An even playing field for tertiary education in Australia
TAFE institutes across Australia are concerned about the potential distortionary effect of the extension of Commonwealth Supported Places demand-driven funding to sub-bachelor qualifications, as announced in the Higher Education reform package.
The proposal to extend CSPs to university sub-bachelor courses is duplicative and difficult to justify, from either a financial or efficiency perspective. Past experiences suggest that such a move would see a rapid expansion of higher education delivery at the diploma and advanced diploma level, which would displace existing public investment within the VET sector, and ultimately call into question the viability of TAFE. The proposed ‘test’ of industry relevance for the courses and the approval by the Department and the Minister would duplicate the industry engagement arrangements already in place in the VET sector. The funding gap between equivalent courses delivered by VET and higher education providers is not justified by differences in labour market outcomes. Moreover, the proposal distorts student choice and ultimately fails on the public policy test of equitable access to tertiary education for Australians.
The urgent priority is to align regulation, funding and industry engagement across both sectors. This approach would lead to more diverse and complementary offerings between the sectors, and to students being able to choose pathways that are best suited to their learning style and ability to pay. Ultimately, outcomes of the sectors would better align with the economic and social demands of the Australian economy, leading to more efficient use of capital and recurrent resources between the sectors, particularly in regional areas.
TDA supports the proposal by the Government for a comprehensive review of the AQF and Higher Education Provider Category Standards. A revitalised framework and open standards can be used in a more pro-active way to create diversity in tertiary education offerings in Australia. Education and training makes up a major part of Australia’s services industry, and is among our most important exports. Outcomes from the reviews should be designed to build flexibility and diversity across all of tertiary education as pre-conditions to responding to emerging challenges in skills and innovation required for Australia’s high skill, high wage,
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