ASQA Performance Assessment: Understanding the RTO Audit Process

ASQA Performance Assessment: Understanding the RTO Audit Process

For Australian Registered Training Organisations, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) performance assessment is a mandatory process that they must complete in order to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and provide professional training services. This is one of the roles of ASQA in VET to ensure that students are receiving high-quality training.

This in-depth guide on an ASQA performance audit will help you understand the details of this process and give you tips on how to prepare and improve day-to-day operations in your RTO.

What is an ASQA Performance Audit?

The ASQA performance evaluation, also commonly known as an audit, is a systematic assessment of a training organisation’s compliance with the Standards for Registered Training Organizations (RTOs) 2015. The objective of the audit is to ensure the integrity of training providers and the qualifications they provide in Australia. This audit often serves as a quality control measure that aims to protect the interests of learners, employers, and the broader organisational training community.

The assessment process often involves a comprehensive review of several aspects of an RTO’s operation. These aspects can include governance, training and testing strategies, educational resources, trainer and evaluator qualifications, evaluation practices, learner support services, and the administration and management of the training organisation.

ASQA Performance Assessment Standards & Legislation

When the ASQA conducts a performance assessment of training organisations, they perform their evaluation against multiple standards and legislation.

  • For most RTOs they must meet the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015. You can find these standards here.
  • Additionally, CRICOS and ELICOS training providers also need to ensure they meet the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 and the ELICOS Standards 2018 respectively. Read the National Code and ELICOS Standards on their respective pages.

Ultimately, these three standards define and outline the requirements that all providers need to meet in order to be compliant with the ASQA.

When are ASQA Performance Audits Necessary?

The ASQA performance audit is a requirement for countless RTOs. However, there are several instances of when RTOs can expect an assessment to be performed on the organisation. Below are 3 common instances that the ASQA will conduct a performance assessment of an RTO.

  1. You are starting an RTO and your organisation has submitted an initial registration application to be a provider, change your RTO scope or renew your registration with ASQA.
  2. The ASQA has acquired data or specific information that may indicate your organisation could be at risk of not meeting each of the regulatory obligations required by the ASQA.
  3. The regulatory monitoring process of the ASQA is required to periodically sample random providers in order to ensure they are maintaining RTO compliance standards.

The notification period for an ASQA Audit

The typical notification period for a compliance audit is one to three months. However, there are some cases where the notice period will be shorter, or there may be none at all. An audit without notice can take place when:

  • ASQA believes students may be at risk
  • There are serious concerns about a provider’s practicesAn email will be sent to the CEO’s registered contact address on training.gov.au notifying your RTO about the audit.

Before attending your site, ASQA will:

  • Inform you about which training products and sites will be reviewed
  • Collect information from a wide range of sources, including other government agencies
  • Request additional information from you, including your TAS, delivery data or student information so they can send them the student survey

Note: The site visit is only one piece of a compliance audit puzzle. ASQA can also collect evidence before and after the visit, including from your website and social media channels to guide their assessment of your marketing and advertising practices.

Purpose of an ASQA Performance Evaluation

The scope and purpose of ASQA’s monitoring process are to ensure that RTOs provide training and assessment solutions that meet the standards of the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act of 2011.

By requiring these assessments of RTOs, the ASQA aims to uphold the integrity of training providers and the qualifications they deliver to organisations. These audits also promote consistent standards of excellence for registered training organisations that give students assurances that their education investment provides value and purpose for their employers and job skill development.

Each ASQA performance audit scope will differ between RTOs. Ideally, most performance assessments conducted by the ASQA will review:

  • enrolment,
  • completion data, and
  • compliance history

Commonly, the organisation will also review current and past complaints about the training provider as well as any gathered intelligence from other regulators and agencies about the provider. Reviewing these factors will determine the scope of a provider’s performance assessment along with the clauses and training products to be sampled during the audit.

You must ensure that your RTO is fulfilling its obligations during each phase of the learner journey.

How to Prepare for an ASQA Audit?

The best way to prepare for an ASQA audit is to remain compliant. Here are a few key factors to help your RTO stay compliant:

  • Review the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 for your organisation to better understand these standards and where your organisation sits in relation to them.
  • Get familiar with ASQA’s Audit Resources. There are fact sheets with detailed information about their student-centred approach, FAQs to help you understand the audit process, student survey and remedial action, and general information and assistance for RTOs
  • Conduct a regular self-assessment of your organisation to help identify areas that need to be improved or avoided before an official ASQA audit. This ensures that RTO’s student experience meets the requirements of the standards along with meeting legal and management responsibilities.
  • Keep detailed records of the organisation’s performance, internal documentation, and student information. Student files should be kept up-to-date, accurate, and secure.
  • Collect student feedback regularly to ensure your organisation values improving processes to provide a high-quality learning experience. Reading more about ASQA’s student surveys can help you structure your feedback in a relevant way.

Important note: Last-minute audit preparation won’t have any significant effect on the outcome. ASQA auditors will be looking at your long-term operations and conduct and how this relates to the student learning experience. The outcome will depend on whether the student learning experience complies with the Standards and Clauses and if you meet governmental regulations.

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What Happens During an ASQA Audit?

For RTOs that are required to have an ASQA audit conducted, there are 3 key questions that need to be answered:

  1. Does your RTO’s practice align with the requirements of the established standard?
  2. Does your RTO’s system ensure ongoing compliance with the standard?
  3. Do you regularly monitor and work to continuously improve to ensure ongoing compliance with the standard?

