In April 2016, we published an article (found here) highlighting the intention of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to set up a new audit panel. If you would like to know what lead to this and what is likely to be targeted, then read on!
Who is ASQA?
ASQA is the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector and ‘is tasked with ensuring that registered training organisations (RTOs) deliver quality training and assessment’.
ASQA’s 2015 Report
On 20 October 2015, ASQA released a report after its audit of 21 of RTOs that were registered as VET FEE-HELP providers.
The three key concerns being audited were:
- The accuracy of marketing and information provided to potential students
- The advice provided to potential students during enrolment, and
- The information provided to students before enrolment.
Which standards were reviewed as part of the audit?
Standard 1: The RTOs training and assessment strategies and practices are responsive to industry and learner needs and meet the requirements of training packages and VET accredited courses.
Standard 2: The operations of the RTO are quality assured.
Standard 4: Accurate and accessible information about an RTO, its services and performance is available to inform prospective and current learners and clients.
Standard 5: Each learner is properly informed and protected.
What was the outcome of the report?
The audit results were broadly categorised into four groups:
- Seven RTOs were in full compliance
- Eight RTOs raised some issues, which led to the implementation of conditions
- One RTO had its registration cancelled
- Five RTOs were still subject to scrutiny
Recent reforms to VET FEE-HELP
Some of the reforms include:
- There are now stronger rules for marketing and recruitment. This means that when courses are being advertised it is now against the rules for providers to use VET FEE-HELP as a drawcard for signing students up to a course, offering free iPads, computers or sign up bonuses for students, or even to publish misleading and incorrect information regarding VET FEE-HELP.
- Training providers to remove barriers from students withdrawing from study and to provide students with clear information should they wish to withdraw from a unit of study, including information on the census date and how that interacts with withdrawing from the study.
- A ‘two day gap’ (business days) delay period before students can apply for VET FEE-HELP. After enrolling, students will not be able to submit their ‘Request for VET FEE-HELP loan form’ until at least two business days after they have enrolled in studies.
- If a student is under 18 years of age they will need a parent or guardian to sign a ‘request for VET FEE-HELP loan form’ to apply for a VET FEE-HELP loan.
- Tuition fees must be evenly spread across at least three fee-periods throughout a student’s course. If a student withdraws they will only have to pay for the parts of their course undertaken for which the census date has passed.
- Training providers now have to issue students with ‘VET FEE-HELP Invoice notices’ no less than 14 days before the census date. This is so students know exactly how much debt they have before the census date and have enough time to withdraw from the course before the census date, should they want to, without getting a VET FEE-HELP debt.
- As part of ASQA’s bolstered audit capabilities, ASQA may decide to ‘finalise’ the audit process and immediately begin the process for making a formal decision about the provider’s registration. Up to this point, typically providers were given 20 working days to rectify issues identified during the audit process and provide evidence of this rectification to ASQA before the audit was finalised. Going forward, depending on the level of risk and the seriousness of concerns identified, an RTO may no longer be provided with two opportunities to submit rectification evidence before ASQA finalised its decision making process.
ASQA’s FOCUS IN FUTURE?
16 of the 21 RTOs that were part of the audit had been the subject of a number of complaints to ASQA. The remaining 5 were randomly selected.
In its report, ASQA states that ‘complaints have been a reliable indication of RTOs that may be in breach of the Standards, with the compliance outcomes for those RTOs without complaints generally better than those for those with complaints.’
This reinforces ASQA’s use of complaints as an indicator of non-compliance.
ASQA has particular concern regarding learners who are enrolled in courses where they do not have the required prerequisite skills.
Another concern is the level of information provided to learners prior to enrolment, particularly regarding their rights and obligations in relation to entering and exiting training contracts.
Amount of Training
The shorter a courses timeframe, the greater is AQSA’s concern. AQSA sees an increase in the number of courses being delivered ‘significantly short timeframes than those reasonable required to ensure learners gain the competencies specified in the training package’.
Capability of trainers and assessors
The primary concern is the Certificate IV Training and Assessment qualification and ASQA will apply additional regulatory scrutiny to RTOs delivering this training product.
TIPS FOR RTOs:
- Get a bit of information from prospective learners prior to enrolment. A suggestion could be to set up a course checklist which sets out the appropriate pre-requisites and ensure that the RTO completes a check list for each prospective learner.
- Don’t try and compete by offering the shortest timeframes possible. This is a clear indicator for AQSA as it tries to improve training standards.
- Make sure that your trainers and assessors have the skill and expertise to provide the training. Keep a record of their CV’s and make a note of their experience and why they are fit for the job.
- Whilst you can never satisfy everyone, the greater the satisfaction of the learner, the less likely it will be that they will make a complaint to ASQA. If no complaint is made, the chances of an audit are likely to drastically reduce.
WANT TO GET IN TOUCH?
If you do not have the time to devote to this process Birchgrove Legal is highly experienced in this area and can provide you with advice and assistance at any stage of the process.
Hamza Alameddine | Principal Solicitor
M: +61 424 747 799
Office: 1300 857 527