Dodgy RTO's exposed, but students pay the price

10 May 2016

Dodgy RTO’s exposed, but students pay the price

Recent investigations into Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) in Australia have revealed some shocking and corrupt practices, where profit was sought at the expense of quality and value. The result has been a flood of students that enrolled but failed to complete courses that were substandard, over priced and at times not even suitable for the candidates – leaving students out of pocket, in debt and without a qualification to show for their efforts.

Unfortunately, the dodgy practices of a small minority of RTOs has threatened the good name of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, an industry dedicated to the professional development of adults.

Abuse of the VET-FEE-HELP scheme by select RTOs

Ironically, it was the deregulation of the VET sector in order to stimulate competition that ultimately led to a reduction in course quality and an increase in prices[1]. The highly lucrative VET FEE-HELP scheme received $3 billion[2] in 2015 from the commonwealth alone, clearly a green light for unscrupulous operators wanting a piece of the pie.

In 2015, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) conducted an audit into RTOs that were registered for VET FEE-HELP after receiving more than a hundred complaints in the preceding year[3].

A number of key reforms were implemented within the VET FEE-HELP scheme in 2015 to try and address the systemic issues leading to poor pass-rates and disputes. Some of these reforms were:

  • Banning student loans and inducements for enrollment, such as laptops and vouchers for VET FEE-HELP courses
  • More stringent marketing requirements to ensure the inclusion and accuracy of key information in marketing materials
  • Revision of student recruitment practices

Several of the ill-famed RTOs exposed by ASQA have recently gone bust, worn down by bad press and industry scrutiny. Sadly, however, the toll is being born by students, who have been left with limited options to complete their qualification, receive refunds, or indeed seek compensation.

The Honorable Minister for Vocation and Education, Luke Hartsuyker, is focused on sector reform. In an interview with Mornings Newcastle in October 2015, he said, “what we want to see is a diverse sector with many participants… deliver(ing) quality courses that meet the needs of students and employers, and drive Australia forward. Because the Prime Minister’s innovation agenda is very much predicated on the fact that we will need a highly skilled workforce going forward, and that those skills will evolve over time. So we need a system that’s responsive, a system that’s high quality, and it’s certainly my objective to achieve that for the VET sector”[4].

We whole-heartedly agree with the Minister. In our view, all providers within the education sector should focus on the core business of delivering outcomes-focused training with an emphasis on quality and value.

A way forward for students: RPL

As a training organisation focused on quality learning outcomes for students and industry, it has been disturbing for us to watch this story unfold, as is has no doubt been for many others within the sector. It is difficult to sit by and watch thousands of students be negatively impacted by the poor practices of a small number of RTOs. But there is one way that we can assist these students: Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

RPL offers a viable pathway out of this mess. If you have been impacted by a provider that has suspended trading, behaved unethically or provided insufficient support, then we may be able to recognize your existing knowledge and experience, help you to fill any knowledge gaps and obtain your nationally recognized qualification through our partner RTO, MTS Learning ( – RTO No. 90748).

Elemental Projects provides accredited project management training under an auspice agreement with MTS Learning – a partnership grounded in our shared commitment to quality learning experiences, value for money, and long term educational outcomes for students and their employers. MTS is one of Australia’s most respected management training organisations and has been a Registered Training Organisation since 1998.

Elemental Projects is offering a free eligibility assessment for Recognition of Prior Learning for anyone who has started a Diploma of Project Management (BSB51415), and is now unable to complete due to issues with the RTO. 

Please email for further information or to book your free RPL eligibility assessment.