University vs VET Completions and VET FEE Help!
September 4, 2015 1 Comment
So I have been looking at a lot of the Government data on completion rates at Australian Universities, on the back of the release of the report on the likelihood of people finishing a government funded VET course. For me looking at the two sets of data (even though to be fair there is certainly some apple v oranges issues) makes for some interesting reading. Now it is often suggested that University completion rates are quite high (80-90%) but what is interesting is that that is based on a time frame of 9 years, or in some other cases it is the percentage of students who re-enrolled in the next year which is more of a retention rate than a completion rate, however when we look at the 4 year average it comes down to about 45%.
Now if we compare the completion rates of funded VET courses which sit at between 35 and 45%, with the four-year degree completion rates we see that while overall the VET sector is a little lower, when dealing with the under 25 years of age cohort we see quite similar completion rates. It is only as the years roll on that we see the degree completion rates outstrip the VET completion rates. Of course as we don’t have the Total VET activity data yet to look at are just looking at the government-funded portion this picture may change somewhat with different data.
The other issue of course is that VET programs don’t go for 4-9 years. They have a length of between 6-24 months in general (apart from apprenticeships), so it seems like it might be really trying to compare apples and oranges. However what if we look at first year attrition rates at university and perhaps compare them to something like subject load pass rate, with both of these rates sitting at around 80+% they seem to be fairly similar.
So what is it that I am trying to say here. Well I guess the first thing is that we need to be careful particularly when we are thinking about the implications of VET FEE-Help in trying to compare University and Vocational studies, which seems then to give us this issue if needing to find out what we think an acceptable completion rate for vocational courses, and in particular those with income contingent loans attached to them is. The second thing is what is a good completion rate and how do we judge it. As I said elsewhere I recently looked at our completion figures over the last 7 years and found that over that time we averaged a qualification completion rate of around 75%, this grew to about 93% when unit completer’s (those students who never intended to complete a full qualification, they simply wanted a skill set or single unit) were factored in. Now I am the first to admit that figure is comparatively quite high and has quite a lot to do with a range of factors including student recruitment, enrollment numbers and cohort makeup, our scope and the structure of both our training and our organisation. At the other end of the scale I am aware though of some VET FEE-Help only providers (in particular those who deliver a substantial proportions of online only training) who have completion rates which are close to or below 10%. I also know of a number of enterprise RTO’s who have completion rates of 98-99% primarily due to the way in which they handle enrollments.
What should we be aiming for then and what should be happy with in terms of completion rates for VFH courses. Would we be happy if the completion rate sat at around 35% but we aimed to try to raise that to say 45%, which puts our target at around where funded training and 4 year completion rates for the University are? Are we aiming to low there? Or is it better to aim at that level rather than to aim at say 70% in the full knowledge that most of the providers in the market place whether public or private are simply never going to meet that mark.