If you are a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) such as a nursing school or first aid training centre, you may be subject to an audit by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA). Over the last few years, ASQA has toughened its stance on RTOs, leading to more frequent and harsher audits. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the regulations that you need to comply with. This article will explain the steps you can take to ensure you are compliant and how to prepare for an audit.

What is the Australian Skills Quality Authority?

The Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) is the body responsible for regulating the private education and training sector. Its primary functions are to:

  • oversee the entry of RTOs into the market;
  • accredit courses;
  • carry out compliance audits; and
  • penalise non-compliance, including cancelling the registration of poor providers.

Over the past few years, there have been a number of scandals within the private education and training sector, resulting in a crackdown by ASQA on RTOs. Although this has been effective at catching out unethical operators, it has also meant that responsible RTOs are subject to more rigorous requirements. The ASQA now primarily acts as a disciplinary body in the sector. Therefore, it is critical that you are aware of the regulations and procedures you need to follow.  

How to Approach an ASQA Audit

The ASQA may audit your business to ensure you are complying with various systems and processes. The audit will target the five phases of the student experience, namely:

  • marketing and recruitment;
  • enrolment;
  • support and progression;
  • training and assessment; and
  • completion.

If you are subject to an audit by ASQA, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure you have the best chance of success.

1. Treat It as a Legal Process

An audit is a legal process with serious legal consequences. Therefore, the ASQA can use an audit to withdraw your registration as an RTO. You should:

  • take careful notes of any meetings or telephone calls with ASQA auditors;
  • clarify and ask to review any documents or information that you are unsure of; and
  • ask for ASQA regulators to provide a request in writing for any documents so you have a record of the request.

2. Test Your Compliance Practices

It is a good idea to integrate compliance practice within the day-to-day running of your RTO business. You should conduct your own internal random audit of student files and even hire an external consultant to conduct a mini-audit for you. This test will improve processes and procedures and expose gaps in your documentation before the real ASQA audit takes place.

3. Stay Up To Date With ASQA’s Requirements

ASQA regularly updates their standards and requirements, which you can find on their website. However, audits can take place just weeks after new requirements are published. It may be possible to appeal the outcome of these audits in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) as they may be considered overly harsh. However, this kind of appeal can cost thousands of dollars, so it is better to be aware of and comply with any recent standards to avoid going to the tribunal or court in the first place.

4. Review Your Documents

Documents that ASQA reviews must be correct as the regulator will not give you a chance to amend them. If you have any doubts, you should try to delay the audit so you can review the files before ASQA arrives.

5. Engage External Advisors

If you feel your systems need review, engage an experienced, respected consultant to review those processes and systems. However, if you feel the audit is not going well, it is a good idea to obtain professional legal advice early. This can help you ensure you are best positioned to respond to the outcome of the audit or to an AAT challenge.

Key Takeaways

Running an RTO can be a rewarding and profitable business. However, with ASQA’s ongoing crackdown on RTO standards, you should prepare for an audit and know to respond if you are subject to one. Fewer RTOs will be approved for registration and a number of RTOs will be deregistered in coming months. It is a good idea to invest in effective systems and processes to ensure you will not face consequences as a result of an audit. To prepare for an audit, you should:

  • treat it as a legal process;
  • test your compliance practices;
  • stay up to date with ASQA’s standards;
  • review your documents; and
  • engage external advisors.

If you have any questions about preparing or responding to an audit by ASQA, you can contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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