'Compliance mills' a growing threat to serious learning

What is a Recognised course.... REALLY?

For years, the education sector has been frustrated over 'diploma mills' slipping through the cracks and eroding the credibility of quality education providers.

But now an emerging and disappointing trend is again on the rise, warns John Mason, principal of ACS Distance Education, which has been operating for 31 years, educating students from close to 200 countries with its 400-plus courses.

“We've all heard about diploma mills and their propensity to generate income and anyone with an ounce of integrity understands that paying money for a qualification without doing much work is unethical, and contributes nothing to learning or career outcomes,” says Mr Mason, based in the ACS Distance Education head office on the Gold Coast.

“But over recent years there has been a growing trend for once-credible learning institutions to move towards becoming 'compliance mills',” explains Mr Mason.

“Like a diploma mill, a 'compliance mill' is an institution that awards qualifications for something that all too often has little to do with the actual learning experience for students.”

Mr Mason says one of the high priorities of a compliance mill, is to comply with regulations and ensure bureaucratic requirements are met by students.

“Essentially, if the boxes can be shown to be ticked and the paperwork is in order, the qualification is awarded.,” he says.

“So much effort is being put into compliance, that often, attention to providing an effective learning experience is minimal.”

With his three decades of experience in the education sector, Mr Mason has observed that sometimes it can be difficult to easily distinguish whether an institution is genuinely focussed on learning, or more interested in profit and compliance.

“Students need to look carefully because many genuine and better institutions, actually work outside government accreditation systems – however, so do most diploma mills.

“This can create confusion for anyone trying to decide where to study.”

He suggests this situation could also be complicated by compliance mills sometimes seen to be supported by government bureaucracies.

“There are some websites that support what could be perceived to be compliance mills and falsely classify anything that is not government recognised, as a diploma mill.

“Sadly, good colleges can be labelled as diploma mills, while compliance mills can be on the good list.

“If it sounds confusing, it is!”

It raises the question, proposes Mr Mason, over whether there is a solution for the future of education in Australia, to stay credible and have students' best interests at heart?

“There is only one way of knowing if a course is provided by a diploma mill or compliance mill - students must look closely at how long the course is, what the qualifications of teaching staff are, what the course content is, and whether the course focuses more on learning rather than assessment.”

For further information on ACS Distance Education courses offered through ACS and affiliated colleges, visit www.acs.com.au or phone 07 55621088.