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Issue #1555      11 July 2012

A rationale based on lies

Funding cuts to TAFE – Impacts on Gipps TAFE, LaTrobe Valley and Gippsland as a whole

The Association is the peak body for all 14 TAFE Institutes and 4 Dual Sector University across Victoria.

Thousands turned out to the Fight the TAFE Cuts! Rally in Melbourne earlier this year.

The government Budget cuts to TAFE across Victoria equate to around:

  • $300 million per annum made up of 2 components
  • $130 million reduced funding for training delivered
  • $170 million removal of “Full Service Provider” funding for TAFEs community service and statutory obligations

Looking at the $130 million reduced funding for training, the government hopes that a substantial amount of that $130 million can be recovered in increased student fees. TAFEs do not share the view that the community, employers or students can bear the sort of fee increases necessary for many courses and so, as well as many TAFE course fees increasing substantially, a wide variety of courses will no longer be offered in many TAFEs across Victoria for example; business administration, hospitality, retail, events management, sport and recreation. The reduction of government support funding to $1.50 per student hour for these programs would make the student fee contribution exorbitant at Cert 1 to Cert IV program levels and impossible for students to fund.

At Diploma level where there is access to a Loan Scheme, the fees for Diploma’s will still have to rise to between $5,000 to $8,000 per annum and students will then weigh up their options to pay these fees or forgo vocational/ applied education and training altogether and not upskill or retrain, or rather access a university place.

For regional Victorians that is no solution and will often mean relocation or distance education.

The $170 million for FSP Funding removal is absolutely immoral. This money equates to about $2.15 for each hour of student training and has been previously funded by government to provide for TAFEs’ Community Service obligations and Full Service Provider facilities such as libraries, cafeteria’s, Counselling Service Officers, Disability Services Officers and to part fund the statutory obligations of TAFEs to comply with the government’s public sector employment and wages policies.

Many if not all of these obligations remain but the government is removing the funding in total from January 1 next year. In effect the government is defunding what it has required in retrospective obligations on TAFEs. The obligations will continue, the funding to support those obligations will not.

That is simply immoral and that is why the cuts about to be experienced are so hard hitting.

The rationale for the cuts is based on lies.

The Treasurer Kim Wells has stated the “TAFE System was clearly unsustainable”. (Hansard June 7)

The leader of the National Party Peter Ryan stated on Jon Faine’s 774 program on 8th June: “On the issue of TAFE, it is unsustainable, we were told by Labor in 2008 that by 2011 the growth would have been from $800 million to $900 million, it’s gone to $1.3 billion, you just can’t have that continue”

Lies and deception

TAFE has not grown unsustainably. We accept that the government has a training spend blow out. We predicted it and told Labor in 2008 that it would happen. We told Minister Hall right throughout 2011 that the growth was unsustainable in the training spend. All the quarterly figures indicated a major cost blow out.

But is was not a TAFE spending blow out.

It was a huge expansion in the number of private RTOs (registered training organisation) from 200 to 411 providers delivering training and the amount of their training exploded in many areas particular focussed in Metropolitan Melbourne; in courses such as business, fitness, sport and recreation.

If we take an average right across Victoria the growth in training by student enrolments 2008 to 2011 was 308% in private RTOs and in the last year alone March 2011 to March 2012 it was a 97% growth. TAFEs’ growth is the same periods were 4% and 5% respectively.

From 2008 to March 2012 private RTOs market share of training delivered is up from 14% to 46%.

In the same time public TAFEs is down from near 70% to 45%.

So yes there was a huge blowout is training, some needed in skill shortage areas, some excessive and arguably unnecessary and some proven to be very poor quality and involving disreputable and fraudulent activity by some private RTOs.

So for all this your local TAFE and your Gippsland students, employers and community get the punishment from a government and bureaucracy that did not heed our warnings and take measured pre-emptive action as we constantly advised and pressed to avoid the obviously evolving blow out.

Remember, all the figures I am quoting are from the Minister’s own Department’s statistical collections on a quarterly basis. They are their figures – not ours, not made up – they are their figures that they have made openly available on their website over the past 18 months. (Latest figures are from “Victorian Training Market Quarterly Report Q1 2012”.)

The Gippsland trend in fact is completely at odds with the state-wide figures.

I mentioned before that the explosion was in Metro areas where Training by private RTOs increases between 2008 and 2011 by figures such as 447% Southern Metro, 364% Western Metro. In the last 12 months Southern Metro growth was 109% and Western Metro 124%.

TAFE in comparison in these Metro areas actually had reductions in enrolments.

Let’s look more closely at these figures as they relate to Gippsland.

In 2008 to 2011 private RTO student enrolments declined by 5%, TAFEs also declined by 5% in Gippsland from 2008 to 2011.

In the last 12 months Private RTO student enrolment grew by 46% but off quite low numbers of 1,051 to 1,533 and TAFEs a growth of 2% in Gippsland.

So where is the unsustainable growth in TAFE, let alone in training in Gippsland as a whole by all education and training providers?

It has in fact declined in the years 2008 to 2011 by 23% and then grown marginally in the last 12 months by 7%.

People in Gippsland are now limited to enrolling in no more than two government supported programs in a calendar year. Pathway programs from diploma to higher education have now become unviable contrary to stated government policy objectives and many programs that relate to your regional skill shortage requirements will no longer be offered.

The government has got it all wrong. It needs to immediately reinstate the $170 million TAFE Full Service Provider Funding and needs the review the exceedingly low funding rate to courses such as business and hospitality to ensure they are still able to be offered.

The government needs to review the needs of regional Victorians on a regional basis as well to ensure a diverse range of programs and pathway programs to higher education are able to be offered in regional Victoria without astronomical fee increases to students.

As I have demonstrated the government knows there has not been unsustainable growth in training in Gippsland so why then are they ruthlessly slashing funding to training in Gippsland?  

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