Targeted audits of Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) will address allegations of unscrupulous marketing and other practices intended to exploit the Australian Government’s VET FEE-HELP program.
Assistant Minister for Education and Training Senator Simon Birmingham said the national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), would undertake a total of 23 audits of RTOs including of providers who had been identified through complaints made to the authority.
“Our government is determined to stop training providers ripping off vulnerable students and taxpayers through the VET FEE-HELP program,” Senator Birmingham said.
“We have already launched a new complaints hotline to give students and employers a simple way to report rogue training providers, and announced a boost to ASQA’s budget to bolster its ability to investigate and act upon abuse.
“New, tougher national Standards are also being implemented, requiring RTOs to provide enhanced information to prospective students about the courses they are signing up for as well as requiring RTOs to report any new brokering or third-party arrangements they may have to ASQA.
“These actions are just the beginning with further reforms being developed to ensure both students and taxpayers receive value for money from VET FEE-HELP.”
Senator Birmingham said ASQA’s targeted audits and wider VET FEE-HELP strategy – being undertaken in addition to the authority’s ongoing regulatory work – proved it was also committed to stamping out the alleged behavior.
“Any training providers found to be engaged in practices that are contrary to the required national Standards could face regulatory sanctions, including the cancelation or suspension of their registration,” he said.
ASQA Chief Commissioner Christopher Robinson said the overwhelming majority of RTOs provided quality training and assessment services that enable students to learn the skills they needed for work.
“Under the new national Standards, RTOs are required to provide students with information including any VET FEE-HELP, government funded subsidy or other financial support arrangements and any obligations to repay any debt incurred,” Mr Robinson said.
“ASQA has already proven its willingness to take tough action against training providers who did not meet the required standards.
“Since it was established on 1 July 2011, ASQA has refused 15.6% of applications received to set up new RTOs and 6.1% of applications received to re-register existing RTOs because they did not meet the required standards.”
Senator Birmingham said he would also write to the Australian Consumer and Competition Authority (ACCC) and work with state and territory ministers through the Council of Australian Governments Industry and Skills Council to discuss further consumer protection measures which may be required.