Claire Field on the need for more transparent regulation


As a former VET regulator – the staff at TEQSA and ASQA have my sympathies

The tertiary education sector is currently undergoing enormous change, given;

*  no clear timeframe on the re-opening of Australia’s borders to international students

* the removal of work limits on international students working in tourism and hospitality

* changes to the 408 COVID-19 Pandemic Event visa potentially enabling a “gap year” for some international students

* $26m in funding being provided for 5,000 non-university higher education short courses , and

* expectations of an additional $1bn in government VET funding via an extension of the JobTrainer scheme.

In this environment, some providers are drastically cutting costs and struggling to retain international students, while others are trying to quickly ramp up capacity to deliver new programmes.

It is therefore crucial the regulators have their fingers on the pulse.

Both the Australian Skills Quality Authority and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency are committed to transparent decision making and want the providers they regulate to have confidence in their decision making.

TEQSA publishes summaries of most of its audit findings. These reports provide a valuable insight into its decision making on what constitutes a problem and expectations for how providers should address them.

In TEQSA’s most recent re-registration report the details reported differ from those for previous audits, see for example this re-registration summary from February or this earlier one. It is to be hoped that more detailed advice continues to be provided in future TEQSA audit summaries.

Meanwhile, the sector is still waiting for ASQA to start publishing provider audit reports/summaries.

More transparency in regulatory decision making is vital as VET and higher education providers work through this period of significant change and uncertainty.

Finally – a quick note on last week’s column on the government’s $53m package for independent tertiary education providers. A gremlin crept into the publishing process and deleted my introductory sentence. While I have real concerns that the funding will not go far enough, my column started by commending the government for the investment they are making.

 Claire Field is the host of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast. She’ll unpack the Budget measures in the next episode, out on Friday. Listen for free in your favourite podcast app oonline.