Contract cheating – One out of every ten students submits assignments written by someone else – and the vast majority of them get away with it.

Despite popular belief, contract cheating is more prevalent in Australian institutions than many would expect. According to a recent survey conducted by the University of Western Australia, one in every ten students across Australia’s institutions is guilty of paying someone to create assignments or take online examinations on their behalf.

Contract cheating is a form of academic dishonesty that occurs in educational institutes. It is an unethical and illegal practice that may occur when students are offered incentives for providing their own answers to exam questions or for giving other students their answers.

The most serious form of cheating is also the most difficult to detect, and it is occurring at a higher rate than previously assumed. It was estimated that between 2-4 per cent of Australian institution students submitted projects that had been authored by someone else. According to recent research, the true figure is closer to 8-11 per cent. Furthermore, almost 95% of students who engage in this type of cheating do not get caught.

Using essays and reports to exhibit learning, assignments allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the material. If the assignment is written by someone else, it is possible that a student will graduate without knowing something that they are meant to know. Contract cheating is the term used to describe when students arrange for someone else to do an assignment on their behalf. Numerous students were involved in contract cheating cases that made headlines, such as the MyMaster affair, which involved thousands of students.

Even at the most affected institutions, however, this represented less than 0.2 per cent of all students. According to polls, at least ten times as many students (2-4 per cent) admit to engaging in contract cheating.

The reason why contract cheating happens in educational institutes is because of the lack of transparency and trust between the institution and its students. The lack of trust between the two parties leads to a lack of respect for each other’s rights and responsibilities.

Contract cheating is not just limited to universities but it can also happen in the vocational education and training sector and even secondary schools.

The main reasons for this are the following:

  • Financial pressures on the students.
  • The easy way out for the students.
  • Students are not aware of their rights and responsibilities as a student.
  • Students believe cheating is okay as there are no or very few repercussions.
  • Students lack good morals or are good at gaming the system.
  • Students might be afraid of failing or not being able to finish their degree due to a lack of time or resources.
  • Students may not be taught how to create quality work
  • Students may lack motivation and don’t want to spend time on a project because they are too busy with other activities
  • Students may have been taught that plagiarism is wrong, but contract cheating seems like a way around this
  • Students feel pressured to do well because of the high-stakes nature of the exams.
  • Lack of clarity around what is expected, which leads to uncertainty and stress.
  • The system has not been designed to cater for students with special needs or those who require more time to complete.

This often happens when students are unaware of the severity of contract cheating and how it can affect their future opportunities in education and training.

One article by ‘Times Higher Education’ states approximately “5% of all students surveyed said they had previously paid someone else to do their work” which shows that there are many who resort to contract cheating since studying takes up most or all of their lives, leaving little room for other sources of income which could lead these individuals into debt.

Another article on ‘Times Higher Education’ mentions that without a source of income and having to study full time, one may choose not to submit their own work since they may feel like they lack the time or capacity to complete assignments. The same article also talks about how some universities have strict rules against plagiarism which makes it difficult for students who are so used to doing this when faced with an essay question. They mention how “some students described being in exam situations when the script contained quotes from several different sources”, so contract cheating could provide them with enough space in their essays to quote various sources, while still getting good grades.

Interview with Peter Doukas – Managing Director, Denison Toyer Education Lawyers

Peter owns and operates Sydney based education law firm Denison Toyer.

Working in the field of Education Law and Corporate Governance since 2007 Peter has acted for over one hundred Registered Training Organisations and Higher Education Providers in various stages of the education management cycle. He routinely acts for colleges in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and provides extensive advice to RTO Management, Higher Education providers, Educational Conglomerates and Universities. His professional practice also includes providing legal and governance advice to listed and unlisted company boards. He has acted in some of the largest cases involving ASQA in the AAT.

Peter is also active in the multicultural space and acts as a volunteer director on various boards. He is the current chair of the Ethnic Communities’ Council of NSW. He also works providing pro-bono legal assistance to new and emerging communities, particularly in the establishment of associations and governance structures within NSW.

Peter was awarded Honour of Member of the Order of Australia for services to Multiculturalism on Australia Day 2020.

Here is a copy of Peter Doukas’s interview with Sukh Sandhu:

Thank you, Sukh for the opportunity to be part of the publication. I think it is exceptional that you have maintained the publication throughout the COVID period and it is in my view has never been a more critical time in the history of VET to properly liaise with the sector in all its shapes and sizes and the publication does this.

What are the top five genuine reasons for a regulatory body to take strict action against a training provider?

This is an interesting question. The word ‘genuine’ is something that has troubled representatives in the profession and around the sector for the last 10 years. What constitutes a genuine problem or a genuine reason for a regulatory body (any regulatory body) to take strict action against the Training Provider. The unique example of VET is one which we should bear in mind moving forward as it is the current question before us. In my view, strict action including sanctions should be the last resort. By sanction I mean the sanction of either cancellation, suspension or any other form of sanction which directly affects the ability of the organisation to trade. In my view, there are a number of items where such strict action should be taken. These include but are not limited to:

  • Criminal conduct by the Provider
  • Conduct that is not criminal but unlawful such as breaching the provisions of the NVR Act. If it is proven however to a criminal standard.
  • The use of the VET framework to further commercial interests. It has occurred routinely that I have seen individuals (either Providers and non Providers) use the mere fact of the highly regulated VET environment to further their commercial interests when pursuing them against an RTO.
  • When there are examples of mistreatment of students. This is an extension to the student centred approach that ASQA has taken in the recent past in which in my view students and their experience while studying in our VET Sector should be prioritised above all else.

