Private VET and HE providers: how many and doing what


Discussions about education frequently focus on the merits of public versus private. These debates though rarely go much further in examining different types of providers or the growing importance of organisations providing key services to the sector

For example, few people in VET or higher education would appreciate that “private” or “independent” providers include large numbers of non-profits, industry associations, religious organisations and others.

Even among those interested in understanding commercial, for-profit, providers there is typically little awareness of the number and type of institutions which are publicly listed. While IDP is fairly widely known to be ASX-listed, and there were a number of media stories at the time Navitas went private, there is little broader awareness of this part of the sector. Yet the public disclosure requirements of being a listed company mean these organisations actually publish much more information about their operations than other private providers.

There are at least 22 ASX-listed companies involved in education and training in Australia (and often also overseas).

They include some which operate educational businesses which are a relatively small part of their overall operations such as APM, SEEK (through its Investment Fund), and Verbrec. Other organisations like ReadyTech and TechnologyOne offer important technology platforms for the sector – but again this is as part of a much broader suite of offerings to organisations operating in a range of other industry areas.

And then there are those organisations which specialise in tertiary education. A number have a strong international education focus, some are focussed on domestic students, and others on EdTech.

With governments across Australia investing heavily in private tertiary education during the pandemic (through JobTrainer funding in VET and funding for Undergraduate Certificates in higher education) and with the significant shift to on-line education, it is surprising that only a small number of ASX-listed education stocks outperformed the broader All Ordinaries index over the last three years. (My website has more details).

In part this is no doubt due to some organisations being heavily involved in international education, but it is probably not the full explanation and it would be good to see this part of the sector more widely understood and discussed.

 Claire Field is an adviser to the tertiary education sector