“Ensuring we have a fit for purpose VET sector is critical in responding to skills shortages, and teaching and training our existing and future workforce.” — Minister for Skills and Training Hon Brendan O’Connor MP
“This will help ensure the integrity of one of our biggest exports while cracking down on dodgy operators.” — Minister of Education Hon Jason Clare MP
“Our message is clear – the party is over, the rorts and loopholes that have plagued this system will be shut down.” — Minister for Home Affairs Hon Clare O’Neil
The Albanese government recently announced that it has put up additional measures to distinguish genuine from non-genuine operators.This weeds out not only non-compliant but also unethical and corrupt organisations. This decision comes after the discovery of ghost and predatory providers that conduct unethical behaviours such as exploiting international students and creating fraudulent documents that greatly undermines the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector and the Vocational Education (VocEd) system.
For instance, in only the first half of 2023 there have already been 17,000 concurrent enrolments compared with the previous year with only 10,500. The loophole found in these concurrent enrolments allowed international students to take on study arrangements designed to provide them ease of access and shortcut to employment in Australia. The use of this so-called loophole that some providers found violates student visa regulations and abuses work rights opportunities. Because of these issues, new mandates have been set to strengthen the integrity of training organisations by lifting the standards, protect student welfare, and prioritise quality education that students deserve above all else.
The Albanese government agreed to by the State and Territory Skills Ministers found it only fitting to take the following measures to protect the integrity of the VET sector, international educational system, genuine RTOs and the well-being of students:
Registered Training Organisations are now held to a higher standard with the ‘Fit and Proper Person Requirements’ condition. This standard will now require that those who own, manage and operate RTOs are fit, morally upright, decent, and with integrity for a more ethical operation. This has been a longstanding plan following a previous 2018 recommendation, only acted on now.
Because of this requirement, changes in how regulatory actions also follow. This gives power to VET regulators to thoroughly examine if the people who own, manage, and operate the RTOs are fit and proper for their position. The expanded powers of ASQA as outlined in Ministers’ media centre news release include:
- allowing ASQA to consider instances where an offence was proven but no conviction was recorded;
- allowing ASQA to consider a persons management history and past breaches of registration
- expanding the types of evidence which can be considered that show false and misleading conduct by providers; and
- allowing ASQA to consider whether the provider has been found not to be fit and proper under an expanded range of federal and state laws, not merely in the VET sector.
Higher savings for international students is another amendment. To acquire a student visa, an individual needs $24,505 in savings, which will take effect on October 1, 2023. This is a huge increase from the $21,401 requirement in previous years.
Suspension certificates will be given to high-risk education providers. This sanction will not allow providers to enrol international students, denying them the opportunity to use the loophole and thus put an end to rorts in international education.
What does the future look like? And what do these additional measures mean for education and training providers? A stricter regulatory body can possibly put an end to non-genuine RTOs and their unethical practices and discourage applications from non-genuine students. Moreover, this brings new reforms to the whole skilled migration system.
RTOs now would have to add another consideration in their registration process, their self-auditing and compliance. While this addition to the Standards for RTOs might seem bureaucratic, another requirement to tick-off in one’s compliance requirements list, the working principle behind it must be thought of as a necessary and bare minimum requisite if education outcomes are at stake. Providers have a twofold responsibility: as a business and as an educational institution. Compliance to this new standard and a stricter regulatory body will uplift the quality assurance and credibility and serve the needs of students and industries.