As well as the standards applying to RTOs, the Industry and Skills Council has endorsed the Standards for VET Regulators 2015. The purpose of these Standards is to ensure:
- integrity of nationally recognised training by regulating RTOs and VET accredited courses
- consistency in the VET regulators’ implementation and interpretation of the standards applying to RTOs and VET accredited courses, and
- accountability and transparency of VET regulators.
The Standards for VET Regulators describe a series of outcomes that regulators must achieve, but do not prescribe the way in which these outcomes are to be achieved.
The Standards require ASQA to:
- use a risk-based approach to regulation, implementing processes that are fair, transparent, responsive and consistent and which uphold the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness
- use auditors and accreditation assessors who meet agreed competency requirements
- develop and implement a code of conduct for auditors and course accreditation assessors to ensure contemporary best practice approaches to regulation are used
- assist RTOs to comply with the Standards for RTOs 2015 and provide information to the sector on emerging risks
- manage the scope of registration of all RTOs so that only current training products are delivered
- publish decisions to impose sanctions on RTOs, together with the reasons for the decisions
- accept and manage complaints about RTOs, and about ASQA’s role as a regulator, using publicly available processes
- report and respond to requests from the Industry and Skills Council
- make service standards publicly available, and regularly review their performance against these service standards and the regulator Standards.
In regulating RTOs, ASQA applies a risk-based approach and applies the risk assessment framework as required by the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011. This means that regulatory actions and decisions are informed through data analysis and intelligence about emerging risks to quality outcomes in the VET sector. This intelligence is gathered through activities such as:
- conducting audits and other compliance monitoring activities
- undertaking strategic industry reviews
- analysing complaints about RTOs, and
- engaging with industry, industry regulators and other VET regulators.
Intelligence gathered is used to inform ASQA’s regulatory strategy by:
- informing the risk rating of RTOs
- identifying specific industry areas or training products that need greater attention or a different approach, and
- informing the frequency and scope of RTO audits (RTOs that present a low risk of producing substandard training and assessment outcomes face less regulatory intervention, while those that are considered a higher risk are subject to more frequent intervention).
Some low-risk RTOs may be eligible for a delegation of regulatory authority. A delegation enables the RTO to add and remove training products on its scope of registration without applying to ASQA. In these cases, the RTO is also required to comply with the Standards for VET Regulators 2015 as they relate to delegated activities.
The Standards for VET Regulators are available on the Federal Register of Legislation website.
ASQA is accountable through external reviews as directed by the Industry and Skills Council and reports to the Industry and Skills Council on its compliance with the Standards for VET Regulators, the operations of the VET Quality Framework, and the Standards for Accredited Courses.
Complaints about RTOs
Stakeholder complaints about RTOs are an important source of intelligence about the VET sector. ASQA uses information gathered through complaints as part of its strategy for monitoring the compliance of RTOs and for gathering data on emerging risks.
ASQA accepts complaints about training providers from students, their representatives, and other members of the community. After assessing the information provided in a complaint, ASQA may:
- use the information provided in the complaint to inform future regulatory activity
- contact the provider to request further information or specific action be taken
- undertake a formal investigation.
The outcomes of a complaints investigation can include a compliance audit of a provider's registration, which may lead to a decision to suspend, cancel or place conditions on a provider's registration.
ASQA has specific confidentiality obligations in relation to registered providers. ASQA respects both privacy and natural justice considerations in handling complaints. This means that complainants will be advised how their information was used in the regulatory process, although in some instances, the advice will not be detailed and the process can be lengthy if audit activity is involved.
Information on how to lodge a complaint about an RTO is available from ASQA's website. Learners must submit a complaint through the RTO’s processes prior to lodging a complaint with ASQA, unless doing so would disadvantage them.
ASQA is required to provide quarterly reports on how it has handled complaints about RTOs to the Commonwealth Minister for Industry.
Complaints about ASQA
ASQA is a Commonwealth Statutory Authority and as such follows the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Better Practice Guide to Complaints Handling. Any complaint received by ASQA is handled by a team independent to the operational units, which provides a measure of confidentiality for complainants.
ASQA’s policy on managing complaints about its activities is available from www.asqa.gov.au.
When a complaint about ASQA is received, it is acknowledged by the independent team, who then undertake an investigation, prepare a report with recommendations and draft a response to the complainant. If a complaint is substantiated and requires action (for example, in relation to staff performance, or where the complaint acts as a prompt for making changes to an existing ASQA system), this is included in the recommendations.
The advice to the complainant provides details of the outcome of the investigation and any actions that will affect the complainant.
ASQA regularly surveys stakeholders and publishes the results of these surveys on its website. Outside this process, feedback on ASQA’s services, both positive and negative, can be emailed to feedback [at] asqa.gov.au.
In the interests of transparency, information on all ASQA processes is available from www.asqa.gov.au.