Drop in public VET student numbers makes a mockery of National Skills Week

28 August 2019

The plummeting numbers of students enrolled with nationally-recognised Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers is yet another pointer to the funding crisis facing Australia’s TAFE network.

According to an NCVER report released today:

  • students enrolled in nationally-recognised programs decreased by 5.9% to two million people in 2018, compared with 2017, and decreased by 16.2% between 2015 to 2018
  • students enrolled in subjects not delivered as part of a nationally-recognised program increased by 4.9% to 2.5 million people in 2018, compared with 2017
  • overall student numbers decreased by 1.5% to 4.1 million people in 2018, compared with 2017

Australian Education Union acting Federal President Meredith Peace said that the drop in the number of government-funded VET students was a direct consequence of the Morrison Government’s campaign to undermine TAFE.

“The Morrison Government should be ashamed by what it has done to TAFE,” Ms Peace said. “That a drop in the number of VET students should be announced during National Skills Week, of all weeks, is scandalous.”

“The reduction in publicly-funded VET student numbers is no surprise given that Liberal/National governments are slashing and burning TAFE funding across the country. Fewer public VET students being enrolled is a direct result of the $3 billion that the Federal Coalition has pulled out of TAFE.”

“Our TAFE system has been systematically undermined by profit-driven private providers advocating for a system that provides no clear qualifications, no national consistency and no guarantee of quality or qualified teachers,” Ms Peace said.

“Since coming to power in 2013 the Federal Coalition has failed to invest in high-quality public vocational education to provide Australians with a pathway to real skills and long term careers.”

“These figures highlight the need for nationally-recognised qualifications to ensure that VET course quality is maintained.”

Ms Peace said that the private-provider VET model being touted by groups such as ITECA would see public VET student numbers slashed even further.

Ms Peace said that TAFE must remain a strong public provider of vocational education in Australia. She called upon the Morrison Government to:

  • Guarantee a minimum of 70% government funding to the public TAFE system. In addition, no public funding should go to private for-profit providers, consistent with other education sectors.
  • Restore funding and rebuild the TAFE system, to insure continuing confidence in the quality of the courses and qualifications and the institution.
  • Abandon the failed student loans experiment, and cancel the debts of all students caught up in private for-profit provider scams.
  • Re-invest in the TAFE teaching workforce and develop a future-focused TAFE workforce development strategy in collaboration with the profession and unions.
  • Develop a capital investment strategy in consultation with state governments, to address the deplorable state of TAFE facilities around the country.
  • Support a comprehensive independent inquiry into vocational education including TAFE.

“Any proposal which undermines the importance of the Commonwealth and state and territory governments working together to build a strong, vibrant, fully funded public TAFE will be fiercely opposed by the AEU,” Ms Peace said.