ASQA Update - August 2023

31 August 2023

Welcome to the August edition of the ASQA Update

Ms Saxon Rice, Chief Executive Officer

In August we published our Corporate Plan 2023–24, setting ASQA’s strategic direction for the next 4 years. We invite you to read our new Corporate Plan on our website. Our Corporate Plan includes eight Regulatory Risk Priorities for the year ahead and will be supported  by targeted regulatory campaigns to assist the sector to mitigate these risks. I am pleased to share an overview of our regulatory risk priorities and to keep you informed as we develop and publish new resources and guidance.

Student work placement: Courses which mandate work placement present significant progression and completion challenges for some students, due to limited availability of places and access to provider support. Provider behaviours that maximise student enrolment numbers without considering placement availability and their capacity to support students and/or instances of providers falsifying student work placement records will not be tolerated. We will be using audits and compliance activities, to ensure providers are complying with their responsibilities in relation to student support, work placements and work-based assessments.

Academic integrity: Academic cheating, including instances of provider enabled cheating, threatens the academic integrity of the VET sector. Open-source intelligence shows that students have growing opportunity to access sophisticated commercial cheating services. We are working with the sector to raise awareness and ensure providers’ safeguard the integrity of VET qualifications and the reputation of the sector. We will not tolerate provider behaviours that enable academic cheating or exploit the vulnerabilities of particular student cohorts. We expect providers to have systems of governance for academic integrity and we will utilise monitoring and compliance activities which focus on providers’ compliance with standards around assessment (including authenticity) to address this issue. 

Online delivery: Complaint data indicates that the shift to online delivery continues to be associated with risks to the quality and quantity of learning support, and students’ mental welfare. We apply a range of treatment strategies for providers who meet specific risk criteria. We have also issued a sector alert to CRICOS providers about the return to compliance and their obligations in relation to face-to-face requirements and the amount of delivery online. Our monitoring and compliance activities will particularly focus on CRICOS providers, including to ensure delivery locations are updated. 

Shortened course duration: Shortened course duration in combination with online delivery and work placement risk forms a significant barrier to progression and completion for some students. We have no tolerance for providers who prioritise cost efficiency over training quality and student outcomes by reducing volume of learning or shortening training delivery timeframes particularly in higher risk occupations. We are scrutinising complaints and intelligence received and are working with state and territory licensing authorities to deploy a range of coordinated compliance monitoring activities with targeted providers.

Recognition of prior learning: Students who lack competency or knowledge and gain qualifications via RPL pose an increased risk to themselves and others in the workplace. We are concerned about inadequate RPL practices, especially in health, transport and trades-based qualifications which have considerable workplace health and safety impacts if students do not have the requisite skills and knowledge currency. Our monitoring activities are focusing on these industries and considering evidence of compliance with practices relating to assessment and credit transfer. We will apply a range of escalating actions, including issuing sanctions, where non-compliance is found.

VET workforce capability: Recruitment and retention of qualified trainers and assessors continues to be a problem for the sector. Enduring VET workforce shortages serve to compound most other risks. We continue to focus on trainer and assessor capability. We understand the wide-spread trainer and assessor shortages and the need for providers to focus on strategies to ensure that they are equipped to meet the conditions of their registration. We expect providers to be planning and implementing workforce practices and strategies to ensure training and assessment standards can be met within the scope of a provider’s registration. 

International delivery: Unregulated education agents practicing unethically pose an enduring threat and undermine the reputation of the sector.

International students continue to be vulnerable to sharp practices carried out by some providers. Key amongst these practices are:

  • written contracts that breach consumer law
  • encouragement to start courses online offshore, and
  • withholding refunds if visas are not granted.

Delivery to international students, including unethical practices of third-party education agents, continues to be a regulatory priority for us and a focus across government, to protect and enhance Australia’s reputation for quality education and training services and to complement Australia’s migration laws relating to student visas. We are focusing on providers’ legislative obligations to not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct when recruiting students or providing courses and not provide false or misleading information or guarantee a migration outcome in any marketing activities. We have no tolerance for any behaviour by providers that is complicit or facilitating the exploitation of international students and are deploying a variety of surveillance, investigation and compliance monitoring activities.

Governance through change: The pace, scale and complexity of sector reform initiatives was identified by most stakeholders, both internal and external, as both a risk and benefit for the sector. This risk considers the impacts of changes in regulatory focus, provider uncertainty within the sector and best practice regulation principles. Insufficient governance maturity can mean providers lack the agility to respond to sector changes and industry priorities or fail to assure compliance in a continually evolving sector. This impacts on provider capacity for quality VET and increases the risk of inadvertent non-compliance. We will use education, capacity building, engagement with governing bodies, and promotion of compliance to support and promote provider’s compliance and continuously improve on their outcomes.

Each campaign will involve a range of activities, including resources and guidance to assist the sector to mitigate these risks. Our intent is to identify providers who are failing to meet their obligations and using the regulatory tools at our disposal to support those providers to return to compliance or remove them from the sector where they are unable or unwilling to deliver quality outcomes. More information about each of these campaigns, including insights, will be made available on our website.

Finally, I am also pleased to advise that we are turning our attention to how we might improve our communication with the sector. Over the next few months, we will be looking at some of our key external communication mechanisms, including our website and the ASQA Update, and considering any opportunities to ensure these are maximising their purpose.  I look forward to sharing more with you next month.

Stay safe and well,

In this edition

  • ASQA Corporate Plan 2023-24

  • Stakeholder Liaison Group Communiqué

  • Renewing VET accredited courses – critical timeframes

  • Academic Integrity

and more

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