Peering over VET policy horizons towards public value: Multiplicty, conceptual confusion and ontological rhetorics

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper presented at Conference (not in Proceedings)


This presentation revisits the operations of Australia’s VET market, but not to re-prosecute the ritualised dualistic arguments for and against privatisation/marketisation. Rather, this market exemplifies successful public policy implementation that has lasted for three decades. It is proposed that, as in other industries, market and product life cycles operate and both have matured and are now declining. To canvas post-market policy options, the deceptively simple question was asked – what is sold in Australia’s VET market? A Foucauldian discourse analysis of a wide range of official policy documents, reform proposals, regulatory reports and lobbyist’s proposals identified two words that were consistently used to describe what is for sale – products and/or services. Intriguingly, several fundamental inconsistencies came to light. While the original goal was to create a single national market, the result has been multiple markets commonly described by the eight state and territory boundaries. This allows consideration of alternative descriptions of VET’s multiplicity. It was abundantly apparent that none of the documents distinguished between products and services; some lumped them together while most described only one. Businesses that sell tangible products require different marketing, operational and development strategies from providers of intangible services; hybrid organisations may trade in both. To better understand this conceptual confusion, student enrolment patterns were analysed to indicate what is being sold. Almost two-thirds of VET students undertook very short units, such as first aid; they were buying a tangible qualification in a transactional relationship with the provider. These training products are delivered in various formats including online and are competitively priced by mostly private for-profit firms. Community-based not-for-profit providers dominate service markets, holding decreasing market shares under 10 per cent. Public providers occupy the markets’ middle. Ontological rhetorics facilitate this product/service conceptual confusion because they define reality while creating the objects of which they speak. They also transpose claims about what VET is with what VET should be. By identifying and developing a better understanding of the differences between product and service rhetorics and potential future markets, it becomes possible to envisage the successors to the original competitive markets in novel ways that allow for better regulation, clarity as to what is being purchased and how public market interventions can be made effective. This includes operationalising VET market multiplicity to create public value though market shaping rather than market fixing.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2023
EventJVET Conference 2023: 15th International Conference & 75th Anniversary of the JVET Journal - Keble College, Oxford, Oxford, England
Duration: 13 Jul 202315 Jul 2023


ConferenceJVET Conference 2023
CityOxford, England
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Peering over VET policy horizons towards public value: Multiplicty, conceptual confusion and ontological rhetorics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this