The stupid death of Australian TAFE | Macrobusiness

By Leith van Onselen

Re-published with kind permission from Macrobusiness.

The Age has run a disturbing report on the collapse of TAFE enrollments, driven in part by the uncapping of university places and the bubble in dodgy private Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers:

…[Tafe] enrolments [are] down by up to 40 per cent at some providers, two years after [Victorian] Premier Daniel Andrews promised to “rebuild” TAFE…

Some TAFE buildings resemble ghost campuses, rather than thriving centres of learning…

According to the Education Union, 3300 teachers have left the Victorian TAFE system in the past five years.

…annual reports also reveal that in the past year alone, enrolments have plummeted: Sunraysia Institute had a 21 per cent drop, student numbers were down 12 per cent at GOTAFE, and Melbourne Polytechnic experienced a staggering 40 per cent drop in enrolments…

Bruce Mackenzie, who led the state government’s review into the training sector… says private training college scandals have unfairly tarnished TAFE’s reputation, while a decline in apprenticeships and the uncapping of university places has also driven students away.

“The second tier universities take anyone into their course whether they are suitable or not, which rips the heart out of TAFE institutes,” he says…

But that mess, according to the AEU, started when the Brumby government created an open market system in 2008, paving the way for an explosion in private providers and rorting.

“The contestable policy will always undermine the TAFE system,” says Mr Barclay…

The collapse in TAFE numbers is worrying on several levels.

Recent data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) revealed that traineeship and apprenticeship commencements have fallen by more than 45% over the past four years:

ScreenHunter_13756 Jun. 29 08.03

Apprenticeship completions have also fallen heavily, down by 24.0% in the 12 months to March 2016.

Meanwhile, the Department of Employment’s most recent skills shortages report showed that “skills shortages”, while low overall, are far more widespread for technicians and tradespeople:

ScreenHunter_14586 Aug. 24 11.19

Because they are experiencing relatively few commencements and completions of apprenticeships:

ScreenHunter_14587 Aug. 24 11.21

By contrast, the economy is awash with university students, with nearly 730,000 enrolled in a bachelor degree:

ScreenHunter_14572 Aug. 23 15.44

Despite graduate employment outcomes falling to “historically low levels”:

ScreenHunter_14575 Aug. 23 16.01

Students numbers studying at private VET colleges also soared, guzzling-up public funds via VET FEE-HELP loans and diverting students away from public TAFEs.

The below graphics, which come from the 2015 VET FEE-HELP Statistical Report, tell the story.

As shown below, nearly three-quarters of VET students were enrolled in private colleges in 2015:

And these private colleges charged an average loan amount well above that of public TAFEs:

They also charged average tuition fees of $18,290 versus $7,642 for public TAFEs, as well as accumulated total VET FEE-HELP loans of $2,400 million in 2015, versus just $402 million for public TAFEs:

However, despite the huge imbalance between student numbers, fees charged, and funding, only 14,400 students managed to complete courses at private colleges in 2014, compared with 18,400 students at TAFE and other public providers.

Clearly, Australia’s higher education system is a complete mess. The implementation of demand-driven training systems across Australia has effectively led to an explosion of students studying at university – creating a glut of bachelor-qualified people – as well as students studying expensive diplomas at dodgy private providers. At the same time, a commensurate shortage in people with trade skills has developed, due in part to the decline in TAFE.

What has been delivered is a wasteful, rorted higher education system that has delivered a huge Budget blow-out, poor educational outcomes, and the wrong skills for the nation.

3 thoughts on “The stupid death of Australian TAFE | Macrobusiness

  1. frankaquin0 says:

    I quit my University teaching job about 10 years ago because instead of teaching advanced oil and gas, I found myself having to teach basic English to the enrolled high paying Asian students who were great kids but woefully unqualified for the course. Whatever short term gain the Uni achieved through that strategy simply resulted in a collapsed course. The pursuit of money has corrupted even the basic survival-insurance common sense of educating our young. As for tradesman training, if the quality of J*m’s Plumbing (locally in Perth anyway) is anything to go by, we’ve lost that ability too. Given that as a nation we’ve fallen in love with outsourcing perfectly good systems to private entrepreneurs, why are we so terrible at regulating them? Did we outsource that competency too? Gawd, what a mess.

  2. evansdavid says:

    All in the name of neoliberalism. Failed mantra “private enterprise can do education better than the public sector”

    • Gretchen says:

      Not so sure it’s that generalisation, enansdavid, with respect.

      To me, it’s more a case of very extreme increases in TAFE/VET fees since Liberal governments focused on this area about six years ago + the revised ease-of-access to Uni + TAFE/VET programs not being targetted to growth areas ( have a look at some of their courses = unbelievably out-of-touch, as far as real demand is concerned ) + ineffi cient management by the managements/boards/overseers of these types of institutions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s