When should RTO representatives seek the advice of a legal professional?

The question of when a RTO representative should engage a legal professional has plagued me for some time. I have too often been brought into cases that have been run or attempted to be run by Providers without the involvement of a lawyer. This ends up costing Providers exponentially more and in some cases the problems are too large to fix before a sanction either takes effect or can possibly be unwound. In my view is prudent for an RTO to permanently retain (this does not need to be on a financial basis) a lawyer or law firm for the sole purpose of providing legal advice. If you have a lawyer ‘on the books’ it would make the function of dealing with sanctions or any inquiries from the regulator more easy. We must remember, the VET Sector is a highly regulated environment and a VET Provider particularly a CRICOS Provider operates in the framework of multiple interlocking contracts, agreements and regulatory requirements. The idea that RTOs could go along without having legal advice outside of leasing and other contracts on an Ad-hoc basis is not realistic. For larger Providers I strongly recommend the establishment of a Board of Directors of which a retained lawyer and compliance expert sit as advisors to this Board (not necessarily Directors) but provide routine advice on compliance and on structures of the business of VET delivery.

This question is an extension to the previous question, in what ways can a legal practitioner, such as yourself, assist an RTO who is experiencing a legal problem with the regulatory body?

To answer the question about how a lawyer can address the problem facing a regulatory body or facing a registered training organisation is not as appropriate in my view as to when to involve that person. We in this Sector operate in a very unique regulatory framework. ASQA as a regulator has to face Providers which for the most part try to do the right thing but often find themselves on the wrong side of regulation or audits. I have seen on many occasions legal practitioners in some cases from very large firms find themselves completely out of their depth with regards to the implementation of the NVR Act and audit reports as part of regulatory functions. I have noticed the impact of regulatory decisions that have been taken by the regulator not being properly addressed either due to fellow practitioners not fully understanding the way the NVR Act works nor the way that AAT matters should be run. AAT litigation in the RTO space is unique and is very rarely dealt with by legal practitioners operating outside of the RTO space. There are a number of lawyers in Australia who have experience in these matters and I would encourage RTO owners to seek out lawyers who actually have acted in the AAT and ideally brought a matter to final hearing. It is not enough to simply ask a lawyer when shopping around ‘have you taken an RTO to the AAT?’. The real questions that need to be asked is whether:

  • The lawyer has taken a matter to final hearing
  • They have run a contested stay application; and
  • They have conciliated an outcome to the benefit of the RTO.

As you would have noticed, there was a time when RTOs were being cancelled left, right, and centre for trivial reasons that had no or little influence on students. Do you still witness the same pattern, or have the processes been improved?

I think the Regulator’s processes have improved dramatically in the last 18 months. In my view, the Regulator has made a genuine attempt to engage with the Sector and have as an outcome a collaborative and collegiate system of compliance and regulation. Also, it must be said that there were quite a few more RTOs at the beginning of 2018 than there are today. This can partly be due to the cancellation of many in between 2018 and 2019 and also of course a result of the impacts of COVID-19. In 2018 and for most of 2019 I remember running at least one stay hearing each week. This was a time when RTOs were being shut or sanctioned as a result of audit reports that didn’t really hit the mark. There are a number of factors I believe that have changed this. Some of which include some significant wins for RTOs and in final hearing before the AAT,other factors involve the change in perspective from ASQA to a more collaborative model of compliance. I think it can be said generally that the RTO space we are going into in 2022 is fundamentally different from the RTO space that we had in 2019. I am excited at how the Sector will look because I think that we now have a Regulator who can see the value of a competitive, compliant but confident VET Sector that isn’t always looking over its shoulder.

What are the primary reasons for the departure of so many people from the vocational education and training industry?

The departure of people from the Vocational Industry I believe will be reflected as one of the most dramatic and problematic events in Australian commercial history. I have a colleague who is looking to conduct a PhD in Vocational Education and is unable to find a supervisor. It is the case that people have left the VET Sector and found opportunities elsewhere for many reasons, but central is the lack of focus that has been placed at the sector at a policy level. RTO owners shutting or selling their RTO’s tell me that they have lost faith or lost confidence in the Sector. I have worked tirelessly to try to convince people to remain within the Sector and either keep their colleges open or at least keep themselves in the space in some way. I believe that we are about to embark on a significant period of growth in VET and we need as many experienced operators as possible. This is due in part to the combination of a skills shortage in Australia and the gradual opening of our borders to international students.

Any legal advice you’d want to share with people who are interested in entering into the RTO industry or who are currently operating in the industry would be greatly appreciated.

My view is that VET is about to take off. Unfortunately, I am looking to the government to support the Sector and support the entrance of people into the Sector. When I say government, I do not mean the Regulator but education policymakers in Canberra. We need to remember that international education is either our second or third largest export market depending on the context. Could you imagine what would occur if mining in Australia had experienced the nearly 30 per cent decline in people working in the Industry? This is VET since 2019. I believe government should look both into the push and pull factors affecting how people engage with the Sector. They have certainly addressed the push factors by the reforms of the Regulator and I think that now finally ASQA has the framework of a forward-thinking and flexible Regulator in a competitive international market which can finally be compared to Regulators in other Anglosphere jurisdictions such as Canada, New Zealand or the United Kingdom.

