This recent paper from ASQA, released in April, sets out the Regulatory Risk Framework it is using to manage both sector and provider risk.

As ASQA points out: “effective, integrated management of risk is critical to the successful delivery [of its] strategic objective to deliver quality training outcomes for students.”

A commitment to effective risk management

There has been a hard look at ASQA’s approaches, including  the recommendations from the rapid review of it following the Joyce Review in 2019. Currently, work under the auspices of the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) skills reform agenda is looking at VET qualifications as well as changes to the quality standards and their associated regulatory practices that can focus on quality improvement and excellence.

In ASQA’s view, however, you cannot totally eliminate risk, but ‘best practice’ risk management for its quality assurance role requires the effective use of data, information and other gathered intelligence and a ‘nose-to-tail’ quality assurance process starting with an RTO’s initial registration application. But there is now an increasing talk of better partnerships and dialogue, building up ASQA’s educative role and moving towards greater self-assurance by RTOs themselves.

ASQA’s paper describes how they are developing and operationalising a model that’s described on page 5 of the publication which combines assurance approaches with strategy and governance. Page 7 provides more detail. Its key characteristics are outlined, and the best practice principles include “promoting a culture and system of self-assurance and continuous quality improvement – as a core component of provider operations,” risk-based and proportionate regulation, fairness and impartiality and “maintaining positive relationships with providers”, that is – “engaging with providers and stakeholders in a responsive and educative way.” The appendix to the paper provides more information about these principles.

As we noted above (and as ASQA’s paper points out) DESE “is leading work to develop a shared understanding of what ‘quality’ and ‘outcomes’ look like, and how these should be reflected in outcomes-focused standards and performance assessed by ASQA. We provided some links to aspects of this work earlier in the article. In addition, NCVER is funding a complementary project, entitled “Quality training delivery in VET and how to measure it”.

ASQA’s paper then goes in more detail through each of the key elements of the framework: engaging strategically about risk; using data and intelligence to understand risks and regulated entities; assessing risks and designing regulatory responses and interacting with the regulated entities. All of this is aimed at getting a better understanding of regulatory impact and its outcomes and reporting on regulatory outcomes effectively.

Mechanisms for identifying risk

According to the paper these include environmental scanning for key risks and issues as well as using strategic reviews in priority areas for regulatory focus (for example, and in the past, these have included international education, unduly short courses, online learning, early childhood and aged and community aged care).

They also make use of provider enrolment and completions data, information about the “issues raised by consumers, employers or the community about a VET provider or other entity,” information collected through investigative powers under the ASQA legislation, and “performance information collected during assessments and other monitoring activities such as surveys, and requests for information.”

They also make use of “referrals, data and information from other government bodies and regulators” and “annual declarations of compliance, quality indicator and activity data, surveys and applications.”

But, as we have noted above, a really important part of the process is engagement with both the VET sector and industry/employer end users of training.