September 2019 saw the release of a report from the Victorian Auditor General examining the efficiency of enrolment processes for government-subsidised training at four Technical and Further Education Institutes (TAFEs) and one dual sector university.
It also looked at the Department of Education and Training’s oversight of and support provided to TAFEs to meet their contractual requirements.
What did the audit aim to do?
The audit aimed “to determine the efficiency of enrolment processes at TAFEs.” It “included assessing whether processes are free from unnecessary and burdensome actions; regularly reviewed; completed in a timely manner, and compliant with the department’s VET funding contract.”
What did the audit find?
The audit found that enrolment processes could be more efficient and flexible. They could also be better integrated with their institution’s broader management information system to avoid processes that are ‘unnecessary or duplicative’.
TAFEs also need to assess whether prospective students have the necessary literacy and numeracy skills to undertake the course of study they have chosen. However, they found that:
“The department’s contract requires TAFEs to consider whether a prospective student has the appropriate literacy and numeracy skills to enrol in a course. The department has not clearly explained how TAFEs can use senior secondary education certificates or post‐school qualifications to consider this.”
As a consequence, four of the audited TAFEs “require prospective students to complete a formal literacy and numeracy test, regardless of their educational backgrounds.” This can be resource intensive and unnecessary, though.
What was concluded and what needs to change?
The Auditor General’s report concluded that:
“In Victoria, prospective TAFE students do not consistently experience an efficient enrolment process for government‐subsidised training.”
While the enrolment processes at a couple of the institutions were seen as flexible and well-integrated with their broader management information systems, more often the enrolment approaches were more rigid, requiring manual processing and visits to the institution to complete the enrolment process.
The report maintains that:
“Manual processing is inefficient for TAFEs and increases their costs. It also hinders their ability to track people through the enrolment process and use that information to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. And while in‐person visits may benefit some prospective students, they inconvenience others.”
Despite this, students generally found the enrolment processes easy at the five institutions audited. All institutions are also trying to improve, but the Auditor General maintains that a more co-ordinated and system wide approach is needed to improve enrolment processes across all institutions rather than one where each institution ‘goes it alone’.
The report suggests that:
“TAFEs should routinely monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of their enrolment processes to understand their strengths and weaknesses and improve the experience for prospective students.” They also suggest that TAFEs need to monitor their conversion rates from enquiry to actual enrolment and the effectiveness of their customer service. Institutions also need to collect feedback from prospective students on the enrolment experience.”
The good news is that four of the five do this.
Finally, the report notes that manual processes prevent real-time information being gathered and effectively utilised, and this may slow up the time taken to process enrolment applications.
The report makes a number of recommendations too. These focus on the Department of Education and Training clarifying its compliance requirements regarding an individual student’s literacy and numeracy skills as part of the pre‐training review and reviewing and updating internal and external audit checklists and prescribed audit questions so that criteria and enrolment requirements are consistent.
The audit recommends that TAFEs and the Department investigate the options to develop standardised TAFE online enrolment systems or a centralised online enrolment system. They also recommend that TAFEs “review and update their documented business processes for assessing student eligibility and conducting pre‐training reviews.”