Currently there is substantial variation in fees and subsidies (and therefore total prices) for vocational education and training (VET) qualifications across Australia, even for the same qualification. Until now a lack of systematic national data has prevented us from identifying the underlying drivers of these differences and whether they reflect underlying differences in the cost of provision and/or differences in skill requirements across the country.
The development of average price benchmarks involved the first national collection of information on VET qualification subsidies, fees and prices across Australia. The database forms a starting point from which to understand the variability in VET qualification pricing nationally for government subsidised qualifications. It is the first step in the pathway to developing more nationally consistent prices for VET.
Overall, the project confirmed the varying extents to which:
- government subsidies are available for qualifications and to students across jurisdictions
- subsidies contribute to the full price of a qualification
- states and territories hold standardised schedules of subsidy payment amounts for government funded qualifications (rather than deriving averages from qualification prices negotiated with individual training providers)
- funding differentials between private and public providers are attached to qualification price, and the visibility of these differentials
- states and territories collect fee data for qualifications eligible for subsidies.
These differences were found despite all jurisdictions basing their subsidies predominantly on the cost of delivery, and at a high level, similarities in cost calculations. However, more detailed assumptions (e.g. cost per hour, number of hours and portion of the price subsidised) lead to differences in both total price and the level of subsidy applied.
Prices were collected at the qualification level, distinguishing by apprenticeship/traineeship and non-apprenticeship/traineeship delivery, from a number of sources. These include publicly available information, fee and subsidy data provided by jurisdiction agencies and fee data collected from provider websites. With 17,000 observations covering more than 2,000 qualifications and national skill sets, the data reveals:
- varying prices for students accessing the same qualification in different jurisdictions, averaging over $3,000 (and in many cases exceeding $10,000) where more than one jurisdiction price is observed
- substantial price variation (in some cases exceeding $10,000) within the same field of education or qualification level
- on average, 87% of the price is covered by subsidies for apprenticeship/traineeship delivery compared to 76% for non-apprenticeship/traineeship training
- varying price dispersion for a single qualification at the jurisdictional level for high volume qualifications, with especially large variation for some trade-related Certificate III qualifications
- less variation in the average and total cost of high-volume qualifications across jurisdictions than the above more granular findings might have indicated.
Further work will continue to explore underlying drivers of cost differences, particularly variation in nominal hours. The NSC is also collecting data from training providers to better understand cost structures. Both the cost survey and average price database will inform the NSC’s development of efficient prices for VET courses.