COVID-19: ASQA is committed to working with providers

ASQA understands the challenge that the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak poses for VET and ELICOS providers, their staff and students. We are committed to a flexible approach to regulating the sector in the current environment and we acknowledge that challenges during this time will take many forms.

ASQA is focused at this time on supporting providers to maintain quality of training and assessment by providing extensive guidance that can support providers to assure themselves of the outcomes of competency.

Providers should be assured that ASQA will continue to provide support as the sector transitions out of COVID-19 restrictions. ASQA understands that these challenges may continue for some time and that providers operating across multiple locations and learner cohorts may implement staggered approaches based on a risk assessment of their individual circumstances. Any changes to our flexible regulatory approach will be carefully considered in consultation with peak bodies and other government agencies as appropriate. Should a decision be taken to end ASQA’s regulatory flexibility, adequate transition arrangements will be afforded to providers to ensure that students and providers are not adversely affected. Changes and updates will continue to be announced on our website.

We remain committed to help relieve the pressure on providers during this time by implementing the Government’s decision to waive or reimburse some fees and charges, enabling providers to temporarily cease operations, extending transition and teach out periods for superseded training products, extending some registration periods and applying regulatory flexibility.

ASQA has also been engaging with Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA), TAFE Directors Australia (TDA), Community Colleges Australia (CCA), Enterprise Registered Training Organisations Association (ERTOA) and English Australia.

ASQA is also working with TEQSA, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, the Tuition Protection Service, the Department of Home Affairs, State and Territory training agencies and the Australian Industry Skills Committee.

While ASQA has modified its regulatory approach in recognition of the practical constraints for providers and regulatory activity, it continues to monitor and respond to concerns that some providers may not be meeting their regulatory obligations.

To assist the sector, ASQA is providing an interim report on provider activity.

Challenges and advice for providers.

Temporary flexible regulatory arrangements.

Current and prospective students.

Compliance arrangements

We acknowledge the challenges providers face, particularly as they relate to delivery and assessment of some practical aspects of courses, self-isolation impacts and travel and quarantine restrictions.

ASQA does not intend to pursue regulatory action against providers taking adaptive measures when impacted by COVID-19 and recommends that all measures are documented in the relevant students’ records. This includes adaptive measures relating to the National Code, the Standards for RTOs or the ELICOS Standards, and applies to:

  • variations to documented delivery strategies
  • student ‘attendance’
  • limitations of online course delivery (particularly for overseas students)
  • other areas where action is required to assist students.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has updated its advice on online delivery and refunds for international students. You can download the revised fact sheet.

Some providers may be concerned about current regulatory activity underway, requests by ASQA to provide information or possible future regulatory activity.

We encourage any providers impacted by COVID-19 to contact our Info Line on 1300 701 801 or email enquiries@asqa.gov.au to discuss adaptive measures.

Financial viability risk assessment

A challenge of COVID-19 may be the impact on a provider’s ability to make sound predictions regarding its anticipated revenue and expenses, and overall financial viability.

It is a legislative requirement for a provider to assure themselves that their financial operations are sufficient to maintain business continuity and continue delivering quality outcomes for students.

ASQA will engage with a provider to better understand how they are operating to meet their financial viability obligations and apply a flexible approach in the application of our regulation of Financial Viability Risk Assessments (FVRA).

The circumstances where ASQA may check the financial sustainability of a provider during a standard compliance or application process include: 

  • where assessing an initial application for registration
  • where a newly-registered provider is seeking to expand its scope of registration
  • where more than 50 per cent of a provider’s business has had a change of ownership
  • where a provider has not delivered any training over consecutive years
  • as a result of reviews underway, for example, in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

While the FVRA is used, we also engage with a provider as part of the assessment process to better understand how they are operating to meet their financial viability obligations. This involves us gaining a more thorough understanding of a provider’s particular circumstances, and what actions they have taken to self-assure their financial viability.

In addition, there are a number of measures that are available to assist providers, including:

  • reducing the scope of registration to consider only those training products being delivered
  • placing registration on hold by entering a period of hibernation.

In considering these measures, providers should document any self-assessment activities undertaken, and maintain a record of any measures put in place.

