By Leanne Elahmad
The decline of student enrolment to TAFE courses, revealed in recent budget papers, has been blamed on fee increases introduced in the NSW government’s Smart and Skilled reforms, which started on January 1 this year.
“Enrolments in 2015 reflect a lower than expected market response to Smart and Skilled reforms in transitional stage since its start in January 2015,” the budget paper states.
The papers revealed that 40,000 less students have enrolled in TAFE courses this year than in 2012, with Indigenous students and students with a disability numbers also on the decline.
The papers also showed at least 2500 TAFE staff jobs have been lost.
Students have expressed their frustration about the increase of course fees in a review of Sydney TAFE on Facebook.
Alethea Scorse stated it was the government’s reforms that had discouraged people from enrolling in courses.
“Prices have gone up under the current government meaning less people can afford to go, meaning courses and subjects are cut,” Ms Scorse said.
Another Facebook user Narelle St Clair who studied at Sydney TAFE’s Petersham College also shared her concerns about the future of TAFE in NSW and whether vocational education and training will become entirely privatised.
“TAFE used to be a fantastic place to study, but it’s now a sad shell of it’s former self,” she said.
“How much longer will we be able to study here? Who knows? If the government (sic) had its way it would be fully privatized.”
The Shadow Minister for Skills, David Harris blamed the Baird government’s TAFE reforms for the decline in student enrolments.
“The marked decline in enrolments this year is a clear result of fee increases that kicked in on 1 January,” Mr Harris said.
“The result of the Baird Government hanging TAFE out to dry will be a massive skills shortage and further increases in unemployment.”
City Hub contacted the Minister for Skills, John Barilo’s office for comment, but they did not reply in time of publication.
$2.3 billion has been allocated to vocational education and training in 2015/2016, to improve skills and increase higher qualification levels.