ANU College company Study Group Australia's registration cancelled by Australian Skills Quality Authority
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ANU College company Study Group Australia's registration cancelled by Australian Skills Quality Authority

The company that runs ANU College has had its registration to teach vocational education and training courses cancelled amid a separate and ongoing investigation into its accreditation as a higher education provider.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority announced this week that Study Group Australia would no longer qualify as a vocational education provider from February 19 after the private company failed to meet a suite of requirements linked to the VET Quality Framework.

The company behind ANU College has had its registration to teach VET courses cancelled.

The company behind ANU College has had its registration to teach VET courses cancelled.Credit:Andrew Quilty

The revocation of Study Group Australia's VET accreditation does not affect its operations at ANU College. However, a spokesman for the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency said the regulator was conducting a compliance assessment of the company's higher education activities.

That audit was being done outside the regular compliance and accreditation assessment cycle, the spokesman confirmed.

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"As this assessment is in progress, we are unable to provide further comment as no decision has been reached," he said.

The Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency's website indicates that providers without higher education accreditation can deliver specific foundation and English language courses - such as those delivered at ANU College - if partnered with a registered provider.

The ANU maintains oversight for the delivery and standards of the diplomas and pathway programs offered at ANU College, a spokesman for the university said.

On its website, ANU College describes itself as "the English language and academic pathway provider for The Australian National University". International students are asked to pay up to almost $40,000 for courses it says will help them gain placement at ANU.

According to a 2017 flyer, more than 92 per cent of ANU College Foundation Studies students were eligible for direct entry into a bachelor degree course or the ANU Diploma program after completing their qualification.

In addition to ANU College, Study Group Australia runs ACPE Academy, Martin College, Australian Institute of Applied Sciences, Embassy English, Taylors College, Flinders International Study Centre, and Taylors Unilink.

A statement from the Australian Skills Quality Authority said it had "undertaken significant regulatory scrutiny of the training provider" over "a period of time".

As well cancelling its registration, the agency has written to Study Group Australia requiring it to cancel a number of VET qualifications and statements of attainment where the organisation did not provide the assessment necessary for those qualifications to be issued.

Examples of non-compliance with VET standards included a low qualification completion rate, a failure to determine students' suitability for their course prior to their enrolment, inaccurate and misleading sales and recruitment practices and a failure to provide students with accurate and consistent information about a course and its fees prior to enrolment, and insufficient resources, including trainers and assessors, to deliver the qualifications to the number of students enrolled.

"Study Group Australia was issued with a notice of intention to cancel its registration in September 2017," Australian Skills Quality Authority chief commissioner Mark Paterson said.

"Study Group Australia's response to the notice was considered by ASQA's commissioners, however it did not address adequately the non-compliances identified."

A spokesman for Study Group Australia strongly refuted any wrongdoing and said the company would seek a stay and immediate review of the decision via the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

"We have provided clear and detailed evidence to the regulator regarding our systems, procedures and conduct," he said.

"We strongly believe we are, and that we have been, compliant with the relevant standards."

Almost 1700 vocational education students remain with Study Group Australia, which had planned for the expiration of its VET accreditation at the end of this year, he said. More than 800 students are enrolled in courses not offered elsewhere.

"Each student should have an individual learning plan that shows a very clear path to completion and we intend working with them to help them complete their studies," the spokesman said.

Federal Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills Karen Andrews said: "Under tuition assurance arrangements students are entitled to transfer to a second provider to complete their studies, if available, or to a re-credit of their VET FEE-HELP balance for units of study commenced but not completed."

Do you know more? Contact emily.baker@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

Emily Baker is a reporter for the Sunday Canberra Times. She previously reported on education for The Canberra Times.

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