TAFE, or technical and further education institutes, are the public vocational education and training institutions in Australia. Since the 1980s, TAFE has been subjected to policies that sought to position it as one ‘provider’ in a market populated by public and private providers. TAFE’s role has been narrowed from providing further education and holistic vocationally oriented education to providing specific skills required by employers through a narrow model of competency-based training curriculum.
Since the 2000s, vocational education has been subjected to sustained marketisation and privatisation policies that have seriously weakened TAFE as an institution, led to the sackings of thousands of TAFE teachers and education support workers and closures of campuses throughout Australia, and resulted in declining enrolments and reduced opportunities for students. Students’ fees have risen and the range and types of programs available to them have been cut back, as Australian and state governments limit public funding to programs deemed to be ‘in demand’ in the labour market.