Diversity

The Scan in 2015

 26 December 2015

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On account of other pressing matters in 2015 published editions of The Scan, with a completely refreshed front page heralded to subscribers by an e-newsletter, were down quite a bit – just 21 in 2015 compared to 40 in in 2014. Nevertheless, some 350 items were posted, which is about 8 a week in The Scan’s year, a little down on the 10 items posted a week last year.

Traffic to the Scan website remained strong, down about 20% on last year’s figures. The Scan’s now extensive archive of nearly 3000 posts creates “organic” traffic: over one third of all Scan traffic now flows from search engines and referrals.

Regular readers will have noticed the little ads at the bottom of each page and post. We get paid a teensy weensy amount every time an ad is clicked: over the past three years those ads have contributed $88.02 to Scan coffers.

Most Scan visitors are located in Australia but we do have a small international readership, with visitors from about 100 countries in 2015. This is dominated by visitors from the US (6% of total traffic) who number about double every other country combined, followed by the UK with about 1% of the total.

This year’s top ten reads were heavily skewed towards the “VET crisis” and attempts by authorities (rather belatedly in our view) to stamp out the obvious rorting, particularly in VET FEE-HELP funding, which has been truly scandalous. In fact, the number one post this year on The Scan is also the number one post of all time and by quite a bit. If you enter “rorting” in the search box in the top right hand corner, the archive runs to 5 pages, VET FEE-HELP runs to another 5 pages (obviously with some overlap) and that’s only the start of it. Quite why NSW university offers rated so highly might be explained by the fact that NSW newspapers now provide precious little coverage of the event. The seemingly generous pay arrangements of vice-chancellors certainly attracted reader interest (and good on The Oz for pulling the story together) and academic gongs remains a perennial favourite. However, the weightiest issue of the year in higher education was the late Abbott government’s deregulation package which died ignominiously in the Senate and led to then minister Christopher Pyne’s manic performance as The Fixer in an interview with David Speers on Sky News. 

 

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Careers Australia caught up in enrolment scam

Careers Aust3 March 2015     |     One of Australia’s biggest private training providers is being accused of using salesmen who target disadvantaged areas and enrol poor students with fake entrance exams.   Careers Australia is a market leader in vocational education, with 16 campuses across five states and 14,000 students, and is expanding rapidly by engaging door-to-door salespeople to sign up new students to courses funded by the Federal Government.  Last financial year Careers Australia billed taxpayers for almost $110 million in VET FEE-HELP loans. Former sales broker Chris Chambers confirmed that sales brokers were taking the entrance exams for potential students, and claimed he saw it happen 40 to 50 times.  These literacy language and numeracy tests were to gauge the eligibility of the student to actually complete the course and potentially pay off their VET FEE debt.   Chambers alleged that communities with high welfare dependence like Hobart’s Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Herdsmans Cove were deliberately targeted.

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NSW university offers 2015UAC

20 January 2015     |     As in Victoria, the traditional January main round of university offers in NSW, through the University Admissions Centre (UAC), is decreasing in prominence in the calendar. Offers through the year and direct offers are becoming increasingly the norm. This year, universities have made 46,507 offers through UAC ‘s main round, down 4,307 (- 9%) on last year. But the total number of offers to date is actually up a little, at 76,339, up 1,542 ( + 2%) from last year’s 74,792. So, main round offers through UAC are now about 62% compared to 68% last year and almost 100% four or five years ago.

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Vice chancellor’s salary packages on the rise

Rocket increase

15 June 2015    |      Australia’s highest paid vice-chancellor saw his salary package increase by $120,000 last year to reach $1.3 million, an analysis of annual reports by The Australian shows.  Michael Spence, head of the University of Sydney, topped the list of 37 vice-chancellors, followed by Greg Craven from the Australian Catholic University ($1.2m); Glyn Davis, University of Melbourne ($1.08m); and Peter Coaldrake, Queensland University of Technology ($1.06m). In all, seven vice-chancellors had salary packages over $1m, including two who left or retired.  At the other end of the spectrum, the analysis of 2014 annual reports showed Kerry Cox, the recently retired head of Edith Cowan University, to be the country’s lowest paid vice-chancellor on $540,000.  The analysis shows that the average salary was $835,000. Male vice-chancellors earned, on average, $853,000 while their eight female counterparts earned an average of $769,000.

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Hundreds of Vocation qualifications recalled

22 April 2015 | Private training provider Vocation has been forced to recall more than 1,000 of its qualifications, including hundreds in child care and Vocationaged care, after Victorian regulators found the courses were sub-standard. Almost 200 students who completed a Certificate III in Child Care, 250 students who completed a Certificate III in Aged Care, and 383 students with a double qualification of business studies will have to hand back their qualifications and inform their employers. A total of 832 students, who all studied with Vocation in Melbourne between January until June last year, are affected. This latest audit by the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority (VRQA) follows an investigation last year which found about 6,000 students had studied sub-standard courses. More than 3,500 qualifications were recalled, and Vocation was forced to repay $19.6 million in state government funding.