Each audit is customised to the individual RTO or training provider. The extent of the audit will depend on their compliance history along with ASQA’s risk intelligence gathering. This means that training providers who are high risk with an unfavourable compliance history or low student outcomes will be subject to a more extensive audit.

Most of the time, a visit to the physical training site will take place. The duration and scope of the visit will depend on the size of of the facility and the extent of the audit.

Auditors will make an effort to confirm the evidence you’ve supplied them. This will include:

  • Reviewing the students’ experience (ie. assessments)
  • Reviewing facilities and equipment to ensure adequacy
  • Reviewing other information such as websites and social media channels
  • Interviewing students about provider’s claims
  • Interviewing trainers and assessors
  • Contacting third parties when required

The 5 Stages of the Audit for RTOs

There are commonly 5 primary phases during the performance assessment process. Overall, the assessment process starts when the ASQA contacts the training provider to go through the findings and the performance assessment report conducted. Additionally, the phases flow as follows:

1. Initial contact

The ASQA assessor will conduct the initial contact with the provider organisation in order to discuss the audit process, the dates for the opening meeting and interview process, where the interview will occur which can include virtual or onsite observations. The ASQA will also contact providers with information requests including student enrolment information and completion numbers. In addition, they will ask for student contact information used in conducting interviews or surveying them.

ASQA uses a risk-based and customised methodology to quality assurance. ASQA’s sampling strategy implies that to best understand your provider’s performance, they will often look at certain standards, but not all of them. The organisation will also sample evidence from across your training products which means the performance assessment audit could be either narrow or broadly scoped based on the risks to your students.

2. Opening meeting

The assessor conducting the performance assessment audit and the provider will meet. The assessor will often walk the provider through the performance assessment audit process for the organisation and answer any questions that they may have. Often there is more than one interview in the process in which the opening meeting will establish the timeframe and scope of your performance.

3. Evidence gathering and collection

The assessor will collect evidence relevant from the provider which can include student enrolment, enrolment forms, schedule virtual or onsite observations, and conduct interviews. The goal of the assessor is analysing the evidence requested allows them to clarify and validate the information during provider interviews.

Additionally, the data collected from information and evidence requested from the provider can vary depending on the performance assessment audit scope. This data can include policies, documented systems, procedures, testing strategies, photographs of the premises, student enrolment forms and completed student assessments, training or assessor records, and any other document relevant to the performance audit.

4. Closing meeting

The ASQA and the assessor will conduct a closing meeting with the provider as part of the interview process. During this closing meeting the organisation and the assessor will discuss issues identified during the performance audit as well as review any additional evidence requested and acquired during the evaluation, prepare the assessment report, and provide recommendations.

5. Assessment determination and next steps

Once the assessment is complete the assessor provides findings and recommendations back to the ASQA directly. The organisation will then consider the assessor’s audit that identifies compliance and non-compliance of the provider. The provider will be provided a notification letter once completed. If the provider has been shown to be compliant they are notified and no further action is required of them.

What happens if you don’t comply with ASQA standards during an audit?

In the event that a provider is found to be non-compliant, the provider will be provided with a copy of the assessment report and notified of the non-compliant determination. From there the provider is also provided with measures to take in order to rectify non-compliance. The RTO will be issued with a timeframe in order to return to compliance, which is usually 20 working days.

If an RTO fails to rectify the non-compliance issues within the given timeframe, ASQA may impose regulatory sanctions. These can range from issuing of directions or conditions on registration to more severe penalties such as suspension or cancellation of the registration.

It’s also important to note that non-compliance may result in financial penalties. ASQA can apply to a court for civil penalties to be imposed if an RTO breaches certain requirements of the VET Quality Framework. ASQA also has the power to issue infringement notices for a number of alleged contraventions of the legislation.

Non-compliance can also damage an RTO’s reputation. ASQA publishes regulatory decisions on its website, including the outcomes of audits where non-compliance has been identified. This transparency ensures the public, and potential students, are aware of an RTO’s compliance status.

How Much Does an ASQA Audit Cost?

The ASQA assessment process is charged at $250 AUD per hour, billed in 15-minute increments. It is, therefore, the RTOs responsibility to pay for these audits. The cost involved in an ASQA audit can also differ depending on the scope and complexity of the RTO. ASQA will charge fees for audit-related services which can include initial registration audits, renewal audits, and targeted scope audits.

These charges apply to all time spent on:

  • Planning the audit
  • Conducting the audit
  • Preparing the audit report
  • Any related business processes

You are also expected to reimburse all reasonable costs incurred by ASQA if any part of the audit is conducted outside of Australia, including travel costs.

How Long Does an ASQA Audit Take?

The evaluation timeframe of the performance assessment process timeframe will vary depending on the specific type of audit being conducted.

Conclusion

Navigating an ASQA performance assessment may seem challenging at first glance with the many standards to adhere to. With the right preparation, a detailed understanding of ASQA standards and a commitment to continuous organisational improvement, your educational institution will ensure providing high-quality training to its students.

By establishing robust processes and procedures that align with ASQA standards, you can demonstrate your company’s commitment to quality and compliance. Regular monitoring, evaluation, and improvement of these systems are also essential to ensure ongoing compliance and continuous enhancement of your educational practices.

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