 

extending the deadline for completion of the annual declaration on compliance to 30 April 2020

not taking regulatory action against providers that are unable to submit their 2019 quality indicator data

extending some registration periods to relieve the pressure of upcoming renewal applications

postponing regulatory activities already underway, in consultation with providers.
ASQA has also published a new website section to present compliance guidance for providers offering distance learning options.
View the Distance learning section

A joint ASQA and TEQSA statement regarding regulatory flexibility

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All AQF training and assessment must meet high quality standards regardless of the location of the student and the mode of delivery. As long as the student remains enrolled with their provider, and the assessment requirements of the course allow it, the location of the student and the mode of delivery should not form an impediment to attainment of an Australian qualification.

National regulators, including ASQA and TEQSA, will be flexible in order to support students to study online either in Australia or offshore.

Providers should assure themselves that such arrangements maintain assessment and quality standards, and are appropriately documented. Not all qualifications are suited to online learning, this may include those with mandatory work placements.

If providers have questions about their specific circumstances they should contact their relevant regulator.

More information

The information in the links below is being updated frequently, and we encourage those affected by the Coronavirus to check these regularly.

Department of Health

Information about health concerns

The Department of Health has published general information and fact sheets for the education sector about the Coronavirus on their website.

Information about visa and travel restrictions

The Department of Home Affairs has published fact sheets for education providers, student visa holders, and visa holders and applications. These can be accessed on the Department’s website.

Information about higher education

The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has provided a compliance update and fact sheets for higher education providers and students. These can be found on the TEQSA website.

PRISMS users

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has published advice for PRISMS users in relation to managing international student Confirmation of Enrolment records (CoEs).

Latest news

 

ASQA has developed guidance to assist providers to deliver practical training and assessment in the workplace or under simulation.

On 9 June 2020, ASQA published information about a new unit of competency and related skill sets for infection control training from the HLT Training Package that had been endorsed by the AISC in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday 1 July 2020, ASQA hosted a webinar on resumption planning: continuing delivery in a changed world.

As part of the Australian government financial relief measures announced in April, annual registration charges for 2020-21 are being waived.

ASQA is aware that it is a challenging time for VET providers seeking to continue to provide quality VET outcomes in a period of unprecedented social and economic uncertainty.

The AISC has subsequently provided a further statement on the use of the contextualisation advice.

ASQA has determined that it will not take regulatory action against providers that are unable to submit their 2019 quality indicator data.

On Wednesday 27 May 2020, ASQA hosted a webinar to provide information and guidance on remaining compliant when delivering courses via distance learning.

ASQA acknowledges the approval of new skill sets on infection control to upskill workers and manage risks arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In preparation for staff and students returning during the coming months, we’ve highlighted some resources to help you create a safe work and training place.

ASQA hosted a webinar discussing ASQA's approach to COVID-19.

ASQA has decided to expand this decision and extend the teach out period of 56 VET accredited courses by six months.

ASQA has published a new website section to present compliance guidance for providers offering distance learning options.

ASQA has today announced details about a plan to waive or reimburse some fees and charges, to help mitigate the negative financial impacts of COVID-19 on the VET sector.

The Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, and the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, have announced a package of measures to lift the financial pressures on registered training organisations.

CRICOS providers are required to meet their provider default obligations when placing a hold on their registration. We have published a guide to help explain these requirements.

ASQA acknowledges the variety of challenges currently facing providers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ASQA recently approved an extended transition period for 51 qualifications due to expire between 17 March and 15 July 2020.

To help make it easy to meet your reporting obligations in relation to temporary changes, ASQA has released an online submission form.

All AQF training and assessment must meet high quality standards regardless of the location of the student and the mode of delivery.

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating unforeseen challenges for providers, raising questions about how you can best continue providing quality education to your students.

ASQA recognises that this is a difficult time for the sector and that the health of staff and students is a priority.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASQA has extended transition periods for 51 qualifications.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has issued updated guidance on travel restrictions and exclusion periods in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Department of Health has released updated advice to RTOs in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has shared a notice from the Department of Health with VET providers regarding the coronavirus situation.

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