TAFE NSW enrolments across the Hunter and Central Coast dropped 6.5 per cent in the year to July 2017, prompting the NSW Opposition to decry a “continued downwards trajectory” and the organisation to defend the figures as misinterpreted.
An internal TAFE NSW document leaked to the NSW Opposition shows the total number of enrolments across the north region dropped from 68,742 in the year to July 2016 down to 64,291 in the year to July 2017, equal to a decrease of 6.5 per cent.
The north region comprises 15 campuses including Belmont, Cessnock, Glendale, Hamilton, Hunter Street, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Newcastle and Singleton.
Commencing or new enrolments across the region slid from 44,152 in the year to July 2016 to 40,058 in the year to July 2017, equivalent to a reduction of 9.3 per cent.
Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp said teachers blamed the decrease on cuts and changes to courses including shipbuilding and a reduction in face to face teaching time.
He said he had hoped the decline in enrolments would have plateaued over the past year.
“It’s very disappointing that it has continued its downwards trajectory,” he said. “When is it going to stop?
“The government needs to have baseline funding.
“Labor will guarantee 70 per cent of vocational education and training funding to TAFE.”
TAFE NSW managing director Jon Black said enrolment was usually calculated by calendar year and that the organisation was operating in a “very competitive environment established by the federal government”.
“This year we had over a 50 per cent drop in higher qualification enrolment and I attribute that to a change in the federal government student loan scheme and the introduction of the new VET student loan, which makes it very very difficult to get a loan [compared to studying at university],” Mr Black said.
He said TAFE had “increased subsidies for higher level qualifications” and seen a “significant increase in apprenticeships” but at the cost of lower level qualifications.
“Enrolment quality in longer courses is increasing at the expense of the very short courses.”
Mr Black said “campuses were full” and 500 teachers had started across NSW since January.
He said he expected enrolment to grow when the state’s first SkillsPoint headquarters opens this month in Newcastle, to develop curriculum in innovative manufacturing, robotics and science.