As to the pull factors, I believe that we really need to focus on trainers and RTO owners. These are the people who dedicate huge chunks of their life to the training of VET Students and it is these people who need our support and credit in what I hope will be a re-emergence of our VET Sector.

For those who wish to connect with or follow Peter Doukas, you can do so via his Linkedin, here –

University jobs lost at a rate of ‘one in five’ as COVID-19 border laws continue to bite

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying economic recession, Australia’s higher education sector was hit harder than any other industry in the country’s economy, according to the latest report. Because of public health measures and the closure of Australia’s borders to international students, universities in Australia have been driven into financial and operational upheaval in recent months. Furthermore, the Commonwealth government failed in its decision to exclude universities from the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme (which had an initial budget of $130 billion and was designed to support 6 million jobs during the early lockdowns). This exacerbated the situation. In the face of dwindling revenue, operational challenges (such as online learning), and health-related restrictions, universities and colleges were forced to fend for themselves. The academic community, researchers, support staff, and students have all suffered tremendously as a result of this acute, but preventable, financial crisis.

In the report “An Avoidable Catastrophe: Pandemic Job Losses in Higher Education and Their Consequences,” written by Eliza Littleton and Jim Stanford, a number of findings were revealed. The report, which examines the causes and consequences of widespread job losses in higher education, includes several key findings. When comparing the first six months of 2021 to the same time the previous year, total employment in higher education declined by 40,000 positions, according to the BLS. Job losses were concentrated in permanent, full-time positions – and they were all in government-run establishments, to top it all off.

In the early months of the pandemic, casual workers were among the first university personnel to lose their employment, as universities grappled with the sudden loss of international student tuition, among other implications of the virus, during the first few months of the pandemic. While the number of job losses has increased significantly this year, the majority of them have been aimed at permanent full-time employees. Universities are downsizing and casualizing their workforce on a more permanent basis in the expectation that border closures will continue indefinitely — and the Commonwealth government will continue to deny targeted assistance that is required to keep the universities’ instructional and research capacities operating.

According to the report, universities are recommended to seek special temporary assistance from the Commonwealth government until borders can be reopened and revenues can resume normal operations. Universities would benefit from targeted support in the amount of $3.75 billion, which would help them replace and maintain the jobs that have been lost so far this year. When the economy is experiencing long-term structural changes as a result of the pandemic, the preservation of the functions of Australian universities is particularly critical. As a result, more students will require higher education opportunities to support the resulting employment transitions, the preservation of the functions of Australian universities is particularly critical. Apart from that, the outbreak has brought to light how vital it is now, more than ever, to conduct high-quality research (particularly in the health sciences) to combat the spread of disease.

For more information, please Click here.

Online learning is much more than access to training and assessment materials online

In spite of the fact that different nations are at different stages of COVID-19 infection rates, there are currently more than billions of learners in 186 countries who are affected by face-to-face classroom closures as a result of the epidemic. This is one of the reasons why we decided to create a few articles to provide assistance to the industry, training organisations, and students.

In order to be successful in teaching online, training organisations must create and deliver courses that are engaging, interactive, effectively supported, and sensitive to the needs of today’s students.

Students will continue to look to you for direction and guidance even if they are learning from home.

Effective online learning

Effective online learning does not only follow the traditional model of uploading materials to a learning management system such as Moodle, but also incorporates a number of interactive ways to engage students, enable and equip them to perform the activities in a simulated environment, provide them with real-life situations and scenarios, and ensure regular interactions with the instructor and other students. In the event that a trainer is not accessible, the student should interact with the learning management system instead.

Suggestions for improving the effectiveness of e-learning..

Here are some good recommendations for making e-learning even more effective:

Provide instructions that are quite specific and clear.

You must present your students with clear directions at all times. It is critical to use clear legends and icons when creating a course for an online learning module. You must also maintain consistency. It should be absolutely clear to students what they need to read, research, observe, participate/do and write about in order to effectively complete a course. No guessing game is appropriate for online learning, especially when students are interacting directly with a machine, not a human being.

Design layout for the online course

What kind of design layout do you employ? When it comes to getting learners to participate in your courses, course design is really important. It should be straightforward, efficient, and engaging. Make it easy for students to move from one course to another or from one link to another without complications.

If you do not have in-house expertise in designing online learning courses, make it crystal clear in what qualities and characteristics you are looking for if you are recruiting. When it comes to an interview, what are the most important things that developers must demonstrate in terms of knowledge and skills, explain everything in as clear and succinct a manner as you can.

Make the courses engaging and interesting

Students’ inability to concentrate on uninteresting and unengaging content is a primary cause for their failure to succeed in online courses. As a result of the current healthcare crisis, this problem has been further compounded further. The inability to retain concentration manifests itself in a variety of ways for different people. Many students find it difficult to concentrate, prioritise, organise their time, and remain on track when they do not have the structure of a typical training day to follow, which is why many students choose to study in face-to-face classrooms rather than online. Fortunately, there are a number of solutions. In the first place, it is vital that students are provided with an organisational framework that will enable them to be effective. Second, the content that is made available to them should be entertaining, interactive, and designed with a high level of professionalism.

