What are some of the issues confronting TAFE NSW?

  • Government priorities of competition and free enterprise are over emphasised. This may be appropriate for business and industry, but not in the world of education and training. 
  • Funding for TAFE is largely based on a contestable model, as it competes with for-profit training providers that may not even be registered in NSW. The responsibility for paying the full costs of education is being shifted to students, who are having to take on very high debts to pay for their courses. 
  • TAFE’s role and responsibilities to build social as well as economic capital are being undermined, and continuing and further education courses are being chopped. Courses for students most in need are not being funded, and support services including counselling, disabilities and multicultural support have been cut back. 
  • The quality of vocational education and training has been compromised and undermined due to pressures to make courses cheap, to compete with training providers that may not meet the same quality standards as TAFE, and to push through student completions to meet government demands

Why we are concerned about the future of TAFE?

All education sectors are undergoing considerable change, but none more so than the vocational education and training sector.  Governments, both Liberal and Labor, have been changing the focus of VET and TAFE over the last decade, and the visions of the 1974 Kangan report that had VET providing second chance and further education, have been diminished.  VET has been subjected to marketisation and privatisation, and education for individuals has become almost a secondary consideration.  Federal Government funding for VET has been made available on the basis that states open up their training markets and make both federal and state funding contestable.  Student fees have been greatly increased, and governments are moving away from their responsibility to provide a public TAFE system, accessible to all and meeting the educational and vocational needs of individuals, industry and community.  The latest Federal budget of 2014 further entrenches the notions of ‘user pays’ and private ownership of education.
In NSW, the government plans to introduce reforms in 2015 entitled ‘Smart and Skilled NSW’.  The funding of VET will incorporate contestability and student entitlements. TAFE NSW Institutes will be expected to compete with approved private and community training providers for entitlement funding. 
Funding to TAFE will fall (as has happened in other states).  Already the current state government has cut some $800m from TAFE NSW. As a consequence TAFE NSW has started to cut courses that are not considered  most competitive or that are not on the state’s skills shortage list.  These include many cultural courses such as arts, and second chance courses such as the HSC and languages. 
The TAFE Community Alliance is aware that many members of the public do not know about these changes and are not aware of the impact on the accessibility of quality vocational education and training courses in the future.  The Alliance also feels that many will agree that such changes are not in the best interests of the people of NSW.
In the continuing context of campaigning to maintain a quality, well-funded TAFE system in NSW, the Alliance also believes that now is the time to re-examine what TAFE NSW really stands for and to consider how it can evolve to maintain its important role in NSW.

What are society’s expectations of TAFE?

What does our society value?  Where does it want public funding allocated?  This paper poses these questions and more in focusing on vocational education and training (VET) and the role of TAFE.
During 2013 the NSW Government released a paper entitled ‘Statement of owner expectations – TAFE NSW’.  This paper outlined what the NSW Government expected of TAFE.  The TAFE Community Alliance (TCA) believes that governments, however, have a broader responsibility which includes the funding and maintenance of a quality public VET system on behalf of the people of NSW who are the real owners of TAFE.
This discussion paper has been developed by the Alliance to:
·     engage with a wide range of individuals and groups about TAFE
·     seek and record the views of what society expects of TAFE

·     result in a position to campaign around in the lead-up to the next state elections