Statement from NCVER's Managing Director Dr Craig Fowler about interpretation of Total VET activity data

13 November 2015


Friday 13 November 2015

Further to Tuesday’s release of the report Total VET students and courses 2014, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has noted various public commentaries on the context, scope and interpretation of the report. NCVER provides this statement to assist understanding.

NCVER has historically captured data on accredited VET activity for students and courses where the training was government-funded, supported or subsidised. This included private providers who trained students with some government support and also the nation’s TAFEs, including fully fee-for-service activity at TAFE.

Growth in the national VET system has not been ‘sudden’. It has been long recognised that activity beyond the limited collection of data on government-funded, supported or subsidised training existed, but was not captured.  Historical research estimates of private provision are broadly consistent with the new activity findings.

In 2012, the nation’s training Ministers decided that all training activity was to be collected.

Total VET students and courses 2014 is a first report that seeks to record training activity, under a national data standard, across the nation’s training providers. This is a transition year with some 500 providers given one year exemptions from reporting by regulators; so the 2014 data are known not to capture all training activity.

Given this is the first collection of total VET activity (TVA), any ‘past years’ levels of activity and hence any rate of growth in private and enterprise VET provision is not known, it was only known that it existed. This was a key rationale for the new national TVA collection, which will now be collected annually.

NCVER has only reported on the number of qualifications completed in 2014 and only on 2014 subject load pass rates. Through its publication and online data products, NCVER has made clear these measures are not qualification ‘completion rates’.

Being a first collection in a new series, it is necessary that at least 3-4 years of data must accumulate before more reliable assessments, such as the relative performance of different classes of providers in the VET market or completion rates, can be examined. This is in accord with the historic policy intent to increase transparency of information about the VET market.

What TVA data show

Total VET students and courses 2014 shows:

  • 3.9 million students undertaking some form of accredited VET
  • There were 3.6 million program enrolments, of these:
    • 3.1 million span VET qualifications from certificate I and above
    • 0.5 million are other recognised courses where students may undertake lower level programs such as school level, statements of attainment, or skill-sets
  • Program enrolments do not include enrolments for students who have only enrolled in subjects, and consequently the 3.6 million program enrolment count is less than the 3.9 million student number.

This is explained by at least 2 million of the captured 27.5 million subject enrolments being classified as subject only enrolments.  This reflects that the VET system is part used, by student choice, as ‘skill building’ rather than completion of an accredited AQF certificate.


VET FEE-HELP is a policy administered and funded by the Australian Government.  It is an income-contingent student loan scheme supporting VET diploma and above courses.

Total VET students and courses 2014 shows:

  • there were 492,000 diploma and above program enrolments (or about 14% of the 3.6 million program enrolments reported in 2014).  If VET FEE-HELP supports any growth in the VET system, it is only at this level (the small Certificate IV trials are an exception). VET FEE-HELP does not apply to the 86% of students enrolled in the bulk of VET activity.

Based on 2014 VET FEE-HELP data published by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training:

  • there were 217,000 courses being undertaken by 203,000 students who took out VET FEE-HELP loans
  • 31,000 students were eligible for VET FEE-HELP, but did not take out a loan.

Interpreting NCVER and Department of Education and Training data shows in summary:

  • the national VET market in 2014 for diploma and above is 492,000 program enrolments
  • 251,000 of these programs were eligible under the VET FEE-HELP program
  • only 217,000 were VET FEE-HELP assisted.

These figures imply more than half the nation’s diploma and above enrolments in 2014 were funded by some means other than an income contingent loan.

The VET FEE-HELP matters are of public interest, upon which NCVER has recently published (below).

Fact sheets

NCVER has developed a series of fact sheets to help users interpret the data.  For details, refer to Need more information on total VET activity.


NCVER’s mission is to ‘inform and influence’ the national vocational education and training system through its data collection, surveys and research on behalf of its Ministerial shareholders. 

It is important this information is independent, reliable, informative and able to be interpreted.

Other reports of note

Employers’ use and views of the VET system 2015:  reports on the views of around 9,000 employers and shows 84% of employers were satisfied that nationally recognised training (which was not part of an apprenticeship or traineeship) provides employees with the skills they require for the job.

Student Outcomes 2015 (to be published in December): reports on the views of over 65,000 students drawn from Government-funded students and courses 2014. It is expected to show that over 85% of graduates and subject completers were satisfied with the overall quality of training.

Preliminary analysis of the outcomes of students assisted by VET FEE-HELP:  examines student outcomes across the years 2009-2014.  The analysis, cited widely, provides further evidence as to the design flaws of the program, with these matters being the subject of national amending legislation.