So where exactly is this epidemic of dodgy private RTOs

So a lot has been made recently in the media and senate reports and in statements by places like the AEU and others about this epidemic of dodgy private sector RTOs who are ripping of the government and public and destroying VET in Australia.   Well I for one am just sick of it.  So lets look at some actual facts rather than sensationalist media beat ups and ideologically motivated political posturing and see if we can’t get to the bottom of it.

Much has been made by the ABC in recent days about the results of the ASQA audit into a number of VET-FEE Help providers with claims of only 1 in 3 VFH providers being compliant.  Rather than however relying on the ABC let’s go to the source itself, the actual report from ASQA and see what that says.

Firstly it seems really important to note that this was not a report on all providers, ASQA in fact only audited 21 providers approved for VFH. In order to understand this investigation fully we need also to consider ASQA’s methodology around this project.  There methodology was ‘analysing the 110 complaints and identifying 16 RTOs approved for VET FEE-HELP that were of concern to ASQA; ASQA had received complaints from two or more students about each of these RTOs. An additional control group of five RTOs for which there had not been any recent complaints were included—these RTOs were selected because each was a large provider with a significant number of students enrolled under VET FEE-HELP arrangements’.   Interestingly of the 110 complaints investigated by ASQA 21 were found to have insufficient evidence in relation to them, 20 related to matters outside of ASQAs remit and a number were about brokerages rather than RTOs.  After deciding on the 21 RTOs to include in the project ASQA audited them and interviewed 417 students across these RTOs.

Before we move on then lets just have a quick look at what this says.  Of all of the complaints received by ASQA there were only 16 RTOs out of more than the 270 VFH providers that had two or more complaints lodged against them, in fact 70% of all of the complaints ASQA investigated related to only 16 providers.  Slightly under 6% of VFH providers accounted for almost three-quarters of all of the complaints.  I don’t know about you but that seems like a small amount of providers rather than epidemic, widespread or rife to me, but hey that is just my opinion.  Before I jump to any other conclusions however we should look a little further.

Of the 21 providers investigated, seven were found to be compliant at the conclusion of the audit and a further 8 were found to be compliant, but ASQA determined that certain conditions may have been warranted to address potential issues.  71% of the providers investigated were found to be compliant at the end of the audit cycle.  Of the remaining six,  five are subject to some form of continuing scrutiny and one has had its registration revoked.  Hmmm I am still not seeing an epidemic, and it also seems to directly contradict what the ABC reported.

If we look then at the limited information supplied in the report on the figures for 2015.  ASQA has received an additional 162 complaints, which is more than in 2014, but, lets consider the context of these complaints.  Half of these complaints related to RTOs that were already part of the investigation project and 25 of them related to 4 providers who were already subject to regulatory activity and 1 for which ASQA has already issued an intention to cancel registration to.  So it still seems that looking at the continuing figures the vast majority of complaints relate to a very small percentage of all VFH providers (under 10%).  The real problem of course, or at least the reason that there is so media attention is the figures that are involved.  Problematically rather than the amount of money flowing from VFH to providers being spread fairly evenly across all providers, the vast majority of the money is going to a relatively small number of providers, in particular the very largest private RTOs in the country, of which at least a couple were included in the ASQA investigation.

The other thing that I find interesting about all of these media reports is that if you analyse them, they, almost without exception related to no more than 5 providers, in fact in most of the recent stories across the various media outlets there has been a focus on 2-3 providers, again some of the biggest providers.  Why?  Well that’s easy, that is where the sensationalist headline grabbing dollar figures are aren’t they.

I have said it before and I have no doubt that I will say it again,  there are issues with small percentage of providers, either in relation to VFH or in general, but that is all it is.  The vast majority (and this clearly born out in all of the figures) of providers are simply out there day in and day out providing great outcomes for their students.  But does the ABC or any of the other media outlets report that, of course not, because that isn’t news.


Anyway that is just 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.

7 Responses to So where exactly is this epidemic of dodgy private RTOs

  1. Mark Jones says:

    Hi Paul,

    As a significant authority and industry stakeholder, I am sure that you would have a right of reply back to the ABC. I would encourage you to forward this post to them and see where that leads. Hopefully a more reflective story that focuses on the good outcomes from within the VET sector. I have literally hundreds of written (positive) testimonials on company letter heads if you need a few! Just joking… I am sure that you have your own war chest!

    Speak soon…(MJ)

  2. Ian says:

    Well said Paul. I wonder how many VFH students those 16 RTO’s account for ? 60,000 ? 100,000 ? Am guessing the complaints ratio is 0.2% ?

    • Bryan says:

      SImilarly, I was wondering what % of all Diploma students would be accounted for within these investigated VFH providers, and what % of Dip students are part of a VFH program at all…

      • pauldrasmussen says:

        And i think that is quite a significant question Bryan particularly in relation to things like the diploma of management

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