ASQA inquiry recommends a student ombudsman and better teachers

The newly released Braithwaite report on ASQA’s legislation proposes a tertiary sector ombudsman and calls for action to raise teaching quality in the system.

Valerie Braithwaite (ANU) is a leading expert on education regulation, undertaking, with Kwong Lee Dow, the transformative 2013 review of TEQSA that ensured the agency’s survival.

In this new report on the act governing the Australian Skills Quality Authority she argues that, “as the higher education and VET sectors come closer together in meeting Australia’s tertiary education needs, the problems that students are likely to have will increasingly lie at their interface. Rather than requiring some patchwork of dispute resolution, this review recommends a leap forward to have the institutional infrastructure in place to meet future student demands.”

The government says it supports the proposal and commits to federal agencies working on the constitutional issues involved on organising national oversight of state training systems.

Professor Braithwaite makes 23 recommendations, focused on ASQA’s operating environment, working with providers and student assistance.

She also recommends requiring colleges to report on teacher quality and to implement plans to approve it and for the Commonwealth to create a career path for VET teachers with a new position of master assessor, “at the pinnacle of the VET teacher/trainer career path with the responsibility to mentor through professional development programs and assess the quality of an RTO’s next cohort of graduating students.”

The federal government, says it will ask officials to look at this.

Overall, Professor Braithwaite faintly praises the Australian Skills Quality Authority; “the review has not found that, at this stage of the evolution of the regulatory framework, there are major deficits in its functions and powers that disable ASQA from appropriately regulating the current VET environment. “

Compared to the VET FEE HELP catastrophe that occurred while ASQA’s previous regulatory model was in place this is a good result for the agency. But not good enough, Professor Braithwaite adds the authority can do more with what it has; “deepening the quality of regulatory conversations in ways that sharpen and refine existing tools is the imperative rather than creating a wide range of new formal powers.”

Reaction: Yesterday TAFE Directors Association chief executive Craig Robertson was quick to support the review, saying “for the first time in a long while a report brings together many aspects which form the ingredient of quality learning outcomes for students.”

Mr Robertson was a member of the expert panel that assisted Professor Braithwaite.

However, Labor VET spokesman Doug Cameron was less impressed, suggesting it was “a partial review” “severely limited by the Turnbull Government’s narrow terms of reference.” “The fundamental design of the system is flawed and no amount of regulatory tweaking will ensure quality student outcomes,” he said.


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