RTOs and Bad Publicity

RTOs and Bad Publicity


There has been a lot of publicity and outrage in the media over the past few months regarding Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that have been engaging (it’s alleged) in sub-standard and/or morally bankrupt practices.

While I would usually just let it fly by, there has been so much that I feel I should respond as it would seem all RTOs are getting caught up in it simply by our RTO name association!

There is no doubt there are some unscrupulous and shonky providers out there. My team is hearing about them anecdotally most days from prospective students who are doing their research.

In fact just yesterday, one such organisation had (unbeknown to a prospect) signed the student up for a course that she was now obliged to continue with.  She thought she was just obtaining more information to help her to make the right decision. She was wrong, and is now saddled with an expensive course (her words) with an organisation she would not have selected (after completing her research). While she is angry that it is costing her more than 3 times what CAL quoted her for the same qualification, she was resigned and accepting of the situation.

Many others just can’t afford to make a mistake like this and pay way over the odds for a course worth one-third or more of what is quoted.

A significant factor in this and a key reason there are now so many unscrupulous providers is the lack of capping on the amount of money the Federal government will pay for a student loan through VET Fee Help.

I recently wrote a submission on this issue to the Senate Enquiry into Vocational Education and Training. If you’d like to read it you can download it here.

In essence, the media has got it right. There is no way a VET program of study leading to a qualification should cost fifteen or twenty thousand dollars or more to complete. Anyone charging these exorbitant prices is taking advantage of the naïve student.

The College for Adult Learning offers mainly Diploma programs for white collar management and related specialist positions. For these qualifications, there is no additional expense for the RTO for tools & equipment and/or to equip specialised workrooms with machinery and other equipment. Nor, at this level is there any need to provide remedial support using specialist staff.

Therefore, there is no morally justifiable reason why anyone – public or private VET provider would need to charge more than around $8K for a management or related Diploma qualification.  Many quality providers charge less than half this as we do. Providers charging in excess of $10K are therefore making a significant and to me, immoral profit, even if they throw in bed and breakfast as part of the deal!


For online training, it is much worse.  Even if you find a provider (like CAL) who offers you uncapped coaching support, doesn’t charge for additional assessment submissions and allows 2 years or more to complete a course, the costs of online learning are still relatively low (once development costs have been recovered). Usually (but not always) lower than face-to-face training (depending on the quality of the training on offer). Therefore, online courses that are in excess of $5-6K are making a very healthy profit.

This is NOT illegal but, I would argue it is immoral. You may counter this argument by saying that morality has no place in business and that VET training is BIG business however I would passionately argue that Vocational Education and Training is not just another business.

I may well be naïve in my view of the world and VET in particular but, I think VET Providers have a duty of care to put the learning of students – all of whom want and need to get a job or further their learning to develop their career – first and foremost.

We are in the business of Education and Learning. Not only that but, as VET Providers we are trusted with skilling our students with the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to be able to actually do the job/ that is to hit the ground running in a new job or promotion.

We are not providing university programs of ‘education’ that broadens the student’s horizons and may challenge and engage the student in critical and reflective thinking, we are in the business of ‘doing’ and so we must ensure that all our programs make our students job ready.

So, VET Providers are not in the business of business with a focus on profits and shareholder gain. No, VET Providers must be in the business of Work Ready Learning and our focus must be on that.

Of course private providers must cover costs and make a profit but, I see this as a reward for a job well done. Not an outcome of clever marketing and unscrupulous sales people!

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