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Thursday, 15 September 2011
Page: 6231


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:02): On 12 September, Senator Rhiannon asked me a question about vocational education and training. I seek leave to incorporate the answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Thursday 15 September 2011

Response to Question from Senator Rhiannon—Taken on notice Monday 12 September

Can you provide the Senate with details on the Vocational Education and Training FEE-HELP review conducted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations? In particular what were the terms of reference for the review, what inequities were found in the VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme, what consultation occurred with stakeholders including the community; and how does the Government plan to respond to issues raised by this review?

Are you aware that TAFE NSW, in their submission, highlighted the inequities of the VET FEE-HELP scheme relative to the Higher Education Contribution scheme (HECS) and made recommendations to the reduce the cost of administering the scheme to make it less complex for the students and also more flexible, and what is your response to the TAFE NSW recommendations?

Response

In 2009, the then Prime Minister, requested that a post implementation review (PIR) of the VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme (the Scheme) be completed.

My Department engaged Grosvenor Management Consulting to support it to undertake an objective review of the Scheme.

I have yet to be provided a copy of the final report from the Review, which is due to be finalised in the coming weeks.

The terms of reference of the PIR (see Attachment A) included a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the Scheme's performance, with a focus on the extension of the Scheme to include subsidised students in Victoria following Victoria's commitment to substantial VET reform. The purpose of the review was to critically analyse the strategic objectives of the Scheme, the profile of providers, courses and students under Scheme, areas where the Scheme has worked well, lessons learned and areas which may require further policy development.

A critical component of the review involved stakeholder consultations with registered training organisations (RTOs), state and territory governments and peak sector bodies as well as data analysis, albeit that only one full year of data is available for 2010.

Some of the themes that were raised through the PIR, including issues raised by TAFE NSW, were:

- strong sector support for the Scheme, particularly as it contributes to improved equity and accessibility for VET students;

- concerns about the applicability of the 'one size fits all' Higher Education Loan Program model in the VET sector and the related administrative complexity;

- inequity and relevance of the credit transfer requirement which are restricting provider access and the 20 per cent student loan fee in VET; and

- the need for a more integrated implementation approach to VET reform by all governments, including the extension of the Scheme nationally to support such reforms.

I will consider the results of the PIR, including any issues identified by stakeholders, and the necessary actions by Government in response to recommendations made in the context of negotiations with states and territories around wider VET reform over coming months.

CHRIS EVANS

14 September 2011

Attachment A

Terms of Reference for the Post Implementation Review of the VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme

To support DEEWR to undertake a critical analysis of one of its programs, undertake a post-implementation review of the VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme including delivery a high quality report.

The review work includes development of a project plan, information gathering, research, quantitative and qualitative assessment and analysis, consultation with stakeholders and regular reports to the DEEWR.

The review will culminate in a report which could serve to:

provide timely and dedicated analysis of the Scheme's performance including the Victorian extension and lessons learned;

highlight areas where the Scheme is working effectively, identify trends and issues arising, and areas where the Scheme can be improved (to feed into the continuous improvements cycle);

provide insights on the planned national extension of VET FEE-HELP to other jurisdictions; and

provide recommendations on how the Scheme can be improved in the short, medium and long term to further improve the performance and integrity of the Scheme.

The post-implementation review of the VET FEE-HELP Assistance Scheme includes:

1. Review the Scheme's performance as a whole against what it set out to achieve at its introduction in 2008.

2. Conduct a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the Scheme's performance including its impact on:

providers (e.g. profile of approved providers, applications not approved, course offerings, compliance);

students (including subsidised and full-fee paying);

the skills agenda; and

the identification of any trends and issues arising e.g. in approved providers, tuition fees before and after approval.

3. Recommendations for improvements to the Scheme including areas which may require further policy development, particularly in the context of the shift to the tertiary framework.