them is causing significant stress and setting them up for failure.
Most of the time, the legislative guidelines and instruments are the problems that actually create the compliance issues. A few examples are:
- VET Student Loans; Well these were just a mess from the beginning, with little or no direction taken from industry input and ended as a disaster.
- Giving training providers the choice of reporting either attendance monitoring or course progress for International students; When a training organisation chooses which option they want to report and follows this, the regulatory body will then audit them on the other.
- English-level of international students; The Australian government has been known to provide student visas for a number of countries without any language testing conducted.
We, as industry experts and stakeholders are expecting ASQA and Government to take some drastic steps to restore the confidence training organisations should have in the regulatory body. The reason for their existence is “To enhance and protect the Australian education and training system”. The industry wants to see an effective regulator that faithfully enforces its regulatory framework in a timely, transparent and consistent manner and in accordance with model litigant requirements.