ASQA Stakeholder Liaison Group Communiqué (February 2022)
The ASQA Stakeholder Liaison Group (SLG) held its first meeting for 2022 on 11 February.
Priorities and planned engagement
The SLG, at its meeting on 11 February 2022, heard the Australian Skills Quality Authority’s (ASQA) priorities for the remainder of 2021–22, which include:
- continuing to progress the co-design of a model of self-assurance with and for the vocational education and training (VET) sector
- developing an evaluation framework and evaluating the first phase of ASQA’s reforms
- conducting Customer Experience (CX) research as part of ASQA’s four-year Digital Roadmap, seeking stakeholder views on key connection points between ASQA and providers and ways in which interactions might be improved to support more efficient and effective regulation and reduce regulatory burden for providers
- continuing to implement (in consultation with State and Territory Governments) the actions and recommendations of the Vocational Education and Training Delivered to Secondary School Students (VETDSSS) scoping study
- implementing a model of full cost recovery from 1 July 2022.
Members endorsed revised Terms of Reference for the SLG, which include a:
- renewed purpose centred on ASQA’s regulatory engagement and education and interactions with providers as part of ASQA’s Regulatory Operating Model
- statement about the alignment and interface between the SLG and the Provider Roundtable, which is ASQA’s primary forum for strategic engagement and consultation with the peak VET, dual sector and English language provider associations.
Members noted a schedule of planned engagement is being developed to guide expectations for ASQA’s engagement with the SLG as part of its forward program of work and in alignment with its revised Terms of Reference, as well as with the sector more broadly.
Members discussed intersections between self-assurance and existing mechanisms for provider self-assessment and continuous improvement, with a particular focus on the Annual Declaration on Compliance. ASQA confirmed consideration is being given to how the Annual Declaration on Compliance might be used to support providers to evidence self-assurance activities as part of the co-design of a self-assurance model with and for the VET sector, including trialling an alternative declaration process with a small subset of providers, but noted there will be no change to the Annual Declaration on Compliance 2022 process.
Members were provided with an update on work underway to develop a framework for the evaluation of the implementation of ASQA’s regulatory reforms and continuous improvement, and to carry out an iterative evaluation of ASQA’s regulatory approach and practices over the coming four years. The first phase of the project is focused on developing the framework and undertaking an initial evaluation of Phase 1 of ASQA’s implementation of the Rapid Review recommendations, with future evaluation priorities to be determined as part of ASQA’s annual corporate planning process. Members agreed there is a key role for the SLG to play in this work, particularly in terms of ensuring the parameters of the evaluation are correct and providing early identification of risks, including with regards to external environmental factors that could be included in the environmental scanning process.
COVID-19 response – quality and safety
The SLG discussed the key risks and challenges being experienced across the sector as a result of the ongoing pandemic. ASQA advised members its focus remains on partnering with the sector to understand risks to quality VET outcomes and being responsive to these risks, including ensuring education and guidance is current, engaging with the Department of Education, Skills and Employment on policy matters with regulatory implications, and taking regulatory action if and when required.
Members agreed a focus on quality safeguards remains the priority despite the key challenges providers continue to face, which include (but are not limited to):
- keeping RTOs open and facilitating student enrolments across a variety of qualifications
- challenges associated with supporting students to access practical training and assessment and work placements – including with respect to the impact of COVID-19 on the willingness of businesses to accept students for placement, but also issues associated with unvaccinated students being unable to complete placements and be assessed in the workplace
- access for students to apprenticeships and traineeships, which have ceased in some sectors
- ensuring assessments can be undertaken effectively and in accordance with the Standards, and understanding the parameters of reasonable adjustment in order to maintain core competency requirements.
ASQA cost recovery
The Chair thanked members for their participation in ASQA’s cost recovery working groups, the outputs of which helped shape the development of the Cost Recovery Implementation Statement. (CRIS). Members acknowledged ASQA has engaged with the sector in an open and transparent way on the transition to full cost recovery – listening to and actioning issues and helping to support a shift in understanding for providers about why the change is occurring.
Members discussed the importance of ensuring that providers have a clear understanding of how costs will be calculated and what ASQA is doing to ensure efficiencies – with ASQA confirming that independent assessment of the modelling and external regulatory benchmarking is being built into the cost recovery cycle, and that work is underway with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency to manage intersection points and minimise burden for dual-sector providers.
The next meeting of the SLG will be held on 2 June 2022.