RTO Compliance Guide | ASQA Requirements & Legislation

RTO Compliance Guide | ASQA Requirements & Legislation

In the dynamic landscape of vocational education and training (VET) in Australia, Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) play a pivotal role in cultivating a skilled workforce that meets the evolving needs of industry and the wider economy.

Ensuring the highest standards of education and training is not just a matter of maintaining a good reputation but is essential for the success and sustainability of the VET sector. This is where RTO compliance comes into the picture, serving as the backbone of quality assurance and integrity within the sector.

Tip: Jump ahead to learn about the early changes to the Standards for RTOs 2015.

Why is RTO Compliance Important?

RTO compliance is fundamental to the integrity and effectiveness of the VET sector in Australia. It ensures that the training delivered by RTOs meets the high standards set by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and other regulatory bodies. This adherence to quality standards ensures that students receive education and training that not only equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge for their chosen careers but also meets the current and future needs of industry and the wider economy.

Next read: Learn how to start an RTO so that you don’t get any surprises.

Who Governs RTOs & Ensures Compliance?

The governance and assurance of compliance for RTOs within Australia’s VET sector are primarily overseen by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA).

ASQA acts as the national regulator for the VET sector, tasked with ensuring that RTOs adhere to national standards for quality training and assessment. This includes monitoring RTOs to ensure they provide quality training that meets the needs of industry and students, thereby maintaining the integrity and reputation of the VET sector.

In addition to ASQA, RTOs in Victoria and Western Australia may also be regulated by state-based regulatory bodies, specifically the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) in Victoria and the Training Accreditation Council (TAC) in Western Australia. These bodies work within the national framework to ensure RTOs in their respective states meet the required standards and regulations.

What Regulations & Legislation Do RTOs Need to Comply With?

RTOs are required to comply with a range of regulations and legislation that govern their operation, quality of training and assessment, and overall conduct within the VET sector. Here is a brief overview of the most superseding regulations and legislations:

  • VET Quality Framework: A comprehensive set of standards and conditions that RTOs must meet to ensure nationally consistent, high-quality training and assessment. The framework includes:Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015: Specifies the detailed requirements that RTOs must meet to deliver nationally recognised training.
    • Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF): Outlines the set of qualifications that are recognised across Australia’s education and training sectors.
    • Other components that support the framework’s objectives, such as Financial Viability Risk Assessment Requirements and Data Provision Requirements, ensure that RTOs are financially stable and transparent in their operations.
  • The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (NVR Act): Establishes ASQA and sets out its powers and functions, providing the legal foundation for the regulation of the VET sector.
  • Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act): Governs education delivery to overseas students studying in Australia on student visas. This act requires institutions that offer education to these students to be registered with CRICOS, ensuring that the education services provided meet the high standards expected within Australia.

VET Quality Framework

The VET Quality Framework is a critical component of the regulatory environment for vocational education and training (VET) in Australia, ensuring the quality and consistency of training delivery across the nation. It comprises several key elements designed to uphold the integrity of nationally recognised qualifications by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs). Here’s a breakdown of the VET Quality Framework and its significant components:

Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015

The Standards for RTOs 2015 are central to the VET Quality Framework, setting out the criteria RTOs must meet to deliver nationally recognized training. These standards are designed to ensure that training and assessment services are of high quality and meet the needs of learners, industry and the broader community.

We will now look into the Standards for RTOs 2015 in more detail so that you know exactly what to look out for. There are two formats that RTOs should be aware of:

  1. The RTO standards users’ guide where 6 chapters cover different focus areas. This is the more modern approach and the most common language that RTOs will be hearing.
  2. The traditional layout, where the standards are split into 4 parts and 6 additional schedules. This is the older layout where all the schedules are listed in chronological order.

RTO Standards User’s Guide

rto standards users guide

The chapters are set out to match the student’s journey. Here is a list of all the chapters and what sections they pertain to, as set out on ASQA’s website:

  • Chapter 1 – Marketing & Recruitment: This chapter focuses on providing students with accurate and factual information to make informed decisions. The primary standards involved are 4.1, 2.3, and 2.4.
  • Chapter 2 – Enrolment: This chapter ensures that students have the required background to be able to complete the course successfully. The primary standards involved are 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and 7.3.
  • Chapter 3 – Support & Progression: This chapter ensures that students are supported and have all their needs met. The primary standard involved is 1.7.
  • Chapter 4 – Training & Assessment: This chapter focuses on ensuring quality training and assessment are conducted. The primary standards involved are 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.8, 1.13, 1.18, 1.20, and 8.2.
  • Chapter 5 – Completion: This chapter ensures that AQF certificates are only issued to students who have met the prescribed criteria. The primary standards involved are 3.1 and 3.3.
  • Chapter 6 – Other Requirements: Focuses on regulatory compliance and governance. The primary standards involved are 2.1, 2.3 – 2.4, 7.1 – 7.2, 7.4 – 7.5, and 8.1 – 8.6.

In the next section, we will break down each of these standards in more detail so you can see how they relate to the chapters.

