It was meant to be the most significant shake-up to vocational education in Victoria, Australia, in years: a new demand-driven system where public TAFE institutes (the equivalent of polytechnics) competed for funding with private providers, and where almost anyone who wanted to ”up-skill” would be guaranteed a subsidised place.
Since then, the Age reports, demand for training sky-rocketed – but without enough money to back it up.
Fast-forward to the present, and thousands of teachers could lose their jobs after the Victorian government cut funding to about 80 percent of vocational courses in a bid to put the sector ”on a sustainable footing”.
The AU$290 million in funding cuts mean hourly subsidies for most courses will fall – in many cases, from more than AU$8 an hour to AU$1.50 an hour – and extra funding to cover TAFEs’ obligations as public providers will also be abolished. Across the state, TAFEs are already feeling the impact.
Ballarat University is facing a AU$20 million cut, about 100 job losses, and the closure of up to 60 courses, including business, retail, and land management.
Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE expects 35 staff will be made redundant, with its Morwell and Leongatha campuses under threat.
At Kangan Institute, up to 205 jobs could go, and Victoria’s only Australian Sign Language diploma will close by the end of the year.
Even Holmesglen, the state’s largest TAFE provider, has predicted AU$25.5 million in lost revenue, possible redundancies and an increase in diploma fees from AU$2500 to AU$5000.
Victoria’s uncapped system was haemorrhaging. The shift to a contestable market had resulted in extraordinary growth, particularly among private operators, some of which offered substandard courses at cutthroat prices.
Vital areas such as apprenticeships only grew by 10 percent, while demand for courses such as sports coaching leapt 2800 percent, and management diplomas 5000 percent. Above all, the system was underfunded: about AU$900 million had been budgeted for training subsidies in the last financial year. In reality, it will cost taxpayers AU$1.3 billion.