There were 1,373,230 students enrolled in higher education in 2014, a 4.5 per cent increase, or around 60,000 additional students compared with 2013 enrolments. Of these, more than 793,000 students were supported by the Government through a Commonwealth-supported place funded under the CGS.
More than 1,105,000 students deferred payment related to higher education and vocational education and training through the HELP in 2014.
The proportion of commencing domestic undergraduate students from low socio-economic status backgrounds participating in higher education increased from 17.3 per cent in 2013 to 17.5 per cent in 2014.
In 2014 there were 15,112 Indigenous students enrolled in higher education. This was a 9.7 per cent increase, or around 1300 additional students compared with 2013 enrolments.
Over $1.76 billion was provided in research block grants to support research and research training across all disciplines in eligible Australian higher education providers over 2014–15.
Fifteen projects were supported under the Australian Maths and Science Partnerships Programme, totalling $5.4 million, to improve engagement in mathematics and science.
The number of students supported under the Research Training Scheme increased by 2 per cent to 26,293. Funding also supported just under 3500 new Australian Postgraduate Awards and 330 new International Postgraduate Research Scholarships.
The Australian international education market continued to grow, contributing over $17 billion to the economy in 2014 from across higher education, vocational education and training, English language training and the schools sector. International student enrolments increased by 12 per cent from 2013 to 2014.
The Draft National Strategy for International Education was released for consultation in April 2015.
The Coordinating Council for International Education was established to oversee the finalisation of the strategy and an implementation plan. Convened the inaugural Roundtable on International Education on 18 June 2015 as a key step towards finalising the strategy.
Engagement with Latin America was increased with the establishment of a new counsellor position in Brasilia in October 2014. High level visits in 2015 resulted in a renewed memorandum of understanding with Mexico, and work plans with Colombia and Brazil.
In the 2015 funding round, international student mobility grants were offered to 5540 Australian tertiary students to study overseas, similar to the number of grants offered in 2014.
The department engaged the International Education Association of Australia to develop arrangements to support education providers to manage their education agents.
Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships were offered to 682 recipients for 2015.
Awarded 682 Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships to citizens around the world to undertake study, research or professional development in Australia and for Australians to do the same overseas.
Supported high-achieving female researchers from APEC economies through the Australia APEC Women in Research Fellowships to pursue research opportunities in partnership with Australian education and research institutions. Up to 10 fellowships will be awarded each year to female researchers at the forefront of their research discipline.
Chaired the Regional Committee on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific under the 1983 UNESCO Regional Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees in Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific.
Trade Support Loans for apprentices commenced in July 2014 to encourage more young people to take up and complete a trade by providing financial support when they need it most. The loans provide substantial support to eligible apprentices to assist them with the costs of living and learning while undertaking an apprenticeship.
Governance arrangements have been streamlined to reduce overlap and duplication and improve accountability. A number of committees were replaced by the VET Advisory Board in August 2014 which provides feedback to the sector on reforms and ensures that industry views are taken into account during policy development.
To help inform the final design of the new approach to deliver industry-led development and maintenance of training packages, the discussion paper Industry Engagement in Training Package Development – Towards a Contestable Model, was released on 31 October 2014.
In March 2015, the department launched two new pilot programmes to support young people in their transition to training and employment. The Training for the Employment Scholarships pilot addresses youth unemployment by supporting businesses to employ more young people and the Youth Employment Pathways pilot funds community organisations to help young people return to school, start vocational training or move into work.
The Industry Skills Fund was introduced in January 2015 and has been a key focus of the department. The fund aims to support the skills and workforce needs of Australian businesses aiming to take up a growth opportunity.
Since 1 January 2015 all students undertaking nationally recognised vocational education and training are required to have a Unique Student Identifier (USI). This not only assists students by providing online access to consolidated records of training undertaken during their life (including with different providers in different states), but also provides data to government about the training behaviour of students over time, which will be invaluable when designing future VET policy to support students. Over 2.5 million USIs had been created by the end of June 2015.
In January 2015 a new National Training Complaints Hotline —13 38 73—was established to protect students and improve the national training system by providing an avenue for apprentices, students, employers and others to lodge complaints about any aspect of the training system.
The new Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 came into effect on 1 January 2015. The standards for RTOs applied to new RTOs immediately, and to existing RTOs from 1 April 2015. These standards include increased responsiveness of training providers to the needs of industry and strengthened requirements around marketing and the information provided to prospective students.
Implementation of reforms to the VET FEE-HELP programme commenced from 1 April 2015 including amendments to the VET Guidelines banning inducements, establishment of a VET FEE-HELP Reform Working Group, extensive consultation across Australia, and amendments to the Commonwealth Assistance Form from 1 June 2015.
On 16 March 2015, legislative amendments to the National VET Regulator Act 2011 strengthened the regulation of training providers and will enable the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) to take action against unscrupulous providers and to improve training quality.
The new arrangements for Training Product Development for Australian Industry model was announced in April 2015. A new Australian Industry and Skills Committee was established in May 2015 to oversee qualifications and training product development, further ensuring that the VET system is focused on the needs of employers, students and the broader economy.
The total VET activity reports submitted in 2015, for 2014 training activity, provide the first national view of all recognised training activity in the VET sector, including VET in schools, by both public and private training providers.