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The national vocational education and training (VET) system sets clear expectations—through legislation, standards and requirements—for registered training organisations (RTOs) and course owners to take responsibility for the quality of their qualifications and services.

ASQA expects that all RTOs will meet these standards. Most organisations will recognise the value of regulation and want to comply with the requirements. An RTO’s own quality processes should make sure that they do not inadvertently fail to meet the standards.

However, from time to time ASQA may identify instances of non-compliance, and if these are not rectified within a stated period, the RTO may attract a sanction or penalty.

ASQA’s enforcement powers include a range of sanctions. In addition, ASQA may seek a civil penalty order from the Federal Court of Australia, or the Federal Magistrates Court. Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) providers must also comply with the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS) legislative framework under which ASQA can impose sanctions or issue infringement notices for certain breaches or take action through the Federal Court of Australia for certain offences.

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ASQA has enforcement powers applicable to breaches of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (the Act).

The Act provides a range of sanctions of increasing severity, escalating from enforceable undertakings and additional conditions on registration through to suspending or cancelling the registration of an RTO.

As an ESOS agency, ASQA also has similar enforcement powers under the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act).

ASQA will apply these powers and sanctions with proportion, rigour, fairness and consistency.

Types of sanction

ASQA may:

  • amend or shorten registration or accreditation
  • impose conditions on a registration or an accreditation
  • issue directions under the legislation for an organisation to take specific steps or refrain from doing certain things
  • suspend or cancel registration or accreditation
  • issue infringement notices as an alternative to prosecution
  • prosecute organisations that breach the legislation.

RTOs and course owners may seek the review of an ASQA decision.

As an ESOS agency, ASQA may also apply similar sanctions to a provider’s registration under the ESOS Act for both RTOs and ELICOS providers regulated by ASQA. In these instances, providers are also able to seek a review of an ASQA decision under the ESOS Act.

Reviewable decisions

Decisions of ASQA may be reviewable under the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011.

The imposition of an administrative sanction is a reviewable decision under Section 199 of National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 if the sanction is:

  • a cancellation of registration
  • a suspension of part or all of scope of registration
  • a shortening of the registration period, or
  • an amendment to scope of registration.

From 1 July 2016, decisions made by ASQA as an ESOS agency for a provider may be reviewable under section 169 of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act).

Decisions that can be subject to internal review include the following:

  • to refuse to register a provider on CRICOS
  • to register a provider for a particular (limited) period
  • not to renew a provider’s registration
  • to renew a provider’s registration for a particular (limited) period
  • to extend a provider’s period of registration for purposes of alignment with NVETR Act registration
  • to refuse to add a course or courses and/or location or locations to a provider’s registrationimpose, vary or remove a condition under section 10B
  • take enforcement action (i.e. one or more of the actions listed at section 83(3) in relation to a provider’s registration).

RTOs may apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for review of an ASQA decision in certain circumstances. The AAT provides an independent review of a wide range of administrative decisions made by Australian government agencies.

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