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ASQA's regulatory approach updates you should know

May 7, 2021

In response to the recommendations of the Rapid Review, ASQA has recently changed the way they audit and assess the performance of VET providers, including

  • strengthening ASQA’s governance of risk across the sector
  • clarifying their accountabilities
  • ensuring continuous improvement in the management of systemic and VET provider risk.

Let’s break down the key changes of ASQA’s new approach. 

How ASQA assesses performance

Building on improvements made in 2020, there are four key areas of change. 

1. Clarifying that the audit process is a part of the ‘performance assessment’ process

The main change to note here is the new language:

  • Audits are now known as assessments
  • Auditors are now assessors
  • Audit reports are now performance assessment reports

2. A focus on self-assurance

Self-assurance is a regulatory approach used in VET in Australia and around the world, referring to the way providers manage their operations to ensure a focus on quality, continuous improvement, and ongoing compliance[1]. This means providers need to have systems in place to be able to identify ways to continuously improve quality, compliance with the Standards and student outcomes.

ASQA is now focusing more on provider systems of self-assurance when assessing provider performance. Effectively self-assuring means providers can: 

  • identify and fix issues as they arise
  • manage risks to quality outcomes 
  • have confidence in meeting regulatory obligations on a sustained basis

3. Strengthening the interaction between practice, systems and continuous improvement

ASQA’s assessors will place stronger focus on providers’ systems and how practices are monitored, reviewed and improved. 

There are three questions ASQA will use to do this: 

  1. Does your practice align with the requirements of the relevant standard?
  2. Do you have a system for ensuring ongoing compliance with the relevant standard?
  3. Do you monitor, review and continuously improve (self-assure) in order to ensure compliance with the requirements of the relevant standard on an ongoing basis?

4. Increased focus on clause 2.2 of the Standards for RTOs

This clause requires providers to systematically monitor, evaluate and continuously improve their training and assessment strategies and practices. You will see clause 2.2 included in the scope of most performance assessments (audits). 

How ASQA has changed their approach to compliance

1. Regulatory response

Looking at ASQA’s graduated approach diagram below[2], we can see that the response to non-compliance is based on the level of risk and the provider’s commitment and capability to deliver quality. 

ASQA's regulatory response graduated approach
ASQA’s graduated approach to its use of escalating regulatory tools to promote and ensure compliance

2. Decision making

If a provider shows non-compliance, ASQA will give them procedural fairness. This usually means an opportunity is given for the provider to respond to the non-compliance before a decision is made that could adversely affect the provider.

3. Tools to promote and ensure compliance

Looking at the graduated approach diagram again, we can see that ASQA is focusing on encouraging compliance first, with resources such as information, education and advice, and provider self-assurance and continuous improvement. 

At the directing compliance stage, ASQA may issue

  • a warning letter
  • an agreement to rectify
  • written directions to rectify
  • conditions on registration
  • enforceable undertakings.

Basically, at this stage ASQA has found it necessary to use the NVR and ESOS Acts to inform their approach. 

When ASQA isn’t confident in the providers ability to address the non-compliance voluntarily or following a direction, or where the nature of the non-compliance is moderate to significant, a number of tools in the sanctions stage are used. ASQA may use:

  • written directions to notify students
  • an infringement notice
  • suspensions
  • shortening a period of registration
  • a cancellation of registration

At the tip of the triangle, we have court actions. If a provider ever reaches this level of non-compliance, they may face injunctions, civil penalties, or criminal proceedings.

How ASQA has changed their approach to reviewing decisions

These diagrams by ASQA show a good breakdown of the key timing periods[3]: 

Timeline for making a review decision

ASQAs timeline for making a review decision

Timeline for making a stay decision

ASQA's timeline for making a stay decision

Timeline for extension of time decisions

ASQA's timeline for extension of time decisions

Read more about ASQA’s Regulatory Risk Framework here


  1. ASQA Working Together towards Self Assurance 
  2. ASQA approach to compliance 
  3. ASQA approach to review of decisions 

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Want to know more about how you can stay compliant without complaint? Here are some useful articles: 

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