Saturday, July 6, 2013

TAFE'S IN A RACE FOR THE BOTTOM?

TAFE scandals inevitable in race to bottom by: Andrew Trounson and John Ross
The Australian
June 27, 2013


IT is only a matter time before public TAFEs become embroiled in the same rorts that have hit the private sector as moves to marketised training focuses competition on price and drives a race to the bottom on quality, vocational training expert Leesa Wheelahan has warned.

Speaking at a La Trobe University education policy seminar last week, Dr Wheelahan said that in Victoria TAFEs are now largely funded on the same basis as private providers following last year's cuts to  their "full service provider" funding and course funding rates, forcing TAFE down the same cut-price path as private providers.

"It isn't just driving down quality in private providers, it must inevitably drive down quality in TAFE," Dr Wheelahan told the seminar.

"You will start to see scandals and rorts in TAFE. There is no escape from this," she said. She warned that quality has proven to be "laughable'' with some private providers not even charging students fees and just taking the public subsidy, and that TAFE won't be able to maintain standards because they will lose students chasing the lowest price courses on offer.

Unlike the university sector where quality and status is associated with higher prices, but in the emerging VET markets institutions can only compete on price in providing homogenised training packages.

In Victoria, where competition with private colleges has been most intense, reports have circulated about TAFEs cutting corners or gaming funding rules to prop up their bottom lines.

Reported rorts include TAFEs maximising funding by simultaneously enrolling students in multiple qualifications, including basic literacy training that they don't need. One TAFE was accused of delivering unnecessary training to its own staff, and of engaging a subcontractor who delivered fast-tracked courses and encouraged people to enrol with promises to pay for truck licences.

Last year Skills Minister Peter Hall told parliament that a large TAFE had enrolled the same person simultaneously in seven different programs, and that Holmesglen TAFE was offering eight-day diplomas for $999  although he stressed he wasn't questioning that scheme's legitimacy. Holmesglen said the scheme was for students with substantial prior learning.


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