Katherine Towers wrote that TAFE NSW is “uncompetitive and dysfunctional”. Kelsey Munro said: “It is costing taxpayers on average seven times more to educate a student at a private vocational college than a public TAFE”.

What’s going on?

Katherine Towers of The Australian wrote on 20 April 2016 that: “Australia’s largest vocational and education training provider, TAFE NSW, is in for an overhaul after a scathing report found unproductive and overpaid teachers, an antiquated business model, expensive administrative and widespread duplication had brought the institution to the verge of financial collapse.

The Boston Consulting Group report said: “TAFE NSW had not kept up with rapid changes in technological and education markets resulting in a cost structure that had become uncompetitive and dysfunctional”.

The report added that: “TAFE NSW has failed to capitalise on the international student market or Sydney as a preferred destination with its share of overseas students declining and lagging behind all other states. NSW TAFE teachers get paid more but do less work than their interstate counterparts, and the costs per unit are double the state system’s ‘reputable competitors’ and 60% more than their sister institutions in other states”.

However, Kelsey Munro of The Age National reported that it is costing taxpayers on average seven times more to educate a student at a private vocational college than a public TAFE, according to new analysis of Federal Government figures. Taxpayers forked out $73,200 per graduate from private colleges on average, but only $10,500 per graduate in TAFE courses in 2014.

The analysis by the NSW Greens based on Federal Department of Education and Training funding figures and the number of vocational graduates in 2014, comes in the wake of several scandals in the private vocational sector. Dodgy providers are allegedly recruiting vulnerable people into government-funded courses they had little hope of completing by giving them laptops or iPads.

In one case, a Senate committee heard a college received $111 million in Commonwealth funding after handing out just 117 diplomas in 2014. The cost blowout is in part because, despite deep funding cuts, TAFE maintained significantly higher completion rates than private colleges in 2014 (87% compared with 44% for private providers).

NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said the privatisation of vocational training “has been a comprehensive failure” that both major parties shared responsibility for. “In a tight fiscal environment it is criminal to see billions of tax dollars being squandered to prop up private providers who aren’t even giving their students a qualification.”

The question therefore is: “If TAFE NSW is indeed uncompetitive and dysfunctional but they get double the completion rates of private colleges, just how bad are Australia’s private colleges and how much are they ripping off Australian industry?”