The Australian Government is progressing reforms to ensure ASQA is a modern and effective regulator focused on fostering excellence across the sector.
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The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector. ASQA regulates courses and training providers to ensure nationally approved quality standards are met.
While in recent years ASQA has focused much of its regulatory effort on the poorest performing providers, and removing them from the market, the reform work currently underway will strengthen ASQA’s focus on building capability, and fostering excellence, across the VET sector.
On 30 October 2019 the Australian Government announced $18.1 million towards regulatory reform to support the fair, transparent and effective regulation of the VET sector, with the intent of:
- improving and expanding ASQA’s engagement with the VET sector and educative role to ensure training providers are aware of, and supported to understand, expectations and requirements
- ensuring regulatory decisions are transparent, regulatory processes are effective, and that training providers have access to information and support to deliver good practice training and assessment
- improving ASQA’s collection and use of data to assist with identifying poor quality training providers, and
- better enabling training providers to provide feedback about ASQA (including directly to the department).
This reform work built on previous reviews of the VET sector and the role of ASQA such as the 2019 Expert Review of Australia’s VET System (the Joyce Review), and the 2018 review of the National VET Regulator Act 2011 (the Braithwaite Review). These reviews identified the need for ASQA to reform elements of its regulatory approach, in particular its engagement with the sector and its educative approach.
In April 2020 the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, released the final report of the rapid review of ASQA’s regulatory practices, governance and culture. The Australian Government supported the implementation of all 24 recommendations.
The intent of the rapid review was to:
- evaluate the effectiveness of ASQA’s internal regulatory practices and processes
- recommend adjustments to ASQA’s processes to support consistent, risk-based and contemporary regulatory decision-making and education
- recommend a revised governance model for ASQA to clarify roles and responsibilities and improve accountability, efficiency of resources, and focus on strategic direction and performance, and
- identify areas in which changes could be made to the VET Quality Framework to drive improvements across the sectors.
The rapid review concluded that while ASQA’s overarching vision and purpose remain appropriate, some adjustments to its practices were needed to improve its engagement and communication with the sector, and ensure its regulatory approach is guided by regulatory necessity, risk and proportionality.
The review’s recommendations will shift, over time, ASQA’s regulatory approach from prescriptive and process-based compliance to a broader focus on self-assurance by training providers and excellence in training outcomes. This will support providers to identify and rectify issues without undue regulatory intervention, and to build their capacity for continuous improvement.
Implementation of the reforms is occurring through a staged approach. ASQA’s reform activities over the course of 2020 include implementing a revised internal structure, improving audit processes and documentation, enhancing engagement with the VET sector, and establishing a Stakeholder Liaison Group. You can find more information about the reform activities, including consultation opportunities, on the Australian Skills Quality Authority website.
ASQA’s governance structure has also been revised, replacing the previous ASQA commissioners with a chief executive officer supported by enhanced internal senior executive capacity. In addition, the revised governance arrangements introduce an advisory council comprising experts from areas including regulatory practice, sector and business engagement, and education and training, which will be established during 2021. On 26 November 2020, the Governor-General approved the appointment of Ms Saxon Rice to the role of the National VET Regulator/CEO of ASQA, for a five-year term which commenced on 1 January 2021. Further information about this appointment can be found in the media release issued by Minister Cash and former Assistant Minister Irons.
In addition to ongoing work within ASQA to strengthen organisational practices and continue to build the sector’s capacity for self-assurance, quality reform measures have been agreed by the Commonwealth and all states and territories under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reform. These measures build on a number of recommendations from the rapid review, and include revising the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015, building the capability and capacity of RTOs for continuous improvement, and developing a VET Workforce Quality Strategy.
Further information on these measures, and opportunities for public consultation, can be found at www.skillsreform.gov.au.