Acpet battles budget cuts and regulatory fees

August 06, 2013


The Australian Council for Private Training and Education (Acpet) has criticised hefty recent regulatory fee increases that it says could force many colleges out of business, while government cuts to the apprenticeship and traineeship system also pose threats in what Acpet described as “the darkest days for Australia’s training sector”.

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Last week regulatory body Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) introduced a new range of fees as it moves towards a full cost-recovery model from providers. ASQA said the fees, which took immediate effect, had been approved by the Ministerial Council on Tertiary Education, the government and Brendan O’Connor, Minister for Skills and Training.

Claire Field, Acpet CEO, said that although Acpet was pleased ASQA has acted on its advice in reducing annual registration fees for small RTOs (registered training organisations), it was extremely concerned by other substantial increases. “The costs of regulation for a medium-size provider have skyrocketed under the new fee schedule,” said Field.

“Already these fees are too high and the government’s commitment to move ASQA towards full-cost recovery threatens the livelihood of providers across the spectrum.” Acpet gave the example of a medium-sized provider with 36 qualifications: across a five-year cycle fees increase three-fold from AUS$16,040 (US$14,433) to AUS$47,415 (US$42,655).

Field criticised the move towards full-cost recovery, saying that students and employers expect the government to play a role in funding regulation in line with the greater social and economic benefits that result from training.

A further blow to the sector came with an announcement by the Australian Treasurer and Finance Minister that the budget for apprenticeships and traineeships would be slashed by AUS$241.6 million (US$217.3 million).

Although the budget cuts relate to domestic training, they threaten the sustainability of institutions that also host international students. “Collectively these decisions will gouge millions of dollars from training providers. The combined cuts and fees increases will weaken the financial viability of hundreds of training providers and results in an unprecedented number of providers closing their doors,” said Field.

In light of the forthcoming elections in Australia, Acpet recently issued a policy statement on international education, which called on the future government to support the scope, diversity and contribution of private education institutions and apply regulation and risk management evenly across the international education sector, including streamlining student visa assessment levels for non-university providers and extending post-study work rights to VET students.

International student recruitment struggles in the VET sector were highlighted by the year-to-date June 2013 international student data recently released by Australian Education International. VET was again the only sector with a decline in commencements (down six per cent). The international education sector as a whole recorded 3.4 per cent growth in commencements for year-to-date June 2013, compared with the same period last year.

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