Claire Field on VET reform that works


If we are to achieve greater funding certainty for the tertiary sector leaders  need to understand the impact of reforms on all institutions

With reforms looming in VET and higher education, I have been reflecting on university and TAFE funding in this column in recent weeks.

There is, of course, another group, independent VET and higher education providers, which are also impacted by government funding changes.

Beyond negative media headlines, many CMM readers may not know much about these institutions. Some may consider their students do not deserve public funding.

The reality is that some students at independent providers do receive government funding and even at the last election Labor was not looking to remove it. The impact of reform on these providers and their students therefore also needs to be considered.

Tertiary education funding is said to “baffle Australian governments” and to be “to some extent politically driven”, i.e. the proverbial political football.

When considering the next wave of higher education and VET reforms we need to understand that changes made in one part of the system impact other providers and their students, for example, Victoria’s Free TAFE programme triggered a noticeable decline in enrolments at some universities, as well as significant damage to independent providers.

If we are to achieve greater funding certainty for the tertiary sector, then leaders across the sector need to understand the impact of reforms on all institutions. Otherwise policymakers are able to “play favourites” and introduce reforms which benefit some but bring negative consequences for other institutions and students.

When that happens, those who are impacted press the issue politically… and the footy restarts with the next change of government.

The more opportunities there are for discussion within the sector, the greater the likelihood of achieving reforms which balance student choice with the need for institutions to confidently plan for the future.

And for those who may be dubious about independent providers – check out Encompass Community Services.

Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector. She has no affiliation with Encompass Community Services