Facilitate a process by which students engage with one another

The students must communicate in a manner that is similar to the manner in which they are accustomed to receiving face-to-face education. Making smaller groups of students out of a large group of students can help to enhance interaction, communication, and the development of interpersonal relationships. Initiate conversations with students about participating in icebreaker activities while they are in smaller breakout groups. The breakout sessions, which can be held during the online meetings, after class sessions, or during class sessions, provide an additional opportunity for students to express themselves and share their skills and experience with one another.

Individual learning plans should be developed.

Because every student’s situation is unique, your expectations must be tailored to each individual student’s existing capabilities. Personalise students’ education by developing customised learning plans that allow you to tailor your instruction and expectations to their specific needs and skills. This is especially true for students who have learning difficulties, who may find it challenging to learn in a distance-learning environment.

Make it social

Sharing and commenting on information are examples of social features that most of us are accustomed to doing in our everyday communication. When used in conjunction with gamification, this increases the interactivity of any course. It’s also a lot of fun for the students to participate.

Invite students to contribute to the learning.

Another method of empowering learners is to have them share their expertise by creating materials or holding online group study sessions. Students who engage in task-based learning can produce a genuine, relevant output that can be shared with other students who are at an earlier stage in their learning journey to motivate them and assist them with their studies. Task-based learning is becoming increasingly popular.

Encourage the use of peer evaluation.

A tried-and-true classroom strategy that also works wonders online. Providing learners with the opportunity to assess each other’s work helps them to better comprehend what they are doing and promotes a culture of sharing, which can be beneficial in disseminating best practice.

E-learning content is very different from face to face content

It is possible that your course content will appear uninteresting and unengaging to your students if you do not present them with choices to participate through videos, audios, images, video conferencing tools, emoticons, or other means of online communication.

The ability to concentrate when working online gradually deteriorates, especially when the distractions of social media are readily available. Student requirements for online content are generally higher than those for face-to-face education, and this must be acknowledged.

Interesting and engaging conversations

Take care to ensure that any conversations that students have are actually valuable to their learning. This can be done verbally, in a breakout session, or online using chat or a discussion forum.

Seek stakeholders feedback for continuous improvement

Solicit input from all stakeholders in order to ensure that the quality of the online training materials is continually improved. It is possible to sustain the interest of students, who are one of the most important stakeholders, by soliciting and acting on their feedback, which also helps them feel more connected to the online course and your training organisation in general. When it comes to receiving constructive feedback to students, using efficient online feedback tools such as Google forms, plickers, kahoot, socrative, GoSoapBox, Quizalize, Formative, Poll everywhere, Micropoll, Zoho survey, Survey Monkey, Typeform, SurveyNuts, SurveyPlanet, PollMaker etc. can be extremely beneficial. A variety of other tools can be used to provide constructive feedback to students in addition to the ones listed above such as Audacity (for audio feedback), Jing (the video feedback platform), Kalzena etc. Maintaining genuine connections with students and other stakeholders means keeping feedback as constructive as possible while also remaining approachable.

Constructive and ongoing review of student’s participation

Responses are required for tasks that necessitate participation in a debate or forum. The motivation for giving up can come from teachers or other classmates. Students will frequently give up if they perceive that no one is reading or watching what they are writing, reading, speaking or doing.

Time management tools

Checklists assist students in organising their thoughts as well as the time they have available to complete their learning modules, formative or summative assessments.

Stay away from gimmicky tools that aren’t worth your time. Keep your attention on the teaching and learning process rather than on the bells and whistles, and you’ll be just fine. There are a wealth of great materials readily available, and there is no need to recreate the wheel if you can find something available online that you can use for training your students.

Give students research activities

Provide research tasks that have been pre-planned and critically evaluated in advance. The internet may be a complicated and intimidating world if you don’t know where to look. Project-based learning offers a wide range of alternatives for customisation, and there are many of them.

Self-assessment and reflection activities

Self-assessment and reflection should be made available to students at all levels of education.

Be available to support your students

It is acceptable to say that online learning can be difficult at times. Create a situation where you are available to assist others when they require it. The phrase “remote” does not necessarily imply the idea of being “on your own.”

Offer students choices for learning and submitting the work

It is important that students be given the opportunity to exhibit their work in a variety of mediums.

What is the learners’ perception of the learning environment?

The perceived relevance of the course to a student is almost certainly the single most essential aspect in motivating them to engage in and complete the course, and this perception is required for optimal learning. The importance of describing the usability, value, and relevance of the course from the beginning of each course session cannot be overstated. Make it clear to your students how your course serves as a prerequisite for more advanced courses, how it will aid them in the acquisition of specific abilities, or how it addresses topics that the students find particularly interesting.

Focus on equity and accessibility

The expansion of online learning has exacerbated the problems of equity and accessibility that have long plagued the VET and higher education. Despite the fact that people may have access to technology, not everyone has reliable high-speed Internet connections or a distraction-free study place. Be aware of the obstacles that students may encounter, keeping in mind that students’ degrees of comfort with online learning can vary greatly, and that some students may be located in different time zones than others. The suspicion that their classmates are cheating is widespread among students, and with good reason. As a result of the current political climate, our students are experiencing a wide range of issues. Some students require academic aid, while others require technology assistance to complete their assignments. Many, possibly the majority, of students require non-academic support services. Many people’s mental health requirements are not being provided in a satisfactory manner. Another group of people requires support in keeping a good balance between their various responsibilities and priorities. It is possible to reach out to students in a proactive manner or to send notifications if there is evidence that they are falling behind in their studies. You have the ability to send out alerts to your students, to provide them with support, and to accomplish excellent outcomes. All you have to do is investigate and discover the legally permissible methods of accomplishing your goals.

