Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill – Parliamentary Library

Extract from an article by James Griffiths and Carol Ey, Social Policy Section, and, Paula Pyburne, Law and Bills Digest Section

Purpose of the Bill:The purpose of the Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2017 (the Bill) is to amend the Ombudsman Act 1976 to establish the office of the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. In addition, the Bill amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to update indexation against appropriation funding caps for existing legislated amounts and includes an additional forward estimate amount.

Structure of the Bill: The Bill contains two Schedules:

  • Schedule 1 amends the Ombudsman Act to establish the office of the VET Student Loans Ombudsman. It also makes consequential amendments to the Ombudsman Act and the VET Student Loans Act 2016
  • Schedule 2 amends the Australian Research Council Act to update indexation against appropriation funding caps.

Background: The regulation of the vocational education and training (VET) sector in Australia and the administration of the previous VET FEE-HELP scheme have been subject to much Parliamentary and public debate and activity over the past decade. In particular, concerns have been raised about the quality of courses, and the recruitment practices of providers.

VET student loans: VET FEE-HELP was introduced in June 2007 by the Howard Government, as part of legislative amendments to the Higher Education Support Act 2003.  At the time, it extended the existing government loan scheme for full-fee paying higher education students (FEE-HELP) to those vocational education and training (VET) students undertaking full-fee paying Diploma, Advanced Diploma, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate qualifications. In part this was to redress a situation where students studying these qualifications at higher education institutions were eligible for HELP loans, while those studying in the VET sector were not.

The focus on full-fee paying students was in line with the existing FEE-HELP scheme; this was supposed to offer financial support to those students who would not otherwise receive subsidises to undertake a VET qualification, thereby expanding the pool of students who could access VET. States and territories typically offer various subsidies at a jurisdictional level, making it cheaper for students to undertake particular VET courses in line with determined skills needs, or because the student in question is deemed eligible for a concession fee.3

SOURCE: Griffiths, James; Ey, Carol Pyburne, Paula. “Education and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2017.” Parliamentary Library Bills Digest No. 75, 2016–17.

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