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Government knocks out 478 courses from loans under VET crackdown

Education Minister Simon Birmingham is leading a redesign of the vocational education loans scheme. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Diplomas of circus arts, fraud control, explosive ordinance manufacture, and sound and vibration therapy are among 478 courses that will be excluded from government funding under the new VET student loans scheme.

Also out are a diploma of butler service management, a graduate certificate in hairdressing creative leadership, and an advanced diploma of holistic counselling and flower essence therapy.

Some 347 courses are on the list eligible for the loans scheme. Up to now all diploma level courses have been automatically covered, which added up to more than 800 courses. The government points out that many have been superseded or are lifestyle-related.

Areas hard hit are society and culture, management and commerce, health, creative arts and education.

Only 23 courses in society and culture are in the included list while 149 have been knocked out. In management and commerce, 119 course have been excluded and just 38 included. Health sees 89 courses fail the test and 14 pass; in creative arts the figures are 57 and 13 respectively. Other areas where the exclusions outnumber the inclusions are education, 26-5; architecture and building 15-8; food, hospitality and personal services 15-2; and mixed field programs 8-1. The areas where inclusions are 100% are agriculture, environmental and related studies, 53 courses; engineering technologies, 158; information technology, 20; and natural and physical sciences, 12.

The government last week announced the redesign of the vocational education loans scheme which has been widely rorted by some private providers.

There will be a brief consultation period about the list with feedback to be received by October 23. This will give the opportunity for representations for courses to be included if they can show strong employment results.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said choices about courses that will be eligible under the revamped scheme “had been informed by the skill needs lists that states and territories already have in place and areas of national economic need”.

This was to make sure courses students were studying and taxpayers were subsidising “have the maximum chance of leading to jobs”.

“Currently there are far too many courses that are being subsidised that are used simply to boost enrolments, or provide lifestyle choices, but don’t lead to work,” Birmingham said.

“To develop this list the Turnbull government has run a test over all of the different diploma-level and above qualifications that are out there to ensure they are on at least two state and territory skills needs lists and we’ve looked at other areas of high economic need, such as STEM skills or agricultural skills, to make sure the list represents our national economic priorities.

"We have ensured that all agriculture, engineering or related technologies, information technology and natural and physical science courses remain on the new course list, recognising the national importance of agriculture and STEM jobs as we transition to the 21st century economy.”

Some courses, such as in aviation, will be exempt from the loan cap. This is not reflected in the draft list, but will be specified in the final list.

New loans under the old arrangements will be closed off at the end of this year. The successor program will include course restrictions for providers, caps from January 1 on loans for courses ($5000, $10,000, $15,000), and, from mid next year, requirements for students to show they are actually engaged in the course they are signed up for.

The loan caps apply whether the course is delivered face to face, online, or through a mixture.

Where courses continue but are not on the approved lists, students will have to pay the cost. If a course is on the approved list but has a cost higher than the approved cap, the student will have to pay the gap.

The list will come into effect when legislation is passed and the list is tabled.

The caps that will apply to particular fields of education are: management and commerce, $5000; society and culture, $10,000; information and technology, $10,000; health, $10,000; creative arts, $10,000; food, hospitality and personal services, $10,000; agriculture and building, $10,000; education, $10,000; natural and physical sciences, $10,000; engineering and related technologies, $15,000; and agriculture, environment and related technologies, $15,000.

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