Sector profile

Education - snapshot and key insights

The education sector within IBAC’s jurisdiction includes the Department of Education (DE) and the government schools it oversees, as well as universities, TAFEs and private registered training providers. The non-government school sector is not within IBAC's jurisdiction and therefore not included in the data shown in this sector profile.

  • Key corruption risks

    • Financial management, including the misuse of school funds, fraudulent invoices to receive funds and misuse of payroll, leave and allowances.
    • Teachers’ interactions with students and parents, as well as other staff. IBAC receives many allegations about teachers’ poor conduct although they may not meet the threshold of corruption.
    • Recruitment and promotion, as well as complaints management.
    Universities, TAFEs and other educational entities
    • People management, including recruitment and promotion. This also includes the application processes for students.
    • Interactions between staff and students, including staff acting inappropriately towards students and for their own benefit.
    • Information management, including unsecure networks open to exploitation or attacks.
    Departments and statutory authorities
    • Procurement and purchasing, particularly ongoing contract management and selection processes.
    • Complaints management.

    Construction and capital works for educational facilities

    • Contract management (and contractual oversight) of services delivered.
    • Procurement and regulation.
    • Major infrastructure projects, encompassing the aforementioned risks, particularly procurement fraud.

    Key drivers of corruption risk

    • Limited awareness about corruption, prevention and reporting strategies.
    • Lack of adherence to the frameworks for the management of conflict of interest in recruitment and procurement.
    • Inadequate leadership culture that leads to overall development, or perception, of a discriminatory, bullying or non-transparent culture in a school.
    Universities, TAFEs and other educational entities
    • Uncoordinated and inconsistent processes across divisions that make it difficult to detect anomalies.
    • A lack of active management of employees allows for misconduct to continue unchecked.
    • Inadequate or inexperienced board and governance structures within registered training organisations and universities, including attracting board members with appropriate experience and capability.
    • Perceptions within sections of the portfolio on the ability to investigate and communicate the outcomes of investigations into corruption and misconduct, leading to a reduction in the willingness of employees to report.
    • The sector’s large size, and the wide variety of entities within it, creates challenges for identifying agency-specific risks and both formulating and monitoring tailored integrity initiatives .

    Key prevention and detection strategies

    Pleasingly, IBAC’s 2022 Perceptions of Corruption Survey of the Public Sector found that 37% of public sector employees who responded believe their organisation performs very well when it comes to ensuring strong policies, procedures and controls are in place. 40% considered it to be adequate.

    The following strategies are for consideration of all public bodies in the education sector:

    • Strong integrity frameworks that identify perceived, potential or actual conflicts of interest, as well as how they should be managed.
    • Proactive measures, such as mandatory and regular training and awareness raising to ensure staff – including private sector employees – are aware of and understand integrity-related policies and procedures.
    • Robust recruitment policies and procedures to ensure integrity from shortlisting, panel selection and vetting, through to induction.
    • Regular and random audits to ensure compliance with policies and procedures in risk areas such as procurement, recruitment and information security).
    • Building a positive ‘speak up’ culture built on an integrity framework, and a leadership culture that leads by example.
  • While the Department of Education (and its schools) comprise a significant part of the sector, the Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions (DJSIR) also has a key role in the sector, overseeing the training, skills and higher education sectors, including TAFEs. As such, neither department is responsible for governance and integrity of the entire education sector. Institutions such as Registered Training Organisations, universities and some TAFEs in most cases are run independently and are not a portfolio agency or subsidiary of the departments, although they may be accountable to one in the context of their contractual obligations for receiving funding.

    Following machinery of government changes, the DE and the DJSIR commenced as re-structured new departments on 1 January 2023. The insights provided in this sector profile are based on information, data and investigations dated prior to 2023; however, IBAC assesses the corruption risks and issues as still remaining and the corruption prevention and detection strategies as still relevant. 

    According to the Victorian Public Sector Commission’s June 2022 workforce statistics, the education sector (not including employees of universities or the Victorian Public Service) comprised approximately 28% of the public sector workforce with 80,355 FTE.

    Department of Education

    The Department of Education (DE) oversees a large portion of the education sector. DE has eight central groups:

    • Early Childhood Education
    • Financial Policy and Information Services
    • People and Executive Services
    • Policy, Strategy and Performance
    • Schools and Regional Services
    • School Education Programs and Support
    • Schools Workforce
    • Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA) (designs, builds, maintains and upgrades schools and kindergartens, as well as managing grant and reform programs). Please note that allegations against the VSBA are not included in this sector profile, but will instead appear in an upcoming profile on the construction and manufacturing sector. 


    • 1557 government schools (as of February 2022). This excludes Catholic and independent schools. 
    • Government schools comprised 25% of the entire Victorian public sector workforce in 2022, with the equivalent of 72,858 FTE (as of June 2022).

