Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cuts Will ‘Privatise TAFE and Close Campuses’ in Victoria

English: TAFE campus at Bendigo, Victoria
TAFE campus at Bendigo, Victoria (Photo: Wikipedia)
by Justin Norrie, Editor, The Conversation:

Justin joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 2004 and covered the education, crime and urban affairs rounds before moving to Tokyo in 2007 to write about Japan for the Herald and The Age. He returned to Australia in 2010 to take a position as a senior reporter at the Sun Herald before joining The Conversation.

Education experts and senior academics have called on the Victorian Government to abandon budget cuts that they say will effectively privatise TAFE in Victoria and force several campuses to shut.

In an open letter, 14 vocational education and training researchers have expressed concern at “radical funding changes” to the public and private VET sector in Victoria. Victorian TAFE Association executive director David Williams has said that as many as 600 jobs may be cut in regional Victoria while metropolitan TAFEs could lose up to 1500.

The cuts to TAFE institutions, announced in the May budget, will reduce public funding by 22% from the start of 2013. The government has slashed funding for up to 80% of courses. In some courses - from fields including business, hospitality, retail, customer contact, process manufacturing, events, fitness and sport - rates will be cut to less than $2 per student contact hour from the current levels of between $6.50 and $10 per hour.

One of the authors of the letter, David McLean, the TAFE Manager at RMIT University, said that “what’s not seen by the government is the amount of hard work that goes on in the sector to develop resources and to come up with training methods and recruit people and build some sort of consistency to the way programs are developed. It’s all of that that’s going to get lost. There’s a human connection to that, but what’s really lost is the intellectual capital. If you sit down and try to do a budget and things just don’t add up, then you know you’re going to have to make some pretty hard decisions. Programs have been shut down and more will go.”

Nearly every Victorian university is represented by the signatories to the letter, which warns that “the privatisation of TAFE in Victoria is imminent if the newly proposed policy, Refocusing Vocational Training in Victoria, is implemented … We are alarmed that publicly owned TAFE institutes that provide immeasurable benefit to the Victorian economy and its communities should be threatened by such wide ranging and ill-judged reforms.”

The letter goes on to say that there is widespread fear across the sector. “There can be little doubt that this policy will cause campus closures in urban and rural Victoria, force the reduction of learning support services across TAFE and degrade Victoria’s training capacity through the loss of teaching expertise".

"Ultimately, though, it is the people of Victoria who will pay the price through increased fees, reduced quality and decreased access to publicly funded education. We strongly urge the Victorian Government to stop this planned destruction of public vocational education and training, a mandate for which it was never granted.”

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