8.3.1 Institutional overview
Education policy setting and funding are somewhat complex within Australia’s federal system. The state and territory governments have the major responsibility for the management and administration of education in Australian schools and, as such, there has been a history of differing policies, curricula, accreditation, assessment, staffing policies, and the like. The Commonwealth Government has, with the states and territories, provided funding for each education system and, increasingly in recent years, for the fee-paying independent and Catholic education systems. At the time of writing the Commonwealth government is seeking a major revamp of schools funding and consequent administration, which is being negotiated with the states/territories. The final outcomes of this initiative, the Better Schools Plan, will not be known until after the forthcoming Federal election. For further information on the Plan see http://www.betterschools.gov.au/
Vocational education and training (VET) has traditionally also been funded by the Commonwealth and states, with responsibility for delivery resting with the states. However, during the years of the Howard Government, private training providers were given encouragement to set up in competition with the state-funded institutions.
In terms of the university system, the Commonwealth Government is the major funder of Australia’s 37 public universities, even though most of Australia’s universities are established under state acts, with states responsible for the overall accreditation of higher education institutions. There are also three private universities, and a growing number of branch colleges of overseas universities based in Australia.