It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of a year. I remember speaking to a client during an audit in early March, and I asked them if they were feeling the impact from the lack of Chinese students. While they said that they weren’t, just two or three weeks later, it was a different story…
The impact of COVID-19 on international education
The global coronavirus pandemic has hit the international education sector extremely hard. However, despite this, I did notice some interesting and unexpected industry developments through my work as a consultant. Namely, there seems to have been an explosion in both RTO and CRICOS set-ups, as well as in changes to scope for existing providers.
My thought is that RTO leaders are feeling that now is the time to get their organisations prepared for better times to come. They may also be looking to take advantage of gaps in the market, which may appear through some RTOs being unable to survive. I suspect that the fee waivers from ASQA and the Department are also contributing to the number of providers starting up or upscaling in this difficult time.
The new normal of remote audits
Although an extremely challenging year, I can’t help feeling that some good has come of it. For example, internal audits that I’ve always undertaken face to face have instead been remote.
This has actually been beneficial for all involved. It allows the RTO to gather evidence beforehand, and me to then review over the course of a day – before we get together over Zoom to discuss my findings and plan their actions. It’s quicker and saves on costs for the RTO, and means that no travel and accommodation is required.
The new approach from ASQA
I also recently listened to an ASQA webinar about changes to audit practice and noted that ASQA itself is saying that site audits will now be very rare.
They see it as an extended process of:
- advising the RTO of the audit,
- requesting and receiving evidence, and
- providing the report.
There is also, most importantly, the new capacity to fix minor issues during the audit process, which I’ve spoken about before. This new approach is very welcome. I strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t to listen to the webinar. I believe that the changes are significant and positive.
What does 2021 look like?
I believe that 2021 will still be a year of survival for the international education sector. When we finally make it through to 2022, and international travel hopefully normalises again, the sector will truly bounce back.
On that note, I did read a very interesting campus review from Claire Field that showed enrolments and commencements in VET programs have actually increased this year. This is a promising sign for 2021, and together with JobTrainer funding, I’m hopeful that the industry can remain resilient – as we come out of a very trying 2020.
Wishing you all a wonderful rest over Christmas and a happy new year.