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ASQA 1st year of operationsThe government has announced legislative and other changes to deal with rogue training providers and better protect students.

The new measures will intent to:

  • stop providers from offering incentives to students, like cash and laptops, to get them to sign up to courses that they don't need
  • stop marketing agents and brokers 'freelancing' to sign up as many students as possible, without being covered by any regulator
  • give students more information that helps them understand that VET FEE-HELP loans are real debts that impact their credit rating and have to be repaid
  • make it impossible for providers to levy all fees in a single transaction, giving students more opportunity to consider their options before VET FEE-HELP debts can be incurred
  • protect vulnerable students by requiring providers to properly assess students before enrolment

The government has produced the fact sheet VET FEE-HELP to help students make informed choices about undertaking VET courses of study.

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asqa logoTargeted audits of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) will address allegations of unscrupulous marketing and other practices intended to exploit the Australian Government's VET FEE-HELP program.

Assistant Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said the national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), would undertake a total of 23 audits of RTOs including of providers who had been identified through complaints made to the authority.

"Our government is determined to stop training providers ripping off vulnerable students and taxpayers through the VET FEE-HELP program," Senator Birmingham said.

"We have already launched a new complaints hotline to give students and employers a simple way to report rogue training providers, and announced a boost to ASQA's budget to bolster its ability to investigate and act upon abuse.

"New, tougher national Standards are also being implemented, requiring RTOs to provide enhanced information to prospective students about the courses they are signing up for as well as requiring RTOs to report any new brokering or third-party arrangements they may have to ASQA.

"These actions are just the beginning with further reforms being developed to ensure both students and taxpayers receive value for money from VET FEE-HELP."

Senator Birmingham said ASQA's targeted audits and wider VET FEE-HELP strategy – being undertaken in addition to the authority's ongoing regulatory work – proved it was also committed to stamping out the alleged behavior.

"Any training providers found to be engaged in practices that are contrary to the required national Standards could face regulatory sanctions, including the cancelation or suspension of their registration," he said.

ASQA Chief Commissioner Christopher Robinson said the overwhelming majority of RTOs provided quality training and assessment services that enable students to learn the skills they needed for work.

"Under the new national Standards, RTOs are required to provide students with information including any VET FEE-HELP, government funded subsidy or other financial support arrangements and any obligations to repay any debt incurred," Mr Robinson said.

"ASQA has already proven its willingness to take tough action against training providers who did not meet the required standards.

"Since it was established on 1 July 2011, ASQA has refused 15.6% of applications received to set up new RTOs and 6.1% of applications received to re-register existing RTOs because they did not meet the required standards."

Senator Birmingham said he would also write to the Australian Consumer and Competition Authority (ACCC) and work with state and territory ministers through the Council of Australian Governments Industry and Skills Council to discuss further consumer protection measures which may be required.

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reg bannerASQA currently has delegation arrangements in-place with 27 RTOs – mostly TAFEs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
RTOs were required to meet the following criteria to be eligible for a delegation of regulatory responsibility:

  • the RTO must have been registered for at least five years, and
  • the RTO must have been renewed by ASQA without audit, or have been
  • renewed with no non-compliances identified at audit, and
  • there are no outstanding regulatory concerns or regulatory actions being taken against the RTO.

ASQA invited 555 high performing RTOs with a strong history of compliance with the national standards and who have already met the eligibility criteria to apply for a delegation of regulatory responsibility. It will be up to the RTO as to whether they wish to take up this delegation.

Take it or leave it?
RTOs that subscribe a Delegation Agreement with ASQA have the ability to manage their own scope of registration without the need to apply to ASQA and pay a fee each time they wish to add a new qualification or unit of competency to their scope of registration.

By signing the Delegation Agreement, RTOs will add the conditions included in the Agreement to their list of regulatory requirements (Vet Quality Framework). The Delegation Agreement requires RTOs to have a formal quality management system (QMS) to support their actions as an ASQA delegate.
A QMS includes the organisation's policies and procedures, and any supporting documents, such as guidelines, outlines of roles and responsibilities, forms and templates. A QMS demonstrates how an organisation operates including how it implements, monitors and reviews the system specifically in relation to the delegated functions.

Will your RTO save money?
While RTOs will not be required to pay a fee each time they wish to add a new qualification or unit of competency to their scope of registration, RTOs will be required to undertake delegation audits. All costs pertaining to the delegation audit are to be borne by the Delegate (RTO). Current ASQA's rates are $1,100 per day (based on an 8 hour day) for the delegation audit service.
Will your RTO save money? Depends on how dynamically you need to manage your scope of registration. Currently if you want to add a new qualification in your scope it will cost you $920 for the first qualification and $135 for each additional one. If you want to add units of competency it will cost you $260 for each unit. (ASQA schedule of fees V1.2)
You should also consider the costs associated to the management of the delegation, including updated processes in your current quality management system (QMS).

Can this delegation reduce red tape or compliance/admin costs?
Certainly for most small-medium RTOs the answer will be no. It is important to understand that the delegation will not reduce any compliance costs, simply because does not change any regulatory conditions included in the VET Quality Framework. While an RTO under a Delegation Agreement is not required to apply to ASQA for changing its own scope, the requirements to add a qualification/unit to its own scope are the same as any other RTO.
By taking ASQA out of the equation in the process of changing the RTO's scope of registration, the Delegation Agreement will add extra requirements for the RTO's quality management system to ensure compliance with the Standards.
Saving money will depend on how many qualifications/units you will be adding to your scope of registration. TAFE and other large RTOs that continuously change their scope of registration will certainly benefit from this initiative, small-medium RTOs, probably no.

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