By CLAIRE FIELD
In the last six months, I have written four times on VET regulatory reform in this column, hosted two podcast episodes which interviewed experts on ASQA’s regulatory approach, and in each of my subscription updates on the sector I include a separate regulatory section.
As one subscriber commented recently “you know the regulation section is often larger than the other sections in your updates – what does that say?”
Many would say “that’s enough, move on” … and I would be pleased to if the issues had been fixed. Sadly, for everyone in the sector, not least students and employers, we are not there yet.
Social media has been running hot with concerns about how the Australian Skills Quality Authority will exercise its new powers (contained in legislation currently before the parliament). Some of the concerns are legitimate and the changes will need external scrutiny as they are implemented.
Other aspects of the legislation, such as the publication of ASQA audit reports and allowing government to publish provider-level data, merely move VET into the 21st century. These changes will bring the same level of transparency to VET as currently applies in the higher education sector, with Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency’s audit findings being reported publicly and higher education provider-level data being widely available.
I note the call from the CEO of Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia this week for changes to ASQA’s governance, to separate out the role of CEO from chief commissioner. With the coalition party room having just agreed to introduce another VET regulatory bill into the parliament, National VET Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill, and peak bodies having been briefed on its contents – let’s hope the new legislation includes the change which is being signalled.
Appointing a group of commissioners to oversight the work of ASQA (as the government did with TEQSA some years ago) would be a good move, allowing for more scrutiny of ASQA and more accountability.
Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education