Appendix 6: Student Identifiers Office Annual Report

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Introduction

This report reflects the Student Identifiers Registrar’s legislative reporting requirements as set out in the Student Identifiers Act 2014 for the Minister for Education and Training to present to the Parliament. This report provides a summary of the Unique Student Identifier Registrar’s activities from 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2015.

Background

In April 2012, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to the implementation of a specially designed tool called the Unique Student Identifier (USI) to provide individuals with the ability to obtain a complete record of their vocational education and training (VET) enrolments and achievements from a single online source. The USI is a component of the COAG transparency agenda and will, in conjunction with the Total VET Activity reporting, help to illuminate the process, quality and costs associated with VET training in Australia.

On 25 June 2014 the Student Identifiers Act 2014 and supporting regulations were passed establishing the USI scheme. Every year, an estimated three million Australians establish and enhance their work related skills by undertaking nationally recognised training. From 1 January 2015, all individuals doing nationally recognised training needed to have a USI. This includes students doing VET in schools.

A USI is a reference number made up of numbers and letters which is free and easy to create. This will link the individual with their secure online record of all nationally recognised training and qualifications gained anywhere in Australia from 1 January 2015 onwards.

For the first time individuals will have access to a complete and accurate record of their VET achievements from a single and secure online source. This is especially relevant as individuals undertake training at various stages in their life and various locations across Australia.

This will simplify training enrolment processes for many individuals and training providers by making it easier for individuals to assemble evidence to demonstrate that they meet pre-requisites for future courses, or to obtain credit transfer and recognition of prior learning from other training providers. Availability of authoritative information will enable training providers to simplify and streamline information exchanges and support processes for VET programme eligibility, student entitlement, credit transfer and recognition of prior learning.

Easy centralised access to training records for individuals will reduce administration costs and make job application processes easier for individuals and their prospective employers.

USI will also facilitate a longitudinal study of the VET sector. This data will provide valuable insights into student mobility between jurisdictions, training pathways, outcomes, completion rates and success of VET programmes. This will inform future VET policy which can focus on creating engaged learners who can participate in and contribute to the rapidly changing global economy.

Regulators will also benefit from the transparency and accountability that the USI scheme will provide for training organisations and they will have access to reliable data to address poor quality training.

The value of these benefits will grow over time with the availability of credible data which will support quality training and employment outcomes through efficient government funding and evidence based VET policy design to meet the skills needs of Australia. This will have a direct impact on Australia’s economic growth and prosperity.

Structure

The Student Identifiers Registrar (the Registrar) is statutorily appointed by the Minister after consultation with the Ministerial Council. The primary functions of the Registrar are:

  • to assign USIs to individuals
  • prepare and provided access to authenticated VET transcripts of individuals or extracts from such transcripts
  • resolve problems in relation to the assignment of a USI (e.g. duplicate records)
  • establish and maintain the access controls which allow an individual to determine who can have access to their account.

Mr Jason Coutts was appointed as the acting Student Identifiers Registrar in September 2014 to assist with the phased introduction of the scheme from mid-September 2014 onwards.

The Registrar is supported by staff from the Department of Education and Training and advised by the USI Combined Working Group.

The USI Combined Working Group includes representatives from every state and territory Training Authority of that state or territory department as well as representatives from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The USI scheme is delivered through the USI Registry System which is a web based service that enables individuals to create a USI and manage their accounts. It also enables training providers, with the individual’s permission, to create and verify USI numbers. Transcript services will be available in 2016. The transcript services will provide a consolidated record of all nationally recognised VET undertaken by an individual from 1 January 2015 onwards.

Personal information about an individual such as names, date of birth and contact details are stored in the USI Registry system. The NCVER holds the training records of an individual, which are associated with their USI number. When an individual logs into their USI account, they will be able to request a transcript of their VET training activity undertaken after 1 January 2015.

There is also functionality for training providers using a Student Management System (SMS) to connect to the USI Registry System by web services (system to system), streamlining data entry and increasing its accuracy, by reducing errors from manual entry across systems. Although most training providers connect to the USI Registry System using a SMS, smaller training providers can also access the service through the Organisation Portal on the USI website.

Working with Stakeholders

The design of the USI scheme reflects an extensive consultation processes with VET students, VET providers (large and small, public/private and enterprise), peak bodies, industry skills councils and government policy-makers at the Commonwealth, state and territory levels.

In addition to consultation, there were three Working Groups established that were comprised of Commonwealth, state and territory government representatives as well as representatives from NCVER. These working groups were established to draft the Student Identifiers Legislation and Governance, IT and Data Management requirements for the USI Registry system, and the communication strategy and activities.