Show empathy with your students

The importance of empathy has never been greater than it is right now. Encourage your students to try their best in all they do. Using scaffolding, such as rubrics, check lists, sample responses to test questions, background material, glossaries, and so on, students can better structure their learning and achieve greater success. Consider giving yourself some wiggle room when it comes to deadlines and the ability to redo assignments.

Prepare for the future

There is little indication that things will return to normal in the near future and we must assume that a large component of VET and higher education will continue to be given online for the foreseeable future. However, we have a professional and moral obligation to ensure that students learn just as much as they would have in the time prior to the pandemic. Take the initiative and meet the challenge head-on.

Tools, techniques and technologies for e-learning

Let’s discuss some of the tools, techniques and technologies that you can use for e-learning:

  1. Frequent announcements: It may seem obvious, but giving students with a regular announcement about what is occuring in the topic (and the world) – aim to do so regularly – helps them feel more connected and a sense of belonging.
  2. Prepare a brief weekly video announcement, such as the following: Explain the week’s goals and objectives, how this ties to past learning and subject outcomes, and any advise you have for students on assessment progress (for example, “By this time, you should have finished your peer feedback”).
  3. Establish online discussions in your learning management system (LMS) and ensure that you participate in them. This is similar to what you would do in a traditional classroom setting. Encouragement, adjusting assumptions, and remembering to mention and emphasise accomplishment are all important!
  4. Establish “Virtual Office Hours,” during which students are aware that you are available to reply to questions via email or discussion board.
  5. Set explicit expectations for how you want students to behave and engage with one another early on in your subject’s development. Also crucial is to demonstrate these behaviours and interactions yourself, such as being concise, being respectful, and fostering friendly discourse.
  6. You can use discussion boards to address subject-specific issues and also for more informal discussions such as introductory or general discussions.
  7. Bring about conversation by using direct questions, conflicts, cases, situations, and concerns or problems that are relevant to the subject matter.
  8. Make sure to participate in the discussion on a frequent basis and to acknowledge students when they make good remarks, give links to resources, or assist other students in the topic.
  9. Useful aspects that are found in other elements of your subject, such as in your digital lectures, announcements, or online tutorials, should be mentioned explicitly in your digital lectures.
  10. Allocate a minor percentage of the overall grade for participation in discussion forums.

In our upcoming newsletters, we will continue to explore the tools, techniques, and technologies that can be used to deliver quality training online.

CAQA Digital

Through our partner initiatives Online Media Solutions (OMS) and CAQA Digital, we can assist you with your e-learning requirements. Contact us at for more information.

Private training colleges face too much scrutiny, says ACPET

Excessive scrutiny of detailed regulatory issues by the national skills regulator is forcing private colleges into legalistic compliance, according to the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET).

ACPET has called for a review of the quality standards for VET following the latest annual report of the Australian Skills Quality Authority.

Independent RTOs were unfairly depicted in the 2017-18 Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) Annual Report released last week.

Peter McDonald, Acting Chief Executive Officer has discussed the following issues in ACPET’s Edition 782, 5 November 2018.

Mainstream media has once again sensationalised statistics produced by ASQA and re-published them without context, further diminishing the reputation of the independent training sector.

ACPET firmly believes that excessive scrutiny on minor details that have little to do with actual training is poor use of the regulator’s resources. It is the outcomes of these nominal requirements that are impacting independent providers overall audit results, and in turn bringing down the reputation of the entire sector.

Small administrative errors and gross deliberate acts of misconduct technically both result in the same outcome reporting: non-compliance. The facts that serious compliance breaches lead to de-registration and that the number of courses of action in this regard is in actuality small are being overlooked.

ACPET calls for perspective and responsible reporting and commentary – in all forms.

It is commonly thought among providers and sector experts that there is far too much focus on very small and often trivial levels of non-compliance.

ACPET champions quality in the education and training sector. Our Industry Certification Program and VET Practitioner Register products evidence that by no means do we think that this should be compromised. But, the regulator needs to be focusing on indicators that reflect quality outcomes. One could be forgiven for thinking that the ASQA auditors’ working brief is to find evidence of any shortcoming as opposed to systemic fault.

We acknowledge that the regulator is tasked with a difficult job and has made reasonable improvements to the risk-based assessment audit model. ACPET fully supports a market contested by only reputable providers. However, ACPET calls for ASQA to be flexible by using an approach that ensures teaching and student learning is providers’ focus. When providers are needing to employ administrators ahead of trainers and teachers, the sector has gotten it wrong.

ACPET members enjoy high completion rates and positive student outcomes, in general exemplifying high quality training. The regulator needs to catch up and evaluate what really matters, not minutiae.


India to be top study destination in two years

The Indian government has promised fee waivers to foreign students choosing India as their study destination as part of a campaign that has a commitment to welcome 1 million inbound students.

Following the launch of the Study in India web portal on April 18, which will be a one stop solution for international students, the government has now proposed few waivers, funded by various institutions.

Satya Pal Singh, the Minister for State, confirmed that the “fee waivers to meritorious students” will be decided by the university concerned and could be: a 100% waiver of tuition fees (to the top 25% students); 50% for the next 25%; followed by 25% to the next 25% students.

