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|Australia’s Private Education and Training sector: Profile: ACPET|
This year, the Australian Council for Private Education and Training celebrates its 20th anniversary with plans to open an office on the ground in China. ACPET CEO Claire Field spoke to Australia China Connections.
As CEO of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, the peak body representing Australia’s independent providers of post-compulsory education and training, including the Higher Education, Vocational Education and Training (VET), English language courses, senior secondary studies and foundation studies sectors, Claire Field has had her work cut out for her.
It has been her role to help restore the damaged reputation of Australia’s private education sector in both Australia and internationally.
Since the highly publicised collapse in 2009 of several Australian private colleges and the government decision to implement stricter visa processing regulations not long after, the private education and VET sector has taken a beating. And despite positive outcomes for universities as a result of last year’s Knight Review, the private education sector is fighting hard to claim its share of benefits and recognition for the role it plays in contributing to the success of Australia’s valuable international student market.
Recent measures implemented by ACPET have included the termination of membership of several members, working alongside the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) – the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training sector and, in recognition of the importance of the Chinese market to its members, plans to open its first offshore office in Chongqing.
*Pictured: Australian private colleges want greater recognition for the value they bring to Australia's international student market. (ACPET)
The importance of China
Ms Field says ACPET members see China as a key country to be engaged with due to the sheer numbers of Chinese students wanting to study English or travel overseas for their higher education and the opportunities for partnerships for training and education in delivering on shore courses.
The Chongqing office is a response to the growing importance China will continue to play for ACPET’s members, but says Ms Field, the additional advantage of having a representative on the ground will be to gain better feedback for what is working well on the ground.
“We want to know what areas we can help more in to help our members improve their quality in China and we are hopeful that having a rep on the ground will give us a better idea of that.”
On a recent trip to China, Ms Field said the key message coming out of meetings in China was an overall concern about high quality education.
“All governments want the best education opportunities for their young people,” she says.
In conjunction with TAFE Directors Australia, ACPET has also been lobbying the Australian government on a range of issues including streamlined visa processing for high quality TAFEs (already available to Australian students) and post study work rights.
“We argue that it’s time for the government to introduce this for the best public and private providers, to make Australia a more attractive destination for the VET sector,” says Ms Field.
She says Australia has a demand for a more flexible labour market and with that comes the need for a more flexible arrangement at training levels.
In a move welcomed by the organisation and in a breakthrough for Australian TAFEs, the federal government, in response to pressure from the Council of Australian Governments, recently agreed to include high quality TAFEs in its new student streamlined visa process.
Streamlined visa processing for university students went into effect on March 24, in response to recommendations put forward under the Knight Review.
Under the program, student visa applicants can streamline their visa application through a participating university in Australia at Bachelor, Masters, or Doctoral degree level – ensuring they are processed as a lower migration risk, regardless of their country of origin.
The implementation for the TAFE sector is expected to come into effect in time for enrolments later this year.
“We are very pleased,” says Ms Field.
“Let’s get the criteria right – who are the most trusted non-university providers? The key is that it gets done and done well.”
Extending the streamlined international student visas changes was a major element of the Interstate Reform Partnership signed between NSW and Victoria last year and was a key Priority Action in the NSW Strategy for Business Migration and Attracting International Students. ■