What is the VET Quality Framework?

The quality of vocational education and training (VET) in Australia is important. Systematic training aims to improve productivity, global competitiveness, and workplace safety. And each year, billions of taxpayers’ dollars is spent by governments on delivering VET programs.

Australian industry, employers, governments, and taxpayers deserve a VET system that delivers quality outcomes, and value for money. And job seekers, apprentices, trainees, and employees who undertake VET programs should expect to receive a quality service from training providers. It is the role of government departments and VET regulators to monitor and audit VET quality.

In Australia, the VET Quality Framework has been established. It consists of five elements [1]:

  • Australian Qualification Framework (AQF)
  • Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs)
  • Fit and proper person requirements
  • Financial viability risk assessment requirements
  • Data provision requirements.

Australian Qualification Framework (AQF)

All Australian qualifications must comply with the AQF. [2] The learning outcomes for each AQF level and qualification type are described. The current AQF has evolved from the initial implementation handbook released in 1995. Since then, there has been a procession of revised frameworks:

  • AQF Implementation Handbook First Edition 1995
  • AQF Implementation Handbook Second Edition 1998
  • AQF Implementation Handbook Third Edition 2002
  • AQF Implementation Handbook Fourth Edition 2007
  • AQF First Edition 2011
  • AQF Second Edition 2013

And there has been at least three amendments to the AQF Second Edition 2013. [3]

AQF Volume of Learning

The AQF Volume of Learning [4] has become a prime focus for the national VET regulator. The aim is to discourage unduly short-duration VET training programs that do not provide sufficient training.

Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs)

The Standards for RTOs are the regulatory requirements for the operation of training organisations registered to deliver training services and to issue nationally recognised training (NRT) qualifications or statements of attainment. Only registered training organisations (RTOs) can issue documents with the NRT logo (as shown below).

NRT logos provided for the purpose of display only

Many training organisations want to be registered, not as an expression of quality training, but because this is a prerequisite for being eligible to receive government funding when delivering training.

The current Standards for RTOs have evolved from the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) that were first introduced in 2001. Since then, there has been a procession of revised standards: [5]

  • National Framework for the Recognition of Training (NFROT) 1992
  • Australian Recognition Framework (ARF) 1998
  • AQTF 2001
  • AQTF 2005
  • AQTF 2007
  • AQTF 2010
  • Standards for NVR 2011
  • Standards for NVR 2012
  • Standards for RTOs 2015.

And there has been at least two amendments to the Standards for RTOs 2015.

The Standards for RTOs require training providers to comply with:

  • Training packages and accredited courses
  • Legislation and regulations.

Training packages and accredited courses

RTOs must comply with the requirements specified by training packages and accredited courses when delivering nationally recognised training (NRT):

  • Qualification packaging rules
  • Units of competency including elements of competency, performance criteria, and foundation skills
  • Assessment requirements including performance evidence required, knowledge evidence required, and assessment conditions.

Legislation and regulations

RTOs must comply with all relevant legislation and regulations. For example:

  • Work health and safety
  • Antidiscrimination
  • Copyright
  • Privacy.

Fit and proper person requirements

The ‘Fit and proper person requirements’ are used to determine the suitability of owners, executives, or senior managers involved in the operation of a registered training organisation. [6]

Over the years, Australia has had a number of unfit and improper people owning and managing RTOs. I will say more about this topic during the conclusion of this article.

Financial viability risk assessment requirements

The ‘Financial viability risk assessment requirements’ are used to determine the ability of an RTO to meet financial obligation and remain financially viable. [7]

Over the years, Australia has seen a number of high-profile RTOs that have financially crashed. Many RTOs have a business model that is based on revenue from government funding. If the government funding changes, so does the financial viability of these RTOs.

Data provision requirements

The ‘Data provision requirements’ specify that RTOs must provided data when requested and submit quality indicator data annually to their VET regulator. [8]

Gathering data can provide useful insight about how an RTO is operating, or has been operating. There is always going to be a lag. Luckily, this is not the only source of intelligence used by the VET regulators to monitor the performance of RTOs.

In conclusion

Australia has had a long history in government sponsored and industry endorsed frameworks that have been designed for assuring the quality of vocational education and training (VET).

Over the years, it is sad that the Australian VET system has witnessed many cases of fraudulent, unethical, and unscrupulous behaviour displayed by RTO owners, executives, and senior managers. It is sad that greed, self-interest, profit, or a focus on personal financial gain has created some rotten operational practices. And TAFEs have not been immune from poor practices. In TAFE, ‘profit’ may be called ‘surplus’. And in TAFE, there is still a need to ‘cut costs’. There have been too many occasions when government funding has been rorted by all types of RTOs.

Unfortunately, this is why we need a highly regulated VET system. I say ‘unfortunately’, because the unintended consequence has been a VET system that is highly prescriptive. This can stifle innovation. This can stifle quality competition. And it has increased the administrative burdens placed on trainers and assessors.

The VET Quality Framework is necessary. It plays an important role in the assurance of VET quality. It can be used by the VET regulators and government departments to monitor and audit RTOs operations. I think it is doubly important to closely monitor and audit RTOs that receive government funding. There is a worrying trend for the VET regulators to take a ‘light-touch’ approach to their regulating duties.


[1] https://www.asqa.gov.au/about/asqa/key-legislation/vet-quality-framework accessed 11 May 2021

[2] https://www.aqf.edu.au/sites/aqf/files/aqf-2nd-edition-january-2013.pdf accessed 11 May 2021

[3] https://www.aqf.edu.au/aqf-second-edition-january-2013 accessed 11 May 2021

[4] https://www.aqf.edu.au/sites/aqf/files/volume-of-learning-explanation-v2-2014.pdf accessed 11 May 2021

[5] https://www.voced.edu.au/vet-knowledge-bank-getting-know-vet-overviews-vet-quality-framework-and-aqtf accessed 11 May 2021

[6] https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2011L01341 accessed 11 May 2021

[7] https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2011L01405 accessed 11 May 2021

[8] https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2013C00497 accessed 11 May 2021

Author: Alan Maguire

35+ years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, quality manager, project manager, program manager, RTO auditor, RTO manager and VET adviser.

2 thoughts on “What is the VET Quality Framework?”

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