Working group Aim Meeting date/s
Legislation and Governance Draft and progress the Student Identifiers Legislation and Regulations, and related Legislative Instruments such as exemptions to the USI. 2013—eleven meetings (held monthly)
2014—three meetings prior to passage Student Identifiers Act 2014
IT Development and Data Management Agreement on: functional specifications of the USI Registry system, data security and quality control, access to the USI Registry system permissions, and USI Transcript design and content. 2013—eleven meetings ( held fortnightly)
2014—four meetings in February and March prior to passage Student Identifiers Act 2014
Communications Development and implementation of the USI stakeholder engagement and communications strategy, key stakeholders prepared and ready for USI introduction, and students completing nationally recognised VET courses from 1 January 2015 have USIs 2013—Three meeting from January to April
2014—One meeting prior to passage Student Identifiers Act 2014

Following implementation of the USI scheme these working groups have met as a single Combined Working Group. The USI Combined Working Group is a forum that will:

  • develop and progress implementation of the USI transcript service in 2016
  • allow Commonwealth, state and territory members to share feedback on the USI scheme and USI Registry system, and
  • allow the Registrar to inform stakeholders of future developments and current statistics for the USI scheme.
Combined Working Group Meetings 2014–15
Meeting Date Topics
August 2014 Meeting Final passage of the Student Identifiers Act 2014 and the Student Identifiers Regulation 2014 and implementation of the USI scheme on 1 January 2015.
March 2015 Meeting Post implementation of the USI scheme and the stakeholder engagement and communications strategy.
May 2015 Meeting Informal review of first quarter of the implementation of the USI scheme and AVETMISS reporting.
May 2015 Workshop Specific workshop for Corrective Services representatives—discussion of specific issues for VET students who are incarcerated.
June 2015 Meeting USI Registry system transcript update pertaining to the introduction of the USI Transcript Service in 2016.
June 2015 Workshop Specific workshop on the USI Transcripts—to discuss and agree processes.

The acting Student Identifiers Registrar engaged directly with stakeholders through a series of conferences, talks and a roadshow to help highlight the role and benefits that USIs will have in the future of VET training.

In direct response to feedback from stakeholders, transitional arrangements designed to assist training providers have been implemented. In particular individuals undertaking single day or less training courses are required to have a USI only if they already have one or if the RTO wants the student to have a USI. This arrangement is valid until 1 January 2016, after which all students will require a USI. Several short course providers have taken advantage of this transitional arrangement to progressively update their enrolment systems.

Support for Individuals

The key principle underpinning the USI scheme is that individuals will have control over their USI and can determine who can have access to the personal and educational records associated with it. The USI Registry System is specifically designed and built to incorporate these important safeguards.

The www.usi.gov.au website includes step-by-step guides on how to create, activate, update and access an individual’s USI account. The USI Office also has five different methods of contact for individuals to resolve any issues, questions or complaints that they may have, including a phone based help line, website query, webchat sessions, email and by post.

The USI Office accommodates people with hearing or speech impairments, catering for TTY (teletypewriter phone) users, Speak and Listen (speech-to-speech relay) users and internet relay users.

The USI website has been designed to allow individuals to resolve the most commonly encountered problems themselves, through informative pages and instructions as well as a set of answers to frequently asked questions.

Performance

Accessible, user friendly and accurate USI Registry system

There were over 2.5 million USIs created since the progressive launch, in September 2014, of the USI scheme. The capacity for individual students to create their own USI online was an important design feature of the system intended to reduce administrative burden on training providers. Over 81 per cent of USIs were created by individuals themselves or with advice from their training provider.

Of the remaining 19 per cent, training organisations created 18 per cent of USIs on behalf of their students, and the USI Office was only required to create 1 per cent of USIs in exceptional circumstances. The USI Office carefully monitored feedback from stakeholders on implementation issues and has undertaken to continually improve the accessibility of the USI Registry System and processes. These improvements are designed to make it easier for individuals and training organisations to obtain the correct information to create and modify USI records.

Table 27: Accessible, user friendly and accurate USI Registry system
Performance indicator 2014–15 performance
Total number of USIs created 2,561,784
Percentage of USIc created by individuals 81%
Percentage of USIs created by training organisations 18%
Percentage of USIs created by the USI Office 1%
Table 28: Protecting the interests of individuals engaging with the USI Registry system
Performance indicator 2014–15 performance
Number of privacy complaints received by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) 0 cases reported

Deregulation Agenda (Skills Reform)

The introduction of a USI streamlines the exchange of information in the national training sector with benefits to individuals, training providers and other stakeholders. The USI scheme was designed with an explicit goal of imposing the minimum necessary burden on training organisations. Benefits to small business will include:

  • less time waiting for confirmation of a job applicants’ nationally recognised training qualifications
  • increased sharing of training information between training providers and Australian businesses
  • smarter, evidence-based regulation that addresses poor quality training by increasing transparency in the VET sector
  • simplified and efficient interactions with governments and regulators for VET program eligibility and entitlement processing, and
  • streamlined assessment of course prerequisites, credit transfers and the assessment of eligibility for funding assistance.

Outlook for the year ahead

A key benefit of the USI scheme for individuals and other stakeholders, with the individual’s consent, will be the ability to generate a consolidated record of all nationally recognised VET undertaken by an individual from 1 January 2015 onwards.

The VET transcripts issued by the Registrar will contain the following information, as prescribed by the Student Identifiers Regulation 2014:

  • full name of the individual to whom the transcript relates

  • date the transcript was prepared

  • information about each unit of competency or module of a VET course delivered wholly or partly after 1 January 2015, including:

    • Outcome (whether or not the competency was achieved)

    • source of the funding (Commonwealth, State or private sources)

    • the registered training organisation that delivered the unit or module.

  • The name and identifier of each VET qualification completed by the individual on or after 1 January 2015.

The required USI Registry System elements are expected to be completed and fully tested in time for the transcript service to be activated in 2016. The USI Office will provide further information about the transcript service through the website and targeted communications. For more information on the transcript service please visit the USI website.

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