The Australian Education Union (AEU) released the statement below on May 3.
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The huge funding cuts announced by the Victorian government to its TAFE institutes will damage the TAFE sector in Victoria and the Victorian economy and community. They will also change the national Vocational and Education Training (VET) system forever.
Late in 2011, the Victorian government ripped millions out of TAFEs budgets. Private providers were left largely untouched.
As a result of the 2012 budget cuts, TAFEs will lose initially an estimated $160 million a year. Many current TAFE courses will be cancelled and some campuses and facilities are likely to be closed. Some TAFE institutes will have to consider amalgamations, and hundreds of TAFE teachers and administrative staff will lose their jobs.
Unless these cuts to TAFE are reversed, Victoria faces an uncertain future in the critical area of vocational education with fragmented delivery, an unreliable and largely unregulated private for-profit sector, and TAFE institutes not funded to provide support and services across the community.
The Victorian TAFE system has been one of the flagships of the sector nationally and internationally. Overall, the Victorian publicly funded VET system represents about 27% of VET nationally, only slightly less than NSW.
Since the Victorian government moved to make all government VET funding in that state fully contestable in 2008, TAFE share of the market has plummeted from 75% in 2007 to 48% in 2011, with private provider share growing from 14% to 40% in the same period.
But the “opening up” of the VET market in Victoria also led to a $400m budget blowout, most of which has gone into the pockets of for-profit private providers.
The brunt of these cuts will be felt by TAFE students in Victoria, who are already paying more than students in any other state. Fees will need to increase to cover funding cuts — a fact which the Victorian government acknowledges because it has lifted fee caps in the budget. Students will not be able to access programs in a whole range of areas because they won’t be offered.
The federal government has recently set the architecture for a Victorian-style VET system across the country. A number of state and territory governments across the country are poised to implement these changes to their TAFE systems.
Events in Victoria cannot be quarantined as the disintegration of public provision fuels the growth of what is already a voracious private for-profit VET sector.
Of greatest concern is the collapse in public trust and accountability, as private providers unashamedly spruik their wares, offering incentives to students to enrol in qualifications delivered in a fraction of the time it takes at public providers, and offering employers rewards for taking their business to the private sector.
Already, private providers are turning their attention interstate, anticipating the roll out of Council of Australian Governments (COAG) reforms across the country.