Merger talks sneak in at TAFE hearing

Union slams funding cuts

Disconnect causes woes

MEMBER for Bendigo Lisa Chesters spoke about Bendigo TAFE's possible merger with Melbourne's Kangan Institute during an address to the Standing Committee on Education and Employment.

Bendigo TAFE is not being forced to do anything at all. - Peter Coyne

Lisa Chesters speaks out

Ms Chesters spoke about Bendigo TAFE's proud history and said funding cuts had forced merger talks.

"There's also been some pretty significant hits to our local TAFE," she said.

"Bendigo is an example of what will happen to other regional TAFEs if we don't invest heavily and restore that funding to our TAFEs.

"There's been a massive drop in students.

"In 2013 there were 14 per cent fewer students aged 15 to 24 and 15.5 per cent fewer students aged 25 to 64.

"There's been an increase in student fees.

"This has impacted in the drop in student numbers ... What's a local TAFE to do when they're surprised with radical changes to the funding structure?

"There's been a further 46 staff who have lost their jobs on top of the 100 already gone."

Standing Committee on Education and Employment chairman Ewen Jones reminded Ms Chesters it was not the role of the inquiry to talk about individual mergers of TAFEs.

But Bendigo TAFE acting chief executive Peter Coyne took the opportunity to respond to Ms Chesters' comments during his address at the public hearing in Bendigo on Wednesday.

"Bendigo TAFE is not being forced to do anything at all," he said.

"And that will take me back to the broader comments that I want to make about the public provision of vocational education and training in regional Victoria.

"What has happened in a contestable market is the reform that the government has undertaken since 2008.

"It's opened up our particular sector of education and training to private providers.

"And we are simply going through a process of endeavoring to adjust our business model, that is our model of delivery, so that we are able to not simply survive but thrive under those new market conditions ... we're looking for sensible partnerships, balanced partnerships, partnerships of equals where we can provide quality vocational education."

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