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Experiences from the front line

We believe the purpose of a regulatory body is to promote and protect the education and training system. Australia has a world-class education and training system that other countries envy, but the real-life stories below also raise questions. 
RTO One’s Experience
This is a very common scenario in a number of stories we have received: 
Letter from an ex-RTO owner: 
I used to run a one-man, private RTO, teaching only first aid.  I have been teaching first aid for 25 years. I recently got my CPR audited, and failed. 
When querying the auditor, I found some of his questions, regarding content, theory questions and scenarios, a bit odd. I asked just how long ago was it since he had updated his first aid.
He replied, and I have it in his email “I have never gotten a First Aid Certificate, it is on my list of things to do.” 
To discover that the auditor, making comments about CONTENT, was not himself qualified to put on bandaids, was a surprise. Unfortunately, the finding was that if I wished to proceed, I should approach the AAT. 
Being a one-man deliverer, and not having bags of money or free time, I withdrew my registration.
Currently sailing with my wife, working casually as a charter skipper, and loving not having to do paperwork any more. Should have done it earlier. I am one of the lucky ones – I own my own home and boat, and have no staff or debts.
The whole “UN-QUALIFIED AUDITOR” thing has me worried. It would be like a person auditing a driving school, who has never driven a car.
Questions that arise from this situation are: 

  1. How is an auditor who is not an expert in a particular industry allowed to audit and provide an outcome in that area? 
  2. Why was the learning and assessment material not checked through a subject matter expert when the auditor found it insufficient? 
  3. Why was an expert with 25 years of experience deemed non-compliant by an auditor who has no industry experience?
  4. Why was an opportunity for rectification not given? 

 
RTO Two’s experience: 
An existing  RTO lodged their CRICOS application before the changes of June 2018. The RTO was audited after 10 months and the RTO owners had to carry the cost of a 9B compliant building over this substantial amount of time. 
When ASQA audited the RTO they found a few rectifications and sent the audit report with the intention to cancel the RTO and the CRICOS registrations. The RTO then provided updated copies of the CRICOS documents requested and it was deemed 100% compliant. 
The RTO was still refused a CRICOS registration and treated as though the application had been lodged after the June 2018 changes. 
Questions that arise from this situation are: 

  1. Why would the June 2018 changes being applied to RTOs that lodged their application prior to that date? 
  2. Why are organisations having to wait 10 months or longer for ASQA audits? 
  3. Why were the CRICOS and ESOS documents were requested if ASQA had already made up their minds to refuse the application? 
  4. How will this help the Australian education and training sector? 

 
RTO Three’s experience: 

Disclaimer: Before you read this case study, please note, we strongly recommend all our clients and newsletter readers to follow regulatory guidelines and lodge your RTO and/or CRICOS application/s according to the guidelines of your regulatory body. 

In mid 2018 the CEO of a CRICOS RTO fell ill, therefore, the RTO was unable to lodge their CRICOS renewal application before the suggested 90 days prior to expiry . The RTO informed the regulatory body of the compelling and compassionate grounds, but ASQA did not consider the request and cancelled the CRICOS registration. 
When this was brought to our attention, we looked into the following areas and this is our observations: 
Criteria 1: Legislative and regulatory guidelines  
ASQA in exceptional circumstances has the ability to extend a registration. Please see the information below from the legislation:  \


The exceptional circumstances could include mitigating factors such as health. 
One would wonder why the RTO was not provided with an extension to lodge application when the CEO was indeed going through the health issues? 
Criteria 2: The guidelines and instructions from ASQA 
We then looked into the ASQA instructions and guidelines and found that: 
The legislative instrument to have a mandatory requirement to apply for renewal of a CRICOS registration 90 days prior only came into effect on 16 July 2019
https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2019L00993.
It was published on ASQA’s website 22 July 2019
  https://www.asqa.gov.au/news-publications/news/legislative-requirement-cricos-providers-submit-renewal-applications-least-90 
The original draft was only released on 15 February 2019
https://www.asqa.gov.au/news-publications/news/asqa-formalise-90-day-period-esos-renewal-applications
Questions that arise from this situation are: 

  1. How is the regulatory body making its decisions? 
  2. How are they deciding who is and isn’t receiving registrations?  
  3. Are the regulatory guidelines being followed or are the decisions made based depending on the auditors desk it lands on? 
  4. Why are compelling and compassionate grounds no longer considered? 