Traditional Standards Layout & Detailed Breakdown

The traditional layout of the standards has been amended a few times over the years, with changes due in 2025. To stay up-to-date and ensure compliance, you should read through the standards and their amendments as they become available. This Australian government database offers all versions for download.

Here we will break down each of the parts and explain more about the standards that we have mentioned above:

Part 1 – Preliminary

This section sets the stage for the Standards, introducing their purpose, structure, and key definitions critical for understanding and applying the Standards effectively. It emphasises the role of the Standards within the VET Quality Framework and highlights the need for RTOs to comply with these Standards alongside the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 and related legislative frameworks.

Part 2 – Training and Assessment

This part focuses on the core functions of RTOs: delivering training and conducting assessments. It emphasises the need for RTOs to have strategies and practices that are responsive to industry requirements and learner needs, ensuring the quality and relevance of training and assessment.

  • Standard 1: Focuses on ensuring RTOs’ training and assessment strategies are responsive to industry and learner needs, adhering to training packages or VET-accredited course requirements. Clause 1.8 is crucial as it outlines the requirements for assessment, including adherence to the Principles of Assessment and the Rules of Evidence. This ensures that assessments are Fair, Valid, Flexible and Reliable. The Rules of Evidence are there to support: Validity, Sufficiency, Authenticity and Currency of evidence gathered as part of an assessment.
  • Standard 2: Emphasises the importance of quality assurance in the operations of RTOs, ensuring continuous compliance and improvement in training and assessment practices.
  • Standard 3: Dictates the issuance, maintenance and acceptance of AQF certification documentation by RTOs, emphasizing the integrity and national recognition of training products.
Part 3 – Obligations to Learners and Clients

This part outlines RTOs’ responsibilities towards their learners and clients, ensuring they provide accurate information, engage with industries to maintain training relevance and offer adequate support to meet individual learner needs. It reinforces the commitment of RTOs to learner success and satisfaction.

  • Standard 4: Requires RTOs to provide accurate and accessible information to learners about the services provided. This includes Clause 4.1 which covers RTO compliant marketing.
  • Standard 5: Stresses the necessity of RTOs engaging with industries to ensure training and assessment relevance and quality.
  • Standard 6: Outlines the obligation of RTOs to support learners, identifying and addressing their needs to ensure successful training outcomes.
Part 4 – RTO Governance and Administration

Part 4 addresses the governance and administrative aspects of RTO operation, including compliance with legislation and regulatory requirements, and effective management practices. It ensures that RTOs are well-governed, transparent and accountable organisations.

  • Standard 7: Covers the requirement for RTOs to inform and protect learners, emphasising the importance of cooperation with the VET regulator and data provision.
  • Standard 8: Focuses on the governance and administrative obligations of RTOs, ensuring compliance with various legislative and regulatory requirements and the effective management of changes and third-party agreements.

The Schedules provide detailed requirements related to the qualifications of trainers and assessors, the amount of training, assessment conditions and more. These appendices are critical for ensuring that RTOs meet specific criteria to maintain the high quality of VET delivery​​.

The Schedules provide specific criteria and guidelines related to:

  • The required qualifications for trainers and assessors, ensuring they possess the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver quality training and assessment.
  • The validation and transition arrangements for training products, ensuring their current relevance and quality.
  • The protection of fees prepaid by learners, outlining the mechanisms RTOs must have in place to safeguard learners’ investments in their education.

These components collectively ensure a robust framework for the delivery of high-quality vocational education and training, emphasizing continuous improvement, responsiveness to industry and learner needs, and strict governance and administrative practices.

studying rto compliance documentation

Early Changes to the Standards for RTOs 2015

The Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015, have undergone early changes to relieve pressures on the Vocational Education and Training (VET) workforce.

These changes are implemented ahead of broader revisions scheduled for January 2025.

The amendments include:

  • Reflecting Updated Training Products from the TAE Training Package: Updates to the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Diploma of VET, allowing holders of various skill sets to train under supervision.
  • Involvement of Education Degree Holders: Individuals with education degrees or qualifications enabling registration as secondary school teachers can engage in training and assessment, subject to certain conditions.
  • Engagement of Individuals Actively Working Towards Credentials: Those enroled in TAE Training Package courses can contribute to training and assessment under supervision while progressing towards their credentials.
  • Expansion of Industry Expert Involvement: Industry experts can assist in training delivery alongside trainers and assessors, ensuring alignment with Fit and Proper Person Requirements and minor clarifications.
  • Fit and Proper Person Requirements Clarification: RTOs must ensure that managerial agents and executive officers overseeing operations are appropriate.

This DEWR article has a number of FAQs that address concerns regarding quality assurance, supervision levels, academic requirements for teaching qualifications and the role of industry experts and wellbeing services.

Overall, these changes aim to provide immediate benefits to the VET sector while maintaining quality standards and flexibility for RTOs.

Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF)

The AQF specifies the standards for educational qualifications in Australia. It is an integrated framework that encompasses qualifications across the higher education, vVET, and school education sectors. RTOs must ensure their courses align with AQF levels and learning outcomes.

Fit and Proper Person Requirements

These requirements ensure that individuals who exercise a significant degree of control over an RTO are fit and proper to maintain the integrity of the VET sector. This includes assessing the character, honesty and integrity of RTO owners and senior managers.

