New approach at ASQA as Paterson announces exit

The feds signal a new approach for the training regulator and Chief Commissioner Mark Paterson “steps down”

what’s happened: The government will respond to “key recommendations” in the Braithwaite review of the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s legislation and the Joyce review of the VET system.

“Improving the quality of VET is a priority of the Australian Government, and this includes ensuring the sector’s regulatory environment is reasonable, transparent and effective,” Employment and Skills portfolio minister Michaelia Cash said Friday.

Minister Cash added “the proposed shift in direction for ASQA provides an appropriate time” for Mr Paterson, “to step down.”

why: The announcement follows long and loud criticism of ASQA’s regulatory approach to private providers of training. In August, Liberal MP Andrew Laming gave the agency a federer of a serve in the House of Reps over its treatment of registered training organisations (CMM August 2).

And the Joyce Review reported; “While there was general acceptance of the need for a robust national regulator, particularly after the damage caused to the reputation of the vocational education sector during the VET FEE-HELP scheme, there was a strong sense that the approach the regulator is taking to its role is causing its own problems. Most concerningly, industries and RTOs in a number of jurisdictions, particularly smaller ones with thin training markets, cited examples of good long-term smaller providers leaving the sector because of the perceived risks and compliance costs associated with the way the ASQA regulatory regime is currently being implemented.”

Mr Joyce recommended ASQA educate rather than just regulate; “a measure of a good regulator is not so much who it catches out as ensuring that the whole regulated community is operating confidently and effectively within the regulations set by the governing jurisdiction. Viewed in that way, the provision of guidance and advice is a crucial part of the role.”

And in her review of the ASQA legislation ANU academic Valerie Braithwaite proposed; “ultimately, the way ASQA should regulate for quality (as opposed to sufficiency) is to look at how well RTOs go about setting their own higher standards, checking if such standards are met, motivating through praise and encouragement and support when they have achieved improvement, and advising on options when they have not.”

who’s on next: ASQA deputy chief commissioner, Saxon Rice will act as chief commissioner from October 7. She is a former Queensland state assistant minister for technical and further education in the 2012-15 LNP government.

what observers reckon: The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia was quick to back the government, stating, “new leadership at ASQA, will offer the transparency, consistency and timeliness of regulatory decision-making.”

so that’s ASQA sorted: Not entirely – the Australian National Audit Office announces ASQA is a “potential” target for an effectiveness audit in 2019-20.


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