Ben Eltham has posted an article in New Matilda about the financial and regulatory travails of Victorian VET private mega-provider Vocation:
Christopher Pyne’s higher education legislation will channel hundreds of millions of dollars to private providers. When it happened in Victoria’s VET system, the consequences were dire, writes Ben Eltham.
The share price collapse of high-flying private education provider Vocation reminds us of the perils of privatising education.
On its website and Annual Report, Vocation asks us to “be extraordinary”.
… Vocation presents itself as high-quality and respectable. It boasts none other than John Dawkins, the architect of the Hawke government’s university reforms, as the chair of its board.
But the performance of ASX-listed private training provider Vocation in recent weeks has been anything but extraordinary.
The problem with a voucher-based portable funding system for VET is that it creates a situation that makes it very difficult to monitor and ensure quality of service provision.
The students have no particular vested interest in ensuring they are obtaining a quality education because they are not paying for it, and there is no particular market cachet in a qualification from one VET college over any other. It therefore places the complete burden of quality assurance on the relevant government regulator. In this case it appears that they DID pick up the problem with Vocation quite quickly.
If the Abbott government ever gets its proposed university funding reforms through the Senate, the system should not be quite as difficult in quality assurance terms as the Victorian VET system. First, students will be paying 60% of the cost of their own university education, so they will have a very significant vested interest in ensuring that it is a good one. Secondly, there certainly IS a market cachet on a degree from a university perceived as a good one. Thirdly, we already have a sophisticated (if extraordinarily bureaucratic) quality assurance regulator in TEQSA. I presume the Abbott reforms still involve the same role for TEQSA as it fulfils with existing universities.
Accordingly, although I certainly don’t support the Abbott reforms, it seems to me that Ben Eltham’s article is something of a cheap shot. Nevertheless, it provides a good detailed forensic examination of the Vocation saga to date.