Is self regulation for RTO’s a good idea

As most people in the VET industry are no doubt aware by now, the spectre of self regulation, at least for a number of ‘low risk’ RTO’s has raised it head again. So my question today is a simple one and that is, is self regulation of a Australia’s Vocational education and training (VET) industry a good idea.

Before I start to consider this however a couple of caveats. I intend to consider this question for a logical, purpose driven, objective viewpoint, so I won’t be considering or arguing whether a particular RTO could self regulate, I will be looking as whether, given the purpose of the VET system in this country, self regulation of training providers is something which is aligned with that purpose.  Nor will I be entering into arguments about the current state of the VET system and whether or not it achieves what its purpose is.

One of the key issues here in my mind is the link between nationally accredited training and licensing.  You can’t be a plumber for example without having a particular set of qualifications under the VET system.  The same goes for being an electrician.  It is hear that for me the rubber hits the road with respect to regulation and points to the problems with self regulation.  In order to ensure that the electrician who comes out and wires your home up there needs to be some form of regulation, some form of standard levels of competency around the skills and knowledge possessed by that person and by that group of people who call themselves electricians.  We achieve that through the assessment of such skills and knowledge against standardised performance criteria which form part of the relevant qualifications.  Who is authorised to deliver such qualifications and deem a person competent is regulated by a third party system which is by law allowed to sanction any delivering organisation who fails to meet the standards.

Without a third party to regulate the standards of competence and to enforce sanctions on those agencies who do not comply, it seems difficult for me to see why there would not be those who would seek to shorten, abridge and just plain not enforce the standards for competence which are deemed to have to apply.  In fact we have already seem numerous examples of this kind of activity in a system that is already regulated by a third party.  Any suggestion that removing the third party and sanctions even for a select group would improve that situation does not appear at least in my opinion to be logical.

Now some might suggest that the trades are a special case and there would still need to be some sort of third party regulation of those qualifications linked to licensing requirements and  qualifications such as for example the Certificate IV in front line management could be self regulated.  There are two problems I see with this kind of thinking, one is of course that organisation which deliver both plumbing and management courses would have to treat the regulation and compliance around those courses differently, which may actually increase the kinds of administrative burdens we currently see.  The other problem of course is that from my perspective if I have a staff member who has a  Certificate IV in front line management, then I have certain expectations about what the skills and knowledge of that person are, and under a system where training organisations were self regulating the level of faith in someone having a qualification would I think certainly decline.

I find it difficult to see how a self regulated system could provide the levels of quality that the current third party regulated system does.


Anyway that is my opinion.

About pauldrasmussen
Paul Rasmussen is one of Australia’s most widely read Vocational Education and Training Commentators. He provides deep, unbiased analysis and insights not only on topical issues, but also on the underlying structure and policy which supports the industry. His writing and analysis has been praised for its uncompromising and thought provoking style and its ability to focus on the issues of real importance to the sector. He has advised various government departments and ministers, training providers, public and private organisations, not for profits and small to medium enterprises on the VET sector and the issues and opportunities facing it. He is one of Australia’s most awarded learning professionals and a regular speaker at a range of conventions and forums. His extensive experience in vocational education, and learning and development coupled with formal qualifications in philosophy, ethics, business and education management allow Paul to provide a unique view of the road ahead and how to navigate it.

5 Responses to Is self regulation for RTO’s a good idea

  1. Brett Hilder says:

    We live in a fear based culture where trust in decent people is being eroded especially with greater and greater waves of bureaucratisation.

    Bureaucratisation, in this case regulation from a government agency, does not prevent poor or exploitative training provision. It never will.

    What it does do is prevent the decent RTOs from accelerating the quality and availability of advanced and innovative training and assessment.

    This reduces their capacity to out-compete the poor providers who only require RTO registration to be seen as training to the same level of excellence as the genuine quality RTOs……. as far as the student market is concerned.

    Excessive regulation = mediocrity.

  2. Dave says:

    Your views are very valid. But until such time as ASQA starts acting in “good faith” to support and encourage development of quality RTOs, rather that acting like a bully, there will always be issues.

    The fact that ASQA doesn’t respond to emails, doesn’t return calls and simply acts like judge, jury and executioner, then everyone in the VET industry will continue to worry and stress about their compliance and registrations.

    ASQA should be advising, guiding and supporting the VET industry, not pushing everyone around and causing ridiculous uncalled for delays with their actions and decisions.

    But that is just my opinion.

  3. Derek Bailey says:

    I believe your opinion is logical and well supported by even a brief look at the past history of RTO’s in Australia and recap what has occurred.
    One totally supports the concept of third party regulation and your view on the matter.

  4. In the words of Dr Spock “Your illogical approach to chess does have its advantages on occasion, Captain.”
    Your opinion Paul maybe justified on several grounds but you failed to put forward a logical case and used several fallacious arguments instead. The fact that some may still seek to take short-cuts and meet the agreed license requirements does not mean self-regulation is better or worse than the current system. The logical question is; how would they be different and how would this change, affect the quality of Training. Self-regulation does not equal, no regulation and there would still need to be a validation of the self-regulatory approach by a third party.
    The current system does not measure or monitor quality but relies on the myth that having quality assurance systems and increasingly prescriptive assessment methodology options applied to all students means we are getting a consistent quality of Training. Unfortunately, this presumes there is quality in the system of an RTO in the first place and currently the regulator only checks that process inputs are in place to demonstrate compliance. This “compliance ONLY” approach does not measure quality of output or outcome in relation to the needs of students or industry and only serves the needs of a bureaucracy that then passes the responsibility to the legislation and politicians.
    You also argue that the regulation burden may vary between some courses such as an Electrical Trade and Management Cert IV and imply that this is a bad thing. Another of my favourite Star Trek quotes from Bones (McCoy) “Are you out of your Vulcan mind? Are you making a logical choice…?” Every students/trainee’s needs and capabilities are different and therefore the RTO should respond differently to every student and produce more evidence to justify and satisfy an assessment of competency. So if we are already adjusting to varied levels of compliance in a system that doesn’t even monitor quality how and on what basis are you suggesting that quality will diminish under a self-regulated approach? I can only conclude that your assertions are based on the myth that compliance equals quality and to reduce compliance means a reduction in quality. That’s what is called a false hypothesis, affirming the consequence or a false cause.
    If you are going to go down this path you might like to use this link as a check list:
    Self-regulation does not necessarily mean less regulation and a move to focus more on outcomes and quality does not mean less regulation either but perhaps we can have less regulation provided we have better quality training and outcomes.
    Our shared concern should be on the content of the regulation regardless of the method adopted to implement it. We don’t have thousands of Inspectors (Auditors) running around the country into schools ticking compliance with standard boxes and we shouldn’t have them in the VET sector either. Self-regulation does not come risk free nor should it come without some checks and balances but less regulation on mindless and meaningless dribble might just enable the industry to start developing better quality.

  5. When I spoke of the term “tyranny of inputs” in 2013 I was specifically speaking to how the Government and ASQA viewed regulation of RTOs and universities. It was as much about deregulation as it was about quality. The comments by enderlearning say it all. It is not about who does the audit and compliance, it is about the philosophy behind the model. If it is only about inputs it is already a bureaucratic impost. If it is about outcomes and customer experience then business benefits can be realised.

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