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TAFE SA given extra time to fix substandard courses

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TAFE SA has been given extra time to improve its substandard courses, with the national regulator approving an extension on their suspension until two weeks before the next state election.

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Early this month, the Australian Skills Quality Authority found 14 out of 16 TAFE SA Certificate and Diploma courses, randomly selected for audit, failed to meet national standards.

In response, Education Minister Susan Close sacked TAFE SA chairman Peter Vaughan, TAFE scrapped four of those courses, and ASQA suspended the remaining 10 – a decision which was to formally come into effect 23 January.

But, as InDaily revealed this morning, TAFE has asked for, and received, an extension on the suspension of those 10 courses until March 2, 2018 – two weeks before the next state election on March 17.

ASQA has confirmed that the vocational education institution now has until that date to lodge an application for a reconsideration of the suspensions.

It notified TAFE of the decision yesterday.

“On Monday 18 December 2017, ASQA notified TAFE SA of its decision to grant a request for an extension of time to lodge a reconsideration application to 2 March 2018,” a spokesperson for ASQA said in a statement late this morning.

“Consistent with usual practice, ASQA has also agreed that its decision on the suspension of the 10 qualifications will not take effect while the reconsideration process is underway.

“… Such extensions are based on the specific circumstances of the applicant and the impact of granting the extension.”

The spokesperson added that the regulator was working with TAFE on the reassessment of students impacted by the decision to suspend the substandard courses, and “ASQA will not be taking steps to cancel any qualifications issued by TAFE SA”.

The regulator has advised TAFE it intends on launching another compliance monitoring audit of the institution within the next 12 months.

Liberal Party education spokesperson John Gardner told InDaily any student who enrols in the courses slated for suspension would be taking a significant risk.

“Anyone who is starting one of those 10 courses does so without certainty about their future,” he said.

“They can take students – they just can’t guarantee those students (will be able to) finish their courses.

“This is just a further step along the road of the negligent attitude that the Government has shown towards TAFE.”

But Close said the extension would allow TAFE to exhaustively demonstrate how it had fixed its courses.

“TAFE SA is confident that the issues raised by ASQA will be resolved in the very near future,” she said.

“As a result, TAFE SA has commenced enrolments for 2018 and is confident of the new quality framework now being applied.”

A spokesperson for the minister told InDaily earlier today that: “The extension enables TAFE SA to respond in detail to the remediation of all affected courses.”

“This response will be exhaustive, to demonstrate how the 10 courses under audit have been fixed.

“The extension (also) means we are allowed to enrol students in the affected courses and they would then be considered continuing students by ASQA.”

The spokesperson added that for many students wishing to study the affected courses, TAFE was the best or only option, particularly in regional South Australia.

More to come

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