This recent report authored by Bridgit Wybrow from NCVER focuses on the provision of student support services. It investigates “the influence of student support service offerings on students’ choice of training provider.”

It also looks at how this service provision compares with “other drivers of student choice, for example, course cost, delivery mode and travel time. In particular, the research focuses on health and welfare support, career counselling and job-search support, and tutoring and guidance on study skills.”

It notes that: “student support services can involve a range of training-related supports, such as literacy and numeracy support or flexible learning options, as well as non-training-related supports, for example, wellbeing supports and advice on job-search activities.”

Key findings

According to the report summary the key messages are:

  • “Student support services have some influence on student choice, but it is not as significant as that of course cost, delivery mode and travel time. Course cost was found to be the most influential factor on student choice of training provider.” From my perspective, that finding is not unexpected! Neither are notions of course choice being guided by what is actually available at a local convenient provider,
  • “When examining the availability of different levels of student support services, any type of support was considered much more valuable than none at all.” Again, that’s what students are looking for once they engage with a provider,
  • “The desire for support offerings does not vary greatly with course cost, with participants indicating they would be willing to pay extra for student support services,” and finally
  • “To help students with their decision-making, training providers could provide more detailed information online about their student support services. They could also provide information on the student support services available to all students, rather than merely for certain groups, such as people with disability, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, or those from a non-English speaking background, as may currently be the case.”

In summary, “course cost is the most influential factor in student choice of training provider” and” students are willing to pay extra for student support services,” especially post pandemic. Additionally, the move to blended learning has been beneficial.

So, what should providers do?

First, they could:

“revise the information associated with student support services on their websites and MySkills webpages to ensure that it reflects what is actually available at the RTO and also that this information is easily located by prospective students. At the moment, great variability exists across RTOs in terms of the amount of information they disclose. Providing this information might mean that more students become interested in attending the RTO.”

In short, (and as noted above) they need to talk about what is available to all students, not just those that are readily recognised.

Other important stuff

This recent paper cites earlier research by Brown in 2017 which found that,

“The factors that matter most to students are: training location; those offering advice and information (trusted influencers); timetables; fees and affordability; and the perceived quality of the training provider,” and that

“Ultimately, many students have limited control over choice, given that influential factors such as location, timetables, course content and fees are ‘fixed’ — often there is ‘no or very limited’ choice.”

Other resources from this research

The report itself has two support documents. The first provides key results from the analysis for a range of demographic groups and presents those results that have been found to be statistically significant. The second “summarises the results of a discrete choice experiment (DCE) investigating how preferences for vocational education and training (VET) courses are influenced by various forms of student support offerings.”