by CLAIRE FIELD
There is concern at the proposal for VET student vouchers
The Commonwealth Government is relying on the Productivity Commission to help shape its next multi-year VET funding agreement with states and territories.
The Commission invited submissions on its Interim Report and yesterday had published 74 of them. I expect there are more to be uploaded as submissions from some peak bodies are missing. There is also only one from a university – with La Trobe University cautioning against policy proposals based on the premise that increasing university participation might be “sub-optimal.”
Across the submissions there is almost universal concern with the Commission’s proposals for more contestable funding and student vouchers. That said, there was a compelling argument made for more contestability, in the submission from the Alliance of First Nations’ Independent Education and Training Providers. The negative impact of the current funding agreement on Indigenous providers and learners is not widely recognised and must be urgently addressed.
Many submissions are concerned, as I am, with the Commission’s recommendations to treat TAFE as just another provider and hence increase contestability. I thought this was because most states had not articulated a clear role for TAFE and its consequent funding requirements. In my submission I missed that the role of TasTAFE has not only been articulated, it is legislated.
I was surprised at the strong level of support across the submissions for private providers to receive government funding – albeit some suggested a 30 percent funding cap.
The three government submissions (NSW, Tasmania and ACT) do not support nationally consistent student subsidies, but this funding reform may yet emerge given they support the National Skills Commission costing VET courses and this is likely to subsequently drive greater consistency.
The Australian Skills Quality Authority makes a very interesting, considered submission.
I will tease out more of the issues in a detailed analysis of the submissions on my website next week.