The beginning of the end. The end of TAFE NSW as we know it and what the introduction of the 'Smart and Skilled' reform means for you as a student

If you have read in the news, you may know that the NSW State Government introduced their new “Smart and Skilled” reform, which directs government funding to courses that they deem to be “priority areas.” Unfortunately the Jewellery & Object design diploma I started last year, did not make the “Smart and Skilled list”. This simply meant that the Government didn’t value our skills enough and the contribution we give to society and years down the track, the short sightedness of the NSW Government will have a severe impact on the industry and it will shrink and suffer because there will be no next generation of jewellers when the current ones who are still working, retire.

The result of my course not making the “Smart and Skilled list” means that there would be ZERO funding from the Government this year and every student who wanted to continue would need to pay full fees. Yes, zero. We were told to expect a fee increase of 765% for tuition in 2015. Yeah I know, crazy right? With the scrapping of government funding, it means any continuing student would pay full fee like international students. We were told by TAFE that we’d receive an official fee letter in November 2014 for the 2015 calendar year. November came and went and still no fee letter. December was the same story, as was January and February – when term 1 started.

We continued to attend class without knowing how much the course would cost. Term 1 came and gone and we still didn’t know. April rolled around and signalled the start of term 2 and we still didn’t know. At the end of term 2, we still didn’t know, until the very last day of term when our Head Teacher chased up TAFE Admin.

What a joke TAFE. Seriously. But it doesn’t end here…

The Government thought that the introduction of the Smart and skilled reform would allow an extra 46,000 students “affordable access to TAFE”, but actually “more than 30,000 students have been driven away this year and the number of Aboriginal students and students with a disability has dropped. Certificate III enrolments declined by 18,073.” (SMH, 2015)

The 2015 state budget revealed “83,000 fewer students enrolled in 2015 than in 2012, despite a $2-billion investment this year” (Bagshaw, 2015). Not to mention, with the introduction of this new reform, it also brought along the introduction of a new computer system that has completely failed. So far, it has prevented thousands of students across the state from enrolling, issued incorrect results, or no results whatsoever for those graduating. The NSW Government have already spent $570 million  trying to implement this new system and it still doesn’t work.

What a joke NSW Government. Seriously.

These drastic changes have been none more evident than at the campus I’m attending – the Design Centre, Enmore. Campus is like a ghost town these days. Our 2 technical assistants have both lost their jobs and were replaced by someone who was made redundant in a different department, so this new guy has no idea what’s what (I don’t blame this new guy either – it’s tough being thrown into a new environment.)

As it was already half way through the year and we still didn’t know how much the course would be, we were afraid that at the end of term 2, we’d be told  the course would be cancelled. Why else wouldn’t they tell us how much the course would cost?!

We heard rumours that the full time teachers would be forced onto part time roles, but in a part time role, everyone knows that its not possible to survive in Sydney and most likely the teachers would need to leave and find another role elsewhere – especially since they have a family to care for. (I wouldn’t blame them for leaving in this instance). Wracked with fear of the unknown, a massive miracle happened about 2 weeks from the end of term 2. We got told by a TAFE representative some good news. Finally. Not only were our fees not going to be a crazy amount anymore, they would only be a fraction of that aaand we were guaranteed that the course would at least continue on until the end of the year so we’d be able to complete our diploma, but the option to do a 3rd year as part of the Advanced diploma was definitely out of the question. The department would be wound up at the end of the year and that would be the end. Sad face.

So, with this miracle, I guess I should be counting my blessings… and thank the heavens that at least someone in TAFE has some sense. For the remainder of this year, I’m going to be cherishing every moment that’s left of my course, because this is the beginning of the end.



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