Auditor-General's report shows Federal Government has learnt nothing from failed VET FEE-HELP scheme

20 December 2016

A damning Auditor-General's Report into the failed VET FEE HELP scheme has confirmed the massive abuses of the poorly-designed system by for-profit providers, the AEU said today.

AEU Federal TAFE Secretary Pat Forward said the report showed how little the Turnbull Government had learnt from the disaster of VET FEE-HELP and raised concerns about its replacement, VET Student Loans.

“This report confirms that billions of dollars given to private providers through VET FEE-HELP will never be recovered, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the pieces,” Ms Forward said.

“The new VET Student Loans scheme will continue many of the flaws of its predecessor, and will do nothing to make quality vocational education more accessible.

“There is still insufficient oversight of private providers, poor accounting and record keeping, and worst of all: no requirement by providers to deliver a minimum number of hours to students for their courses.

“Without minimum hours private providers will still be able to cut corners to make huge windfall profits at the expense of students and taxpayers.

“The new system has been further weakened by a provision that would allow the Federal Education Minister to approve private providers who would otherwise have failed to qualify for the new loans system.

What the report does not say is that before the introduction of VET FEE-HELP costs of courses were modest and since its introduction, course fees and charges to students have increased by many hundreds of percentage points.

“Despite the very public and outrageous rorting of the VET FEE-HELP scheme, there has been no serious attempt by the Federal Government to recover funds from dodgy providers, and the for-profit sector continues to access government funding with little scrutiny or oversight.

“All governments now need to admit that privatisation of vocational education and training has failed and make properly funding TAFEs a priority.

“The flawed VET FEE-HELP scheme went hand in hand with cuts to government funding for TAFEs, because it allowed governments to shift costs onto students.

“The end of VET FEE-HELP must see an increase in investment in TAFEs to ensure all Australians have access to quality vocational training.

“Vocational education remains the worst funded sector of our post-school education system, and funding per hour has been on a steady decline for over a decade.

“Minister Birmingham’s decision to allow TAFEs automatic access to the new system is a recognition that public VET is providing high quality courses for students, while the private sector has failed to do so.

“We need to take that a step further and ensure that at least 70 per cent of all government funding is reserved for TAFEs – rather than forcing them to compete with low-quality private providers.”

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291