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PTA provider regulator in hot water over practitioners

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As well as problems with audit processes, reports from Australia Nine mass media the alleged role of ISPs in enabling the trafficking of foreign students is also exposed.

“As a former PTE regulator, I know first-hand that this has been a problem in Australia in the past, so I was horrified, but not surprised, to see it become an issue again,” – Higher Education Sector Adviser in Australia Claire Field. told PIE news.

“With the current easing of restrictions on the number of hours students can work, it is more difficult for the teaching quality regulator, ASQA, to be sure that students are attending classes and actively participating in their learning,” she continued.

The investigation into the allegations of human trafficking is ongoing, and Australian Federal Police did not immediately respond to The PIE’s request for comment.

In 2021/22, according to ASQA’s latest report, the regulator processed 770 new registrations and re-registrations, but only 356 audits – performance assessments – were actually carried out.

In addition, 244 cases of non-compliance were brought – and although the severity of each individual case of non-compliance is unknown, ASQA said in its annual report that it “assessed that the use of more directive powers or the application of sanctions in 121 cases was not necessary or proportionate”.

“Sixty-four suppliers responded to non-compliance issues identified by ASQA by providing further evidence within 20 days of receiving the… report. On average, 50% of [those] suppliers … returned to compliance during the period,” the report said.

“The question arises whether the initial decision not to apply official sanctions was correct”

Field stressed that the data meant that only half of these providers had returned to compliance despite ASQA “thinking they could be left to fix things on their own”.

“The question is, was the initial decision not to impose formal sanctions correct and do these suppliers understand the seriousness of addressing their non-compliance?” Field said.

It also raises the question of whether some providers as such have slipped through the cracks and been allowed to “turn a blind eye” to student absences.

ASQA recently moved to a system where it encourages “more self-confidence” among providers across the country, but Jenny Dodd, CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, said in the organisation’s latest newsletter that this may not be enough.

“It is not enough for the regulator to remind suppliers of their responsibilities. It’s like holding an entire class because one person did something wrong. Quality RTOs know their responsibility,” Dodd wrote.

“There are approximately 3,829 institutions in Australia – 29 are TAFEs or TAFE units of dual sector universities. This leaves 3,800 educational institutions that are not owned by the state,” she noted.

As Phil Bevan observed in Tangerineat the current rate, “it would take the regulator nearly 11 years to audit all 3,829 PTN providers just once.”

“The latest annual report of the national regulator of vocational education and training has been tabled in Parliament [in early November] shows an agency struggling with reform and struggling to meet service levels, while challenges in Australia’s vocational training sector continue and skills shortages in the industry worsen,” Bevan said in his article.

“There are also questions about whether ASQA’s response to non-compliance is sufficient”

Bevan also told The PIE that in the recently released population census The Australian Public Service, ASQA has been named the worst agency to work for for the second year in a row.

Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald’s reports Traffic found that more than a dozen Australian educational institutions for international students had been identified by investigators as allegedly “corrupt”.

“Whilst I support ASQA’s move to increase the focus on supplier confidence, it seems that their risk system is not working as well as it should – there are not enough suppliers involved in the sex trade, despite it being a long-standing risk in the sector .

“There are also questions about whether ASQA’s response to non-compliance is sufficient to raise the level of compliance in the sector,” Fields said.

“A number of senior ASQA staff with in-depth specialist knowledge of the VET sector appear to have moved on over the past couple of years and it is unclear whether their replacements have the VET knowledge required to effectively regulate the sector.

“The Home Office and ASQA need to be much more vigilant: Home Affairs in terms of better checking the integrity of students and the education agents they use, and ASQA in terms of checking the integrity of providers,” she added.

ASQA has also been approached for comment.

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