Singh explained that “no additional funding has been allocated” by the government for the fee waiver program but the subsidies will be borne by the university/ institution offering admission and will be “based on cross-subsidisation or through its existing funding”.

Sixty institutions are on board including the top ranking Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Management and some private universities too.

The government hopes to extend this number to 100 before the beginning of the academic year.

It means that up to 75% of international students applying to Indian institutions could receive a graded fee waiver determined by their SAT scores.

While India is the second largest supplier of international students to global destinations, it has failed to create a niche as a student destination. The Study in India program hopes to change that.

The Human Resource Development minister, Prakash Javadekar, is spearheading the program and spoke at the Internationalisation at Home conference recently.

“If 600,000 students [are] going out, then the mission of Study in India programme is to bring 1,000,000 students into the country”, he announced.

While he was not specific about a time frame, it’s an ambitious target considering that only 47,575 international students came to India in 2016-2017, according to official data. Technology and management degrees have been the most popular.


Top source countries for India include Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan

Top source countries for India include countries in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperations (Nepal – 23.65%, Afghanistan – 9.3 %, Bhutan 4.8%) and Africa (Nigeria and Sudan together accounting for almost 9%) and Malaysia at 3.3%.

The Study in India program will see a massive expenditure on branding India as a lucrative study destination over next two years (approximately $23m allocated).

The first phase of the programme will see 30 countries targeted which will later expand to 60 more.

These include SAARC nations, ASEAN nations, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

First published by “The Pie News

Fake universities may have produced bogus lawyers and doctors in UK

More than 30 fake UK universities have been shut down in the past year as concern grows about students being mis-sold fraudulent degrees.

The Law Society Gazette reports that 32 fake academic institutions were closed by the government over the past year; 25 of them claimed to be in the UK but were found to be overseas.

The organization appointed to oversee the investigation and verify universities in the UK said that fake courses tend to focus on medicine, business and law.

University watchdog the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (Hedd), which monitors fake degrees, identified a total of 62 bogus institutions in the past year. So far, 32 have been closed by law enforcement and trading standards agencies, and 30 investigations are still in progress.

Of the 32 fake institutions closed, 25 were based overseas, according to Jayne Rowley, director of Hedd. The agency is advising another four institutions, which are legitimate businesses, to make clear to prospective students that they cannot award UK degrees.

“All the ones that were shut down were completely bogus,” said Rowley. “The completely fake sites that talk of campuses of students when there’s literally nothing there at all.” Rowley cited one case that Hedd is working on at the moment that involves a university whose address, listed on its website, is actually “an empty shop front in Hyde in Cheshire”.

Since 2011, 220 bogus UK universities have been identified and 80% of them are no longer active, Rowley said. But she added that even the defunct fake universities remained a problem because employers were failing to check whether prospective candidates’ qualifications were valid.

“The overall figure of the number of recruiters who check degree qualifications with the awarding body is only around 20%,” said Rowley. “So an awful lot of fraud goes undetected. Only two-thirds of employers actually ask to see a degree certificate, a third will rely on CVs.

Rowley warned that the situation could get worse because of the government’s plans to open up the sector and give instant degree-awarding powers to new private providers with no track record in education.

“I think there’s a very big risk this will become a more serious problem,” she said. “I think the proposals to expand provision in the HE bill can lead to people abusing the new degree-awarding powers. If the number [of universities] swells by several hundred it’s going to be easier for … bogus operators to get in under the radar.”

The rise of online degree programmes, such as massive open online courses, could also worsen the problem, Rowley added.

“With the onset of the internet and distance learning, degree fraud is a borderless crime and we must collaborate with agencies around the world to deal with it. The fact that so much can be delivered online means it’s very, very easy, you don’t even have to have a building any more to run a supposed [higher education] institution.”

Over the past year, Hedd has worked with the Metropolitan police, the National Crime Agency and National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, Trading Standards, depending on whether a fake institution was in breach of trademarks and copyright, by copying the website or logo of a real university, or breaching the Education Reform Act by misleadingly calling itself a university.

Heavy penalty for bogus qualification

A former trainer has been ordered to pay $120,000 for providing her employer with 11 bogus vocational education and training (VET) qualifications, providing another two bogus qualifications to a co-worker and submitting false qualifications to the national regulator as proof of her competency.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) successfully obtained declarations from the Federal Court that Synthia Dee M Restar of Beecroft, New South Wales, fabricated the qualifications in contravention of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011.

Between January 2012 and April 2014, Ms Restar fabricated qualifications in aged care, disability and business management in her own name and provided each to her employer as legitimate qualifications. She also provided three of the bogus qualifications to an ASQA auditor in support of an application to become a registered training organisation (RTO).

Ms Restar also fabricated two aged care qualifications for a co-worker and falsely represented those qualifications to be legitimate.

ASQA Chief Commissioner Chris Robinson said the bogus qualifications were uncovered during an ASQA investigation.

“As a result of this investigation, ASQA cancelled the registration of the RTO in question and used the powers available to it to pursue Ms Restar for her wrongdoing,” Mr Robinson said.

Mr Robinson said ASQA had been building its investigative capabilities during the past 18 months.

ASQA is determined to use the powers available to it to ensure learners are getting high quality training and assessment which provides them with the skills that employers are looking for.

The authority has close to 100 officers – including many with specialist investigative skills and experience – who are applying regulatory scrutiny to RTOs across Australia each and every day.