Financial Viability Risk Assessment Requirements

RTOs must demonstrate financial viability at all times during their registration period, ensuring they have the resources to deliver high-quality training and assessment.

Data Provision Requirements

RTOs are required to provide accurate and comprehensive data to the regulator about their operations, training delivery and outcomes. This includes reporting on student enrolments, completions, quality indicators, and compliance with the Unique Student Identifier (USI) scheme.

The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 (NVR Act)

The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Act 2011 establishes the ASQA as the national regulator for the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

Its primary role is to ensure the quality and national consistency of VET by regulating RTOs and accredited VET courses. The NVR Act empowers ASQA to undertake a range of actions to ensure compliance, including conducting audits, reviewing RTOs’ operations, and, if necessary, imposing sanctions or withdrawing registration.

The Act underscores the importance of maintaining high standards within the VET sector to protect students and ensure the integrity of the qualifications issued.

Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 (ESOS Act)

The Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 is pivotal for RTOs offering courses to international students in Australia. This Act requires providers to register on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) and adhere to a set of standards designed to protect the rights of overseas students and ensure they receive a high-quality education.

The ESOS Act, together with the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018, outlines rigorous standards for marketing, enrolment, support services, and the protection of international students’ rights.

Compliance with the ESOS Act is critical for RTOs to legally provide education services to international students on student visas, ensuring that Australia remains a desirable and reputable destination for international education.

Achieving and Maintaining RTO Compliance

Compliance with RTO requirements is an ongoing process that requires a proactive approach from RTOs. Here are some steps to achieve and maintain RTO compliance:

Steps to Achieve RTO Compliance

  1. Familiarise yourself with the Standards for Registered Training Organisations 2015 and the VET Quality Framework to understand your compliance obligations.
  2. Develop policies and procedures that align with these standards and ensure they are implemented effectively.
  3. Provide staff with regular training and professional development opportunities to ensure they are aware of compliance requirements and can effectively implement them.
  4. Regularly review and update your Training and Assessment Strategies (TAS) to ensure they remain current and meet industry needs.

Regular Audits and Reviews

ASQA conducts regular audits and reviews to assess RTO compliance. It is important to participate in these processes, respond to any identified non-compliance and take corrective action where necessary.

Continuous Improvement Strategies

RTOs should have continuous improvement strategies in place to identify areas for improvement and take appropriate action. This includes gathering feedback from students, industry partners and staff, and using this feedback to inform changes to training and assessment practices.

Starting from 1 July 2022, ASQA made significant changes to its fees and charges. These changes align with Australian Government decisions, aiming for ASQA to fully recover its operational costs.

registered training organisation compliance with asqa

Registered Training Organisations Fees & Charges

Part of being compliant includes paying any required fees and charges. Here is an overview of the different fees involves with RTO compliance:

  • Initial Registration: Fee for applying to become a registered RTO.
  • Registration Renewal: Fee for renewing RTO registration.
  • Annual Registration Charge: Yearly fee for maintaining RTO registration.
  • Change of Scope and Adding Delivery Locations: Fees for expanding or altering the scope of registration and adding new delivery locations.
  • Performance Monitoring Activities and Returning to Compliance: Fees associated with ASQA’s monitoring activities and costs to return an RTO to compliance if required.
  • VET Course Accreditation Fees: Charges for accrediting new VET courses.
  • Reviews: Fees for reviewing ASQA decisions, including reconsideration of decisions and reviews by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
  • Refunds and Waivers: Conditions under which ASQA may provide refunds or waive certain fees, acknowledging that RTOs might encounter exceptional circumstances.

Key Changes from July 2022:

  • ASQA transitioned to full cost recovery, reintroducing fees that cover the full cost of services.
  • End of COVID-19 fee relief measures for most RTOs, with continued support for ELICOS-only providers until the end of December 2022.
  • RTOs must comply with ASQA’s general directions, pay all fees and charges due, and meet additional licensing requirements for VET courses.

Note: Fees and charges are integral to ASQA’s regulatory framework, ensuring RTOs contribute to the costs of maintaining the quality and integrity of the VET sector.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Non-compliance with RTO requirements can have serious consequences for both the RTO and its students.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

ASQA has the power to impose a range of penalties for non-compliance, depending on the seriousness of the breach. This can include fines, suspension or cancellation of registration, and the imposition of conditions on the RTO’s registration.

Impact on RTO’s Reputation and Student Trust

Non-compliance can also have a significant impact on an RTO’s reputation and the trust that students have in its services. Negative publicity and loss of student enrolment can be detrimental to the long-term success of an RTO.

Maintain RTO Compliance & Stay Informed

Navigating the complexities of RTO compliance within Australia’s VET sector is crucial for maintaining high standards of education and training. To stay informed and up-to-date on compliance standards, RTOs should regularly consult ASQA, the national register for training, and state-based regulatory bodies where applicable (VRQA & TAC).

You can also learn more here on Cloud Assess by exploring our VET-related articles. We offer insights, tips, and practical advice on the top compliance concerns