This latest report from NCVER authored by Bridgit Wibrow, Michelle Hall and Tabatha Griffin looks at how the student journey works, not only for those who complete qualifications and those who don’t. It’s resulted in two publications: The student journey: The many faces of and completion and non-completion in VET and Mapping the student journey: the many faces of completion and non-completion in VET authored by Michelle Hall.

By using the unique student identifier in the National VET Provider Collection, student enrolments were tracked from 2016 to 2021 to gain a greater understanding of how students move through the VET system as well as how they mix and match training types. And, as NCVER’s Managing Director Simon Walker explains in NCVER’s media release: “While the completion of VET programs is an important outcome for students, a broader consideration of what constitutes training success is needed.”

According to the student journey paper, there are a range of reasons for not completing, including:

  • employment-related reasons, such as changes in work circumstances (for example, found job, started new job, work hours increased)
  • training-related reasons, such as issues with course content and inconvenient class times
  • personal circumstances, for example, health issues, financial troubles, or personal relationships
  • achievement of their goals from the course (before completion), and
  • a requirement for different training, with a better match to abilities and interests.

However, and as the media release also points out, the research “identified instances where program non-completions can be considered as successful student outcomes, possibly reflecting diverse student intentions.” In addition, “the report found 49.5% of VET students who commenced training in 2016 successfully completed their VET program. When including students who completed all their enrolled VET subjects, but who did not complete their programs, the percentage of students considered to have a successful outcome increased by 19.8% to 69.3%.” Thus, as one of the reports notes: “an additional measure of success might be the completion of all subjects in which a student enrolled, even if a program is not completed.”


Understanding the different types of training success provides a more nuanced view of differing student groups, which may enable more tailored policy development. For example, while remote students have a slightly lower program-completion rate than all students (47.9% compared with 49.5%), a higher proportion complete all enrolled subjects (24.4% compared with 19.8%). Considering both measures together means that 72.3% of remote students had some training success, compared with 69.3% of all students. Conversely, compared with all students, First Nations students and students with disability have lower rates of program completion, as well as lower proportions who completed all enrolled subjects.”

Thus, we need to better understand how students are using the VET system and how this affects how we might view ‘success’.

For example, the study found that over 30% did not fall into the two groups of success defined above, that is: course completers and enrolled subject completers. The researchers reported that:

Around half of this group (16%) did not complete any of the subjects in which they had enrolled. [However] looking at this group more closely, we found that around 5% subsequently enrolled in another VET program, which was completed by around 43% of that group. Although we are unable to determine the extent to which their 2016 program enrolment influenced a student’s decision-making for their subsequent program enrolment, the fact that these students eventually recorded a successful outcome is a positive indicator. Similarly, the 11% of students who took no further part in VET may well have been successful in gaining employment or enrolling in higher education, but the data available here do not enable us to attribute such successes to their 2016 program enrolment.”

In short, we just don’t know about their successes outside of what the stats tell us! And we had the pandemic in the middle of all of this!

But furthermore:

Around 15% of students completed some, but not all, of the subjects in which they had enrolled, making this a potentially complex group to understand, with likely differences in training intentions, patterns of training activity, and subsequent training/education and employment outcomes. [Thus] further research is required to better understand this group and how success for those students might be defined.”

Therefore, and as the media release suggests: “A more nuanced approach to how success is measured may help enable more tailored policy development and changes to qualification design, such as those currently under consideration by the federal government.” Ultimately, having a better understanding student dynamics and choices may also better support their diverse training needs more effectively. This could also assist with how VET qualifications and the other components of what VET providers deliver are best designed and implemented.