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January 2013

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Issues in higher education in 2012

The dramatic goings on in VET diverted some attention from the ructions, realignments, restructuring, retrenchments and redundancies rumbling through the higher education sector.

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1.   Quelle surprise:  demand driven funding & “standards”

competitionThe higher education revolution, declared by Julia Gillard in March 2009, reached its apparent apogee with the introduction of demand driven funding, through which the Commonwealth government provides a subsidy for every student that universities enrol.  This led to an increase of 5.5% in university offers, on top of substantial increases in the preceding two years, with offers to applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds showing the largest increase (5.8%).  I

Indeed, official figures show that total enrolments of students of low SES backgrounds to be at record levels, having increased by 26,456 since 2007, or 23.9%.  The growth rate in indigenous university enrolments has been almost double that of the overall population. However, this falls a long way short of closing the gap, with indigenous people comprising 1.3% of university students but making up 2.5% of the population, an issue addressed by the Behrendt Report.

The growth in participation in higher education sparked a debate that flared intermittently through the year about entry standards” with a report by the Australian Council of Educational Research analysing university admission data Australian Tertiary Admission Rank entry scores – which are used to determine university placements by ranking academic performance relative to every other Year 12 student – are “on average are declining”.

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2.   Funding:  glass half full or glass half empty?

Half full3Everyone acknowledges that it costs more to teach a more diverse cohort, which is why the Commonwealth tipped in about $433 million in additional “equity funding” over the four years 2010-2013.

The real issue is whether or not funding – base funding and equity funding together – is sufficient to support the needs of teaching a more diverse student cohort.

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Issues in vocational education and training in 2012

The big issue in Australian tertiary education and training was the radical reformation of the vocational education and training sector and its impact on the public TAFE system.

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Once was TAFE

budget-cuts-23The apparent end of the world arrived for the Victorian TAFE sector about 8 months earlier than the scheduled date of 21 December 2012.

On 28 April, the Victorian government pre-announced, through The Australian, swingeing cuts to TAFE funding, which essentially removed any special funding for TAFE as the public provider of vocational education and training in Victoria.  It was gobsmacking stuff, as reflected in The Scan’s first comment – indeed, the first published comment of any kind – published on 30 April (Once was TAFE).

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Vale Peter Redlich

5 January 2013

Peter Redlich passed away on 3 January 2013. Among his many contributions to the Victorian community, Peter was a member of the Council of Monash University from 2005 to 2009.

Peter RelichPeter created, developed and for many years led the progressive legal firm of Holding Redlich, pursuing his vision of it becoming a legal resource available to all. This was based on his unflinching belief in social justice and the need to defend and protect fundamental human rights whenever they were in danger.

Peter was a great leader, partner, confidante and mentor…to people in all walks of life who were fortunate to be close to him.

Farewell and thank you Peter.

–    Tribute notice 5 January 2013

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27 February-1 March 2013
National Convention Centre Canberra

Conference program and more information at
universitiesaustralia.edu.au/conference

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Life & stuff

2012 in focus

Surfing

2012 was an eventful year, from big events like the London Summer Olympics and the U.S. presidential race, to regional conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, to smaller issues closer to home. Reverberations from last year’s transformative Arab Spring still heavily affect Syria and Egypt; and the slow recovery from the recent global economic crisis brought bitter austerity measures to parts of Europe, leading to widespread protests.  This photo essay from The Atlantic is in is in three parts. Thanks to It’s work…honest for bringing it to our attention.

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Got somewhere interesting near where you live and/or work? Got an interesting story? Got an event coming up? Tell us about it!

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