Victoria Shadow Minister for Tertiary Education & Training Peter Hall
Victorian Coalition Will Reform International Education Industry
Victor P Taffa
A Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government will act immediately to restore the viability and reputation of Melbourne as a high quality centre for education and training of international students, Shadow Minister for Tertiary Education and Training and Leader of The Nationals in the Legislative Council Peter Hall said today.
Mr. Hall, who addressed the Victorian International Education Industry Group forum in Melbourne today, said mismanagement and neglect by the Brumby and Gillard Labor Governments had contributed to Victoria’s dramatic decline in International Student Visa Numbers and Enrolments.
“The rapid fall in student numbers, particularly from South Asia which have plunged by over half, is largely due to Premier John Brumby’s failure to address problems with growing violence against students from South Asia over the last few years.” Mr. Hall said.
“Victoria’s reputation as a safe, secure place to undertake education has been severely tarnished by Labor’s failure to take matters of violence in Melbourne seriously.”
Mr. Hall said the Coalition had outlined a suite of law and order initiatives to tackle violent crime in the Streets.
The Liberal Nationals Coalition will also reform International Education by:
- Making immediate representations to the Federal Government to urgently reshape and reform mismanaged changes to the student visa regime to restore the competitiveness of international education against Victoria’s major competitors;
- Establishing a Tertiary Education and Training Ombudsman with the powers to investigate every aspect of the international student sector and publicly report on the performance of providers, operators and regulators to ensure they provide quality, effective and viable services to students;
- Immediately implementing the recommendations made in the recent Auditor-General’s report on the failings of the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority (VRQA);
- Improving governance and helping restore integrity in the VRQA by requiring its Board to include a representative from the private college sector to be nominated by the industry associations to the Minister;
- Revamping the International Student Care Service (ISCS) to make it a permanent International Student Service.
Mr. Hall said the Coalition would also spend $2 Million over four years targeting overseas education markets with information and outreach services, promoting Victoria as an education destination of choice.
“This would be carried out under a ‘Victoria: Leader in Learning’ banner, and promote stronger community safety policies and specific Tertiary Education and Training Policies.” Mr. Hall said.
“A Baillieu-Ryan Coalition Government will also establish a public register of all training providers so that consumers can make an informed choice in pursuing education and training opportunities.”
“Information on a range of matters will be made available, including courses offered, the cost of courses, whether the provider is public or private, service history of the provider, staff qualifications, facilities used to deliver courses and student services and facilities.”
Mr. Hall said the Gillard Labor Government’s mismanagement of the international student visa issue has resulted in a precipitate loss of international student enrolments that could take the sector years to repair.
“Education is Victoria’s biggest export earner and it must be protected from Labor’s neglect and mismanagement so that skilled workers can support the economy as it enters another phase of growth.” Mr. Hall said.
“John Brumby has done nothing and now the education sector faces a long period of falling enrolments and job losses unless federal policies are immediately reformed and revised.”
Mr. Hall said the Coalition believed the integrity of the tertiary education industry would be greatly enhanced by an independent Tertiary Education and Training Ombudsman, a statutory position reporting directly to the Parliament.
“Queensland has a Training Ombudsman, South Australia has an Education Ombudsman, and a number of industries have an industry-specific ombudsman or commissioners. The sector requires strict regulation and strong oversight to better deal with unscrupulous operators.” Mr. Hall said.
“The industry needs an Ombudsman with the powers to independently investigate every aspect of operation and report the tertiary education sector without fear or favour.”
Mr. Hall said the Auditor-General’s 2010 report on the VRQA found the Authority had consistently failed to assure quality of the work of its own staff and could not assure contracted auditors complied with the Australian Quality Training Framework.
“Most disturbing was the Auditor General’s comments on the VRQA’s attitude to the audit, which he described as having ‘levels of resistance and obstruction … rare in my experience in almost 20 years as an Auditor-General.”
“The Liberal Nationals Coalition will act immediately on the Auditor-General’s recommendations and ensure the VRQA operates with the same high standard it expects of training providers, to restore confidence to the whole sector.”
“A Coalition Government will make the ISCS a permanent operation, unlike Labor which is only prepared to trial ISCS because John Brumby is not willing to make any real commitment to ensure international students have the services they need.”
Mr. Hall said the ISCS was supposed to operate as a one-stop-shop where international students could receive help and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Unfortunately under John Brumby, very few students who could use its services actually know that it exists and those that are aware of its existence cannot easily access them.” Mr. Hall said.
“The Coalition will negotiate with the state’s principal tertiary education bodies for their assistance to double the ISCS budget again over the next four years to ensure there is a real commitment to student welfare in Victoria.”
“An expanded ISCS will be used to develop and deliver services to international students through a rolling program of campus visits so that international students understand what assistance is available in Victoria and how they can access it more easily.” Mr. Hall said.
“Together with the Coalition’s commitments to law and order, these initiatives will restore Victoria as a first choice destination for international students by strengthening the integrity and reputation of the industry.” Mr. Hall said.
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Under the provisions of the relevant Electoral Act responsibility for all election comment is assumed by Editor Victor P Taffa. The Registered office of The Southern Thunderer is at 4/69a Darvall Road, West Ryde NSW 2114.