“ASQA will continue to target its resources at RTOs providing poor quality training and seek to remove them from the sector and, where appropriate, seek criminal or civil prosecutions.”

For more Information, visit ASQA’s website:

Vocational education and training courses behind significant drop of crime rate.

Vocational education and training courses have been linked to a significant drop in Victoria’s crime rates by University of Melbourne economists. They believe the benefits of the controversial education reforms have been overlooked.

“What has been missing is that these reforms did increase access to publicly funded training and that has had positive flow on effects,” report co-author Cain Polidano from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research said.

The paper – A Pathway to the Straight and Narrow – revealed a boost in enrolments was associated with a 12.8 per cent decline in the drug crime rate, an 11.3 per cent drop in property crime and a 4.5 per cent reduction in assaults and other crimes against the person. It compared Victoria to New South Wales, where enrolments remained stable.

The academics focused on the crime rate in Victoria between 2010 and 2013, which coincided with a 75 per cent increase in school leavers enrolled in TAFEs and private colleges.

This followed Victoria becoming the first state to introduce a demand-driven model, with the former Brumby government rolling out a voucher scheme that let students enrol in the course of their choice, including at private colleges.

It estimated that for every dollar spent expanding VET in Victoria, the community saved 18 cents by avoiding crime costs.

“Given the large cost to the community of drug crimes, including lost productivity, health and rehabilitation costs, this represents an important saving to the community,” the paper said.

Vocational education and training had the biggest impact on students aged 26 and above, and steered more females away from crime than men, it said.

It also improved the employment prospects of criminals, gave more structure to the lives of people who could otherwise be vulnerable to drug abuse, and “raised their social status, self-esteem, well-being and life outlook”.

“Education is not the silver bullet but it certainly helps,” Dr Polidano said.

Dr Polidano said his work provided the first empirical evidence of the crime-reducing effects of post-secondary vocational education and training.

It comes at an interesting time, as the federal government redesigns the scandal-plagued VET FEE-HELP student loan scheme.

The Victorian government has also cracked down on rogue providers. Figures released on Monday revealed a 13.2 per cent drop in VET student enrolments in the state in the past year.

Jesuit Social Services chief executive Julie Edwards said that only 5 to 7 per cent of Victorian prisoners had completed year 12.

The organisation has set up a community college to help prisoners develop basic literacy and numeracy skills as they cycle in and out of the justice system. These skills help them transition into mainstream TAFE providers, she said.

“We are talking about people who have missed out on a lot of school, and therefore need to catch up.”

She said education gave these people confidence, a sense of identity and connection and could lead to employment or volunteering work.

Reference: The Age (Australia)

National Strategy for International Education 2025

Australia’s first National Strategy for International Education 2025 sets out a 10-year plan for developing Australia’s role as a global leader in education, training and research.

Pillar 1

Strengthening the fundamentals

Goal 1: Building on a world-class education, training and research system

Goal 2: Delivering the best possible student experience

Goal 3: Providing effective quality assurance and regulation

Pillar 2

Making transformative partnerships

Goal 4: Strengthening partnerships at home

Goal 5: Strengthening partnerships abroad

Goal 6: Enhancing mobility

Goal 7: Building lasting connections with alumni

Pillar 3

Competing globally

Goal 8: Promoting our excellence

Goal 9: Embracing opportunities to grow international education


Click here to read the plan for more Information.

We are happy to answer any questions regarding this matter. Please contact us.

Ombudsman for dodgy colleges

Dozens of Victorian education providers will be scrutinised by a new investigation unit looking into dodgy training courses across the state.

The new squad, headed by a former Victorian Ombudsman investigator, will conduct detailed investigations into “unscrupulous training providers”, and closely examine the quality of courses on offer.

The team is currently focusing on online courses, and those in security and hospitality.

“We will not give providers a blank cheque for taxpayers’ money – especially when the safety of the community could be put at risk because of substandard training,” Training and Skills Minister Steve Herbert said.

Providers’ contracts can be terminated if they lodge claims for training that didn’t take place, offer incentives like laptops or iPads, or if they engage in unauthorised subcontracting.

The latest contracts terminated were for Australian Vocational Education and Training Academy and the National Training Centre of Australia, a government spokesman said.

Since the state’s education quality blitz started in 2015, 57 training providers have been earmarked for investigation and 15 training contracts have been terminated.

Among the colleges that have been terminated include: MWT Institute, Imperial College, Management Institute of Australia No. 2, North Melbourne College, Yum Production, Waterford College, Education Access Australia, Australian Management Academy, Heron Assess * 2016: South Pacific Institute, Australian Learning Training and Education Centre, Australian Vocational Education and Training Academy, National Training Centre of Australia.

References: AAP

Higher education standards framework (threshold standards) 2015

TEQSA registers and evaluates the performance of higher education providers against the Higher Education Standards Framework, specifically, the Threshold Standards. All providers must meet the Threshold Standards in order to enter and remain within Australia’s higher education system. The Standards are available online.

The Higher Education Standards Panel (the Panel) was established to provide independent advice to the Commonwealth Ministers responsible for tertiary education and research. The Panel’s work was independent to the regulator TEQSA. The Panel provided its advice on proposed revisions to the Higher Education Standards Framework to the Commonwealth Minister for Education in December 2014. The updated Standards were passed through Parliament in December 2015 and will take effect from 1 January 2017.

