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Rapid review of the Australian skills quality authority’s regulatory practices and processes

On 30 October 2019, the Australian Government announced $18.1 million towards the reform of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to support the fair, transparent and effective regulation of the VET sector and high-quality student outcomes. To inform the reform, mpconsulting was engaged by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment in late 2019 to conduct a rapid review of ASQA’s internal regulatory practices and processes. The scope of this review was to: evaluate the effectiveness of ASQA’s internal regulatory practices and processes (including ASQA’s Regulatory Risk Framework, how it undertakes audits, how it makes and internally reviews regulatory decisions, and processes related to the review of ASQA decisions); identify and recommend any changes to ASQA’s processes to support consistent, risk-based and contemporary regulatory decision-making and education; identify and recommend any changes required to ASQA’s governance arrangements to clarify roles and responsibilities, improve accountability, improve efficiency of resources, and improve focus on strategic direction and performance; identify areas in which changes could be made to the VET Quality Framework to drive improvements across the sectors. The review found that while ASQA’s overarching vision and purpose remain appropriate, some significant adjustments are needed to ASQA’s regulatory approach as follows: promote and facilitate a culture of effective self-assurance as an integral part of a provider’s routine operations; drive cooperative relationships between ASQA, providers and other stakeholders; consistently understand provider performance against standards and in the context of their operating environment; embed a variable-touch approach to regulation, guided by regulatory necessity, risk and proportionality; Communicate regulatory decisions and advice in a way that is clear, consistent and timely; coordinate and appropriately share information with other regulatory agencies, policy makers and funding bodies; and restructuring ASQA’s governance. The review has identified opportunities to strengthen ASQA’s internal regulatory practices and processes while acknowledging that the expectations of ASQA, in regulating such a large and diverse sector, are many and varied. The recommendations target short, medium and longer-term actions to better position ASQA as a respected and contemporary regulator.