    Other bodies

    The DE works with several statutory authorities, including: 

    • Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority
    • Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority
    • Merit Protection Boards
    • Children’s Services Coordination Board
    • Disciplinary Appeals Boards
    • Independent Office for School Dispute Resolution
    • Merit Protection Boards
    • Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership
    • Victorian Children’s Council
    • Victorian Institute of Teaching 

    Key integrity frameworks (DE)

    • The department has an overarching integrity framework that brings together all of the department’s integrity risk management activities and reinforces the department’s culture of integrity by setting clear expectations for staff on expected behaviour. The Framework is underpinned by guiding principles to embed a culture of integrity, and is supported by the Code of Conduct, Three Lines of Defence model to risk management and departmental values.
    • The Executive Board is responsible for providing assurance to the Secretary that integrity risk at the department is being managed and lifting integrity performance. The Culture, People and Integrity Committee oversees the development and delivery of projects under the department’s Integrity Program Workplan. The Audit and Risk Committee provides direct advice to the Secretary on governance, risk management, audit and control assurance activities.

    University and TAFE (as of FY 2021-22)

    Private registered training providers and learn locals (as of FY 2021-22)

    • Most (89%) Victorian Government employees across all sectors agree that they know what behaviour constitutes corruption.
    • Six in 10 employees (61%) agree that corruption is a problem in Victoria, fewer (20%) agree that it is a problem in their workplace.
    • Most Victorian Government employees believe a report of corruption would definitely (35%) or probably (26%) be taken seriously.
    • The behaviours considered to be a high risk of occurring are favouritism and breach of professional boundaries (particularly bullying and harassment).
    • Most Victorian public sector employees (84%) describe the ethical culture of the organisation as ‘strong’ (44%) or ‘moderate’ (40%).
    • Over a third (37%) of public sector employees believe their organisation performs very well when it comes to ensuring strong policies, procedures and controls are in place. 40% considered it to be adequate.
  • One of IBAC’s core functions is to receive and assess complaints (from the public) and notifications (from departments and agencies) alleging public sector 
    corruption or police personnel misconduct. IBAC also receives complaints about a range of other conduct it cannot investigate because it is not alleged corruption or misconduct. 

    IBAC considers complaints made about corruption and misconduct (including improper conduct under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012 (Vic) (PID Act) concerning a public officer or a member of Victoria Police personnel. IBAC also receives mandatory notifications from principal officers of public sector departments and agencies and Victoria Police. A single complaint or notification may contain several separate allegations that are individually assessed to determine an appropriate outcome. Possible outcomes of our assessment of each allegation are:

    • investigate
    • refer the allegations to another agency
    • dismiss, generally because they did not involve corrupt conduct or police misconduct; were outside the scope of who we investigate; lacked substance or credibility, or were frivolous or vexatious; or have otherwise already been dealt with by IBAC or another agency
    • for PID notifications, return the allegations to the notifying agency if IBAC assesses the original complaint as not being a public interest complaint
    • take no further action.

    This profile includes data about allegations received by IBAC. There are limitations with the use of this data, including: 

    • allegations are unsubstantiated at the time of receipt
    • allegations can be incomplete, lack detail, be from an anonymous source or may not individually name the subject person of the allegation
    • allegation data is not a comprehensive or reliable indicator of the actual prevalence of particular activities, or the risk mitigation practices and compliance activities already in place.

    Despite these limitations, analysis of allegations can assist in identifying trends or patterns and provide practical examples of identified trends.

    The following data includes allegations received and assessed by IBAC between 1 July 2018 and 31 December 2022. It does not contain the outcomes of any investigations undertaken as a result of these allegations. 

Graph 1. Number of cases received (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

Graph 1. Number of cases received (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

IBAC has received 391 cases containing 854 allegations related to organisations in the education sector between July 2018 and December 2022. Around 48% of these allegations were dismissed, 41% were referred, 7% were returned to the agency that submitted them for actioning, around 1% were investigated. Around 3% were either withdrawn or marked for no further action. 

Around 46% of the cases referred were referrals to the Victorian Ombudsman and 41% were referred to the then Department of Education and Training (DET). The overall referral rate for the sector (41%) is higher than other sectors, partly due to education sector agencies submitting more notifications to IBAC than other sectors. IBAC assesses this is due to previous investigations and subsequent integrity reforms encouraging a strong ‘speak up’ culture in the former DET and its schools where concerns are raised and there are policies and procedures in place to notify IBAC.

Case numbers have trended slightly down since FY 2018-19. Cases against the sector fell 20% between FY18–19 and FY21–22, the number of allegations made against the sector falling by around a third in the same period. 

Graph 2. Number of allegations and cases by organisation type (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

Graph 2. Number of allegations and cases by organisation type (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

The highest proportion of allegations (49%) in the education sector have been directed against schools, with universities, TAFE and other educational institutions making up 38% of allegations during that time. The former DET accounts for 13% of the remainder. 

