The Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) will open a base in the city of Chongqing to support private providers seeking opportunities or partnerships in China. This will include helping members lobby the Chinese government for better recognition of their operations; marketing Australian operators; and overseeing the quality of offshore provision.
According to The Australian, Austrade’s international education group manager, Quentin Stevenson-Perks, told an ACPET forum last month that opportunities for VET delivery in China were considerable. “Believe it or not, there is a shortage of specialised painters of luxury yachts. Or butchers – there is a shortage of trained butchers in China,” he said.
ACPET’s CEO, Claire Field, said this was true in Chongqing, a fast-growing city of around 30 million people. “Their skill shortages are such that they cannot rely on publicly funded effort to meet them. Approximately 40% of their tertiary education is already provided by the private sector,” she said.
The move reflects calls in the Knight Review last June to promote Australia’s well-respected VET sector abroad, as a cheaper alternative that could offset the decline in international enrolment at home. It was revealed last week that inbound enrolment from China, Australia’s biggest market, fell by an estimated 15% at the end of last year.
ACPET will also help minimise the risks associated with offshore delivery in China, including monitoring poor quality provision. “At the moment, there’s very little checking by the Australian government of what delivery is happening overseas,” Field told The Australian. “Having someone on the ground does potentially offer an early warning.”
The Chinese government is yet to officially endorse Australia’s private VET sector
This is important given claims that the Chinese government is yet to officially endorse Australia’s private VET sector (as opposed to its state-run TAFEs and universities). Private providers – who enroll the vast majority of Australia’s VET students – have been excluded from the influential JSJ website which informs families choosing study destinations abroad, something one VET provider described as a “real impediment”.
Stevenson-Perks said the decision had probably been arbitrary but warned it could take a long time for Beijing to alter it. He said China visits from Australia’s standards authorities – the Australian Skills Quality Authority and the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency – were needed as “confidence building measures”.