The new Standards have a strong student focus across seven domains:

  1. Student Participation and Attainment

  2. Learning Environment

  3. Teaching

  4. Research and Research Training

  5. Institutional Quality Assurance

  6. Governance and Accountability

  7. Representation, Information and Information Management

Work has now begun for TEQSA to ensure the sector understands its responsibilities and that as a quality assurance agency, TEQSA continues to implement the Standards in keeping with its regulatory principles of reflecting risk, regulatory necessity and proportionality.

During 2016 TEQSA will hold workshops for providers to discuss implementation of the new Standards and will also adapt its sector guidance notes.

There are some substantial changes between the higher education standards framework (threshold standards) 2015 and 2011.

Private students to be included in national student survey

For the first time, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research’s (NCVER), major survey of VET students will include fee-paying students at private colleges.

Over coming weeks around 220,000 students will be asked about their recent training experience as part of the Student Outcomes Survey.

NCVER Managing Director Dr Craig Fowler said that, to date, only students who studied with government providers, such as TAFE, or those whose training was funded by governments were included in the survey.

“Now we’re also asking students who paid their own way to rate their training too. This will give us a better idea of how the sector is performing,” he said.

Results from the survey will be available in late 2016.

Record breaking number of overseas students are selecting Australia as their education destination

Figures released recently showed a 12% increase in the number of foreign students in Australia compared to the same period last year, more than 500,000 for the year, according to new government figures. 

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia has taken in some 510,000 international students from over 190 countries this year. 

The number of Nepalese students jumped 54%, while there was a 29% increase in students from Colombia.

The number of Brazilian students bound for Tasmania more than tripled, and Western Australia saw a one-third jump in its number of Bhutanese student arrivals.

China makes up the largest proportion of students from a single country at 31%, followed by India, Nepal and Malaysia at 12, 5 and 4% respectively.

Mr Birmingham said international students are extremely valuable to Australia.

“International education is vital to the people-to-people links and knowledge sharing between Australia and the rest of the world,” he said.

“Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown the value of international education jumped 22% from 2016 to $32.2 billion last year.” 

Universities Australia’s chief executive Belinda Robinson said the growth in the international student market reflected the quality that was on offer.

“We have almost doubled enrolments over the past decade and built international education into Australia’s third-largest export sector,” Ms Robinson said.

“This supports Australian communities, jobs, regional economies and our relationships in the world.

“These half a million international students will become tomorrow’s global leaders, returning home as informal ambassadors for Australia and extending our nation’s worldwide networks in business, diplomacy and politics.”

The number accounts for students enrolled in higher education, vocational education and training (VET), Schools, English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) and non-award sectors.

VET student loans to support only genuine students.

The education minister, Simon Birmingham, has revealed strict new rules for courses and training organisations in the VET student loans program that will penalise colleges with less than 75% pass rates by restricting enrolments. 

The Department of Education expects the reforms, which begin at the start of next year, to remove about a third of all private colleges from access to the loans scheme. The new criteria – which only provides provisional approval – could cut eligibility completely for more than 60 colleges whose students are currently approved under the existing system for access to loans. And colleges with higher pass rates and better results will be able to enrol more students who will be covered by government loans. 

For private colleges:

  • If the pass rate of the approved course is 75% and above, the college will be able to enrol 10% more students than their existing numbers in that course. 
  • If the pass rate of the approved course is between 50-75%, the college will be able to enrol 25% less students than their existing number in that course.
  • Courses with a pass rate below 50% will not get access to loans.

Around 478 of the current 800 VET FEE-HELP courses will be excluded for the new student loan – which is due to come into effect from 1 January, 2017.

These subjects include diplomas in: musical theatre, journalism, mind body medicine, clinical hypnotherapy and creative arts in christian ministry, circus arts, facilitation, life coaching, butler service management and dance movement therapy.

Labelled “lifestyle courses” by the government, they had low enrolment rates and were unlikely to directly lead to employment.

Department of Education figures show that there are currently around 144,000 students enrolled in VET FEE-HELP course in Australia. Of those, about 7,000 (5%) will be affected by the changes to which courses are eligible for VET Student Loans

The government has left open a two week period for feedback and consultation to see if a case can or will be made that any of these courses would have strong employment outcomes.

One college that has already collapsed, the Australian Institute of Professional Education, had a course completion rate of just 1.3 per cent, court documents show.

Another big provider, Evocca College, had a course completion rate of 20.4 per cent last year, according to Education Department statistics, while its competitor Study Group had a completion rate of 27.9 per cent.

“These provisional approval requirements will ensure that high-quality vocational educa­tion providers can continue to delive­r courses that students and employers value while those providers apply for longer-term access­ to vocational education student loans,” the minister said.

While all public providers will be approved under new transition scheme, similar rules will apply to set public course caps except where public colleges have a course pass rate of below 50%. In the transition period, those colleges will be able to enrol students covered by loans but their cap will be cut in half.

Birmingham said the provisional rules were designed to reward providers who have high student completion rates and proven links to industry and business.

“These provisional approval requirements will ensure that high quality vocational education providers can continue to deliver courses that students and employers value while those providers apply for longer-term access to VET student loans.”

Public TAFEs with a course completion rate of below 50 per cent will still be allowed to enrol students into that course, but the number of enrolments will be halved compared with this year.

“Vocational education student loans will only support genuine students to undertake industry-linked and value-for-money courses at quality training providers,” Senator Birming­ham said.


The Australian