Graph 3. Allegations by behaviour and function (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

Graph 3. Allegations by behaviour and function (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

IBAC categorises all allegations by the behaviour being alleged and the organisation’s function or activity alleged to have been corrupted. 

For the education sector, the most common types of allegations are:

  • inaction including the failure to take sufficient or appropriate action, particularly about administrative actions or engagement with colleagues and students,
  • favouritism, particularly in people management (recruitment and promotion) and selecting suppliers in procurement and purchasing 
  • fraud, particularly in financial statements and reporting 
  • breach of professional boundaries including bullying and harassment and exceeding delegated powers, particularly when engaging with colleagues and students.
Graph 4. Most common allegation types by behaviour (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

Graph 4. Most common allegation types by behaviour (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

The five most common types of allegation behaviours, displayed in Graph 4, are outlined below along with common subcategories and examples. There are some notable differences in the types of behaviours alleged by the organisation type. For example, favouritism is more commonly reported in schools, fraud in universities, TAFEs and other educational entities, and inaction in the Department of Education and Training.

Of interest, IBAC conducted perceptions of corruption surveys of public sector employees in 2022 that found both favouritism and breach of professional boundaries were considered to be behaviours that were of a high risk of occurring.

Breach of professional boundaries 

  • bullying and harassment 
    • managers bullying and harassing parents and other staff who question their decisions or report misconduct, fraud or corruption
  • exceeding delegated powers 
    • employees using departmental websites to promote their own business
    • employees applying undue influence to manipulate recruitment processes
  • discrimination 
    • managers unfairly terminating contracts of other staff due to race


  • preferential treatment 
    • favouring contractors and failing to follow due processes for procurement and recruitment
  • hiding, failing to disclose or manage a conflict of interest


  • false accounting 
    • inappropriately claiming expenses unrelated to school functions
    • falsifying training documents to obtain government funding
    • inappropriately claiming additional work hours
  • false invoicing
    • employees fraudulently making payments from training institutions to their own businesses


  • failure to take sufficient action
    • leaders becoming aware of but failing to take action against alleged fraudulent or corrupt practices, such as fraudulent assessments and qualifications, and misappropriation of funds
    • failing to adequately oversight work conducted by contractors
  • obey instructions or policies 
    • failing to follow procurement procedures when engaging contractors to undertake works
    • inappropriately claiming reimbursement for meals, entertainment and accommodation costs 
    • failing to follow tender rules by allowing an incumbent provider to provide an updated proposal outside of the tender process
    • hiring friends, family and close associates without following recruitment procedures or declaring and managing conflicts of interest
  • provide adequate care or supervision
    • neglecting welfare of students by failing to act on complaints and allegations or failing to provide a safe environment
  • properly investigate 
    • failing to investigate or take action on complaints of fraud, corruption or misconduct

Misuse of resources

  • unauthorised use
    • inappropriate use of government funds to pay for private travel
    • misuse of departmental payroll/human resources system to obtain personal details for own benefit
  • fabrication, forgery and alteration
    • falsely enrolling students, using real or fabricated identities, into training that is subsequently not delivered to draw funding
  • unauthorised disclosure or disposal
    • sharing sensitive departmental information


  • manipulating processes 
    • employing friends and family without following due process
    • awarding contracts to casual staff in return for kickbacks
    • employees awarding contracts to companies that they later join as an employee
Graph 5. Most common allegation types by function and organisation type (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

Graph 5. Most common allegation types by function and organisation type (1 July 2018 to 31 December 2022)

The most common types of allegation functions for the education sector are listed in Graph 5. The common subcategories and examples are outlined below 

Financial management 

  • financial statements and reporting
    • falsifying budget or tax reporting and embezzling funds
    • engaging in fraud to obtain government funding
  • payroll (such as leave and salaries)
    • misusing leave entitlements by submitting fraudulent medical certificates
    • inappropriately claiming additional hours
  • accounts payable and receivable
    • soliciting payments from contractors
    • double charging for purchases made using purchasing cards
    • fraudulently altering invoice details
    • employees making payments to their own companies

Official capacity 

  • internal engagement interactions between staff, administrative action, external stakeholder engagement
    • bullying or harassment
    • failing to act against complaints of bullying and harassment

Official powers 

  • Inspections/investigations
    • interfering with or obstructing an internal investigation
  • Authorisations, licensing and zoning
    • using one’s position to influence the outcome of a licencing, registration, or certification process

People management 

  • recruitment and promotion, and complaints management 
    • recruiting friends, family and former colleagues without following due processes to declare and manage conflicts of interest
    • attempting to influence recruitment or remuneration processes to benefit oneself or associates
    • intimidating staff from making complaints and suppressing complaints 

Procurement and purchasing 

  • contract selection processes
    • soliciting or accepting bribes to influence the selection process
    • not declaring or managing conflicts of interest by contracting family, friends and associates 
  • contract management; approaches to market
    • failing to adequately oversight contractor infrastructure upgrade contracts
    • using fake tenders to obscure fraudulent contract selection or management