The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has adopted a contemporary risk-based approach to its regulation of the VET sector. This approach allows ASQA to direct its resources towards the areas that pose the greatest threat to quality vocational outcomes, while also minimising the regulatory burden on high-quality providers.
ASQA’s student-centred audit approach supports this risk-based regulation by focusing on evidence of student outcomes and RTOs’ practices—rather than inputs, outputs and processes—when assessing compliance against the Standards.
What does the student-centred audit approach look like?
- ASQA takes a proactive, risk-based approach.
- Audits are triggered by ASQA’s risk intelligence.
- Audits are organised around the five key phases of the student experience:
- how students commence their journey at marketing and recruitment
- when students enrol
- how students are supported as they learn
- how training and assessment is conducted
- how students complete and are issued with their qualification.
- Current or former students are given a voice in the audit process through invitations to participate in online surveys and interviews. This enables ASQA to understand students’ experiences.
- ASQA looks for evidence of the provider’s practice as well as their systems and processes. At audit, ASQA’s focus is on evidence of what is actually happening for students—rather than what systems and processes say should be happening. Where providers apply to add new products to their scope of registration, ASQA may look at past practices in relation to delivery of other training products.
- ASQA uses input from trainers, assessors and third parties to inform audits and verify RTO practice.
- Auditors consider information from a range of sources including complaints, compliance history, media reports, social media, websites, and intelligence from other agencies.
- Audits are customised and risk-based. Some will have a narrow focus and others will be broadly scoped, depending on the risks to students. Customisation allows ASQA to direct its resources to the areas and providers of greatest concern. Some applications may be approved based on a desk audit rather than a site visit, based on a provider’s risk profile.
- Audit reporting is streamlined. Each audit report is structured according to the phases of student experience and referenced to the relevant standards and clauses.
- Providers are accountable for identifying and correcting non-compliant practices, particularly those which have negatively affected students. If poor practices are identified, RTOs are expected to assess the impact on current and past students and provide evidence that demonstrates they have taken (or will take) adequate remedial action to rectify the impact—in addition to correcting practices or systems to ensure compliance in the future.