The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has welcomed a decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to dismiss an application to review its decision to cancel the registration of Cornerstone Investment (Aust) Pty Ltd (RTO number 5500), trading as ‘Australian Institute of Commerce and Language’ and ‘Empower Institute’. ASQA and Cornerstone consented to the AAT dismissing the review application and Cornerstone’s registration was cancelled immediately.
ASQA announced its decision to cancel Cornerstone’s registration as a registered training organisation (RTO) in February 2016, following comprehensive regulatory scrutiny. The scrutiny of the provider was part of ASQA’s targeted audits of 21 training providers approved by the Department of Education and Training to participate in the Commonwealth’s VET FEE-HELP scheme.
ASQA’s scrutiny identified numerous serious issues with Cornerstone Investment (Aust) Pty Ltd, including the way Cornerstone was enrolling students. Between January 2014 and March 2016, Cornerstone enrolled 8973 students; however, only 58 of these students completed their course. The RTO also allowed students to incur VET FEE-HELP debt for stages of their courses they had not yet commenced.
ASQA Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson said that Cornerstone Investment (Aust) Pty Ltd did not adequately monitor agents that recruited VET FEE-HELP students on its behalf and did not implement its own policies in relation to monitoring these agents. In addition, he said, Cornerstone did not adequately assess the suitability of students for courses, had inadequate systems and polices to allow it to assess the suitability of enrolled students and did not follow its own policies relating to enrolment and withdrawal.
“Cornerstone did not have sufficient trainers and assessors, facilities, equipment or support services to support the number of students enrolled.
“The conduct of RTOs such as Cornerstone Investment (Aust) Pty Ltd has caused significant damage to Australia’s domestic and international reputation as a destination for high quality VET services,” Mr Robinson said.
“As a result of the audits of VET FEE-HELP-approved training providers undertaken in 2015, ASQA cancelled the registration of four RTOs—Cornerstone Investment (Aust) Pty Ltd, Unique International College (RTO 91350), the Australian Institute for Professional Education (RTO 91437) and Phoenix Institute (RTO 21582).
“ASQA has continued its focus on VET FEE-HELP-approved providers in 2016 with 19 providers of concern identified and subjected to regulatory scrutiny. This scrutiny is well-advanced and ASQA expects to make a public statement about its findings by the end of the year.”