 
RTO Four’s Experience: 
Letter from an RTO owner: 
We were recently advised by ASQA that a student had complained about our services so we had been reported to ASQA, and now have had a complete investigation completed by them on our RTO.
The student did attempt to blackmail us that he would “……go to VCAT if we did not give him his qualification”. He then threatened us again that he would “……go to ASQA if we did not give him his qualification”.
ASQA then accused us of not interacting and supporting our students. As an example we replied we have a record of over 100 emails and more phone calls offering the student feedback,  advice and assistance during his study.
The student failed an open book exam four times and I could not in good conscience give him the qualification as it was/is a  licensing requirement which meant he would have been licensed to work and run his own business.
One of the accusations from ASQA  is that we do not offer support to our students. We explained above, gave examples of his assessments which did not answer questions, contained answers to questions that were not included in the assessment ,gave evidence of up to four resubmissions still assessed as NYC. No reply from ASQA.
Another example student in addition to the above  was also provided to ASQA, where an email trail of over 60 emails of support to that student was evidenced/provided.
A second accusation (of several) is that we did not advise our students how the course will be run .
We only offer the course by distance learning. We stress this particular course is only run by distance learning no less than seven times.
This is confirmed in our:
-PTR
-TAS – five times in the TAS it is stressed as distance learning only
– email reply to the student enquiry
-course summary – that is provided to every enquiry
-website-  as is required by ASQA
-our student support information – provided to every student.  No reply from ASQA.
A third accusation is that;
“the strategy did not demonstrate how the suggested elective units of competency contribute to a valid, industry-supported vocational outcome”
There are no electives in the current course , all are compulsory if the student wishes to apply for a licence so the course is pre set.
Yet another accusation is that we did not provide the price for the course. The price of the course is clearly presented:
-on the website as is required by ASQA
-in our PTR
-in the written reply we give to the student by email
-on the first line of our enrolment form.  No reply from ASQA.
We have attempted to contact ASQA repeatedly by email and by phone…. No reply from ASQA
We received an email from ASQA eventually, it stated we had to cease operation by the end of the day….. in 3 1/2 hrs.
A number of other accusations state we are non compliant for a number of reasons yet……
Our last two ASQA audits had  no recommendations.
Our last ASQA audit,  just over a year prior,  was completed and assessed as ‘no recommendations.’
We have not changed our policies and procedures or practices since that last audit,  which confirms that ;
we are  compliant
OR
the last two ASQA auditors got it all completely wrong on two different occasions
OR
 …… something else???  We are a small RTO.
Questions that arise from this situation are: 

  1. If the last two audits had no recommendations and if they (RTO) have not changed the policies, procedures and practices then what changed in the third audit? 
  2. How can a regulatory body ignore the evidence provided by the RTO regarding the student complaint and support provided? 
  3. How can the regulatory body ask for suggested electives when it is a licensed course and all units are core, therefore, compulsory. 
  4. What additional places could the RTO have published details of their course price? 
  5. In what additional places could the RTO have published their delivery mode? 
  6. How can a regulatory body ignore several attempts of communication and close an RTO down in such a short timeframe? 

 
Disclaimer: 
These RTO experiences published in this article are forwarded to us by RTO representatives with their permission to publish.  Names and identifying details have been withheld to protect the privacy of individuals. These are not our direct clients, and we have not provided any advice legal or otherwise, with regards to the individual cases.   
Although the writer and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this newsletter is correct at the time of publication, the writer and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause. For your individual RTO matter, please speak with a legal representative and/or RTO consultant. 

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