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DEWR Clarifies Misleading VET Student Numbers: Key Differences Between TAFEs and Private Colleges Revealed

 DEWR Clarifies Misleading VET Student Numbers: Key Differences Between TAFEs and Private Colleges Revealed

In a recent development, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) has addressed concerns raised by a federal parliamentary committee regarding potentially misleading information about the VET student numbers, specifically the number of students, enrolled in vocational education and training (VET) programs. The House of Representatives Committee on Employment, Education and Training chair, Lisa Chesters, expressed the need to ensure accurate data representation and comparisons between TAFE institutions and private colleges.

One of the key points discussed was the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia’s (ITECA) statement that independent providers supported 87% of VET student numbers while receiving only 22% of VET funding. Chesters questioned whether this comparison was fair and accurate.

Shedding Light on VET Student Numbers and Funding Discrepancies

The DEWR Deputy Secretary of Skills and Training, Anna Faithful, shed light on the issue of the misleading VET student numbers by clarifying that the 87% figure referred to a subset of VET activity, not the total number of students. When considering government-funded activity in 2021, independent registered training organisations (RTOs) accounted for approximately 39.6% of the total activity and received 22% of government VET funding.

Contrasting VET Programs

Faithful emphasised that the independent RTOs predominantly offered short, high-volume training programs like first aid or responsible service of alcohol (RSA), which were fee-for-service. On the other hand, TAFEs had a significantly higher proportion of students, with nine out of ten undertaking a program of study rather than subject-only training. Moreover, eight out of ten students at TAFEs were government funded, while two out of ten were fee-for-service.

Comparing VET Completion Rates

The discussion also touched upon completion rates in different types of VET programs. Chesters pointed out that completing an RSA was relatively easier compared to an electrical trade apprenticeship. She stressed the importance of considering the varying complexities and durations of different courses when comparing completion rates. Therefore, claims of higher completion rates by independent peak bodies may not be directly comparable to TAFE completion rates.

Representation in TAFEs and Independent RTOs

Furthermore, the committee delved into the representation of disadvantaged students in both sectors. According to Faithful, TAFE institutions had a higher proportion of students with disabilities, Indigenous students, and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds compared to independent RTOs. Approximately 8% of TAFE students identified as having a disability, while only 3% of students at independent RTOs did the same. Similarly, 6% of TAFE students identified as Indigenous, compared to 3% in independent RTOs. Lastly, 20% of TAFE students belonged to the most disadvantaged cohorts, while the figure was 16% for independent RTOs.

These clarifications from DEWR aim to provide a more accurate understanding of the VET landscape, highlighting the differences between TAFEs and independent RTOs. As the committee seeks to ensure transparency and fairness in reporting VET statistics, especially on VET student numbers, it is essential to consider various factors such as program types, completion rates, and the representation of disadvantaged groups when analysing data in the vocational education and training sector.

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