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Victorian VET Funding Review announced

Bruce McKenzie15 February 2015    |      The new Victorian Labor government has announced a comprehensive, independent review of the funding of Victoria’s vocational education and training (VET) system, as presaged during the election campaign.   Minister for training and skills Steve Herbert says the VET Funding Review will provide a more sustainable model for public TAFE Institutes and private training providers.  According to Herbert, the former Liberal government left Victoria’s training sector in crisis. Government contributions to public TAFEs fell from $733 million in 2011 to $468 million in 2014, leaving many TAFEs at risk of financial collapse.  At the same time, Herbert says the former government’s constant changes to subsidy rates have caused confusion and made it difficult to make long-term plans for private providers.  These sudden and repeated changes caused financial instability, undermining the ability of both TAFEs and private training providers to support Victoria’s growing industries.

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Higher education reforms referred back to Senate Committee

12 February 2015   |     Labor, the Greens and four independent senators (Senators Xenophon, Lambie, Muir, Rhiannon and Lazarus) have joined Stephen Parkerforces to establish another inquiry into higher education reform, to report by 17 March. The committee will consider alternatives to deregulation, likely future demand for places and implications on student loans, research infrastructure and regional provision. The inquiry will also look to investigate “the appropriateness and accuracy of government -advertising in support of higher education measures” and “other related matters”.   University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker expects the legislation will be rejected for a second time by the Senate and wants to encourage a national discussion on alternatives to deregulation. University of Canberra vice-chancellor Parker, a strident opponent of the government package, says that the government’s failure to review any options to deregulation was both a “process failure”  and “a democratic failure because it wasn’t flagged at the last election and it was even denied at the election.”

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Academic gongs Australia Day 2015

Order of Australia226 January 2015     |      Six hundred and thirty five Australians  have been recognised with Orders of Australia on Australia Day 2015, while a further 59 military and 130 meritorious awards were announced. Members of the tertiary education sector featured strongly in the honours list, with 81 awards, particularly in the upper categories.  People associated with the tertiary sector received 4 out of the 5 Companion awards (80%), 16 out of 38 Officer awards were to people associated with the tertiary sector (42%), 46 of 156 Member awards (29.5%), for a 33% of the higher awards.  In the most common category of Medal, only 15 of 434 awards were tertiary sector related people (3.4%). Women continue to be under represented with 33% of all awards, mainly in the Medal category.  Only four of the tertiary sector awards were to people in the VET sector.

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Vic to blitz “dodgy” VET providers

Deloitte2

29 June 2015       |       The Victorian Government is launching a major blitz to crackdown on “dodgy” training providers in order to lift standards in sector.   A review by Deloitte has revealed widespread abuses, including qualifications being issued to students who have no demonstrable skills, inappropriate marketing practices, short course duration, providers claiming government funding for non-existent training delivery and poor oversight of third parties delivering training.  Skills minister Steve Herbert said that since November 2014, the government has had to restore funding eligibility for more than 10,000 students who gained inadequate qualifications, and has found dubious practices in a range of qualification areas.   He said the Government will spend $9 million on auditing, interviewing students, ensuring the paperwork was right and make sure they were getting “high-quality” training.  The priority is to crackdown on providers who are doing short course delivery about which there have been complaints and are suspected of not providing quality training.

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Birmingham releases “synthesis report” on HE reform

Birmingham28 October 2015    |        The Commonwealth government has released a synthesis report of the past seven reviews of higher education over the past 30 years rather than conducting a further  separate review in the wake of its failed higher education reform package.  Education minister Simon Birmingham told the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit said that the government is under intense time pressures to come up with a new and revitalised higher education reform package after its the package devised by former education minister Christopher Pyne was rejected by the Senate twice, largely due to intense community opposition over the plan to deregulate university fees.   The background paper summarises the findings of each major review of higher education from the 1988 Dawkins White Paper to the 2014 Kemp-Norton Review of the Demand Driven Funding System.

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Labor’s TAFE agenda in QueenslandAnnastacia3

With the Labor Party poised to form a minority government in Queensland, its promise to rescue the TAFE sector will now come into sharper Focus.  Queensland VET student numbers fell 38,000 in 2013.During the election campaign, Labor leader and soon to be premier Annastacia Palaszczuk  (who pronounces her surname as “Pallashay”) made a number of commitments to address the vocational educational and training system.

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Image is everything

6 April 2015

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News Corp photographer Brad Hunter will join Tony Abbott’s media staff later this month, raising concerns that news photographers will gain less direct access to the prime minister.

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Abbott & kid asleep
The kid couldn’t take it any longer

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Australia's first accredited Buddhist college

 4 March 2015

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Australia’s first government accredited Buddhist tertiary education provider, the Nan Tien Institute (NTI), officially opened its doors on Sunday 1 March 2015, at its newly constructed Wollongong Campus.

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NTI describes itself as a secular tertiary Institute and says its purpose is to educate students in a context informed by Buddhist wisdom and values. It aims to facilitate cultural understanding and appreciation through the academic study of the arts, education, human welfare, religions and other disciplines.

NTI currently offers six post graduate courses through its Faculty of Humanities and new Faculty of Health. These are Master of Arts (Applied Buddhist Studies and Health and Social Wellbeing); Graduate Diploma (Applied Buddhist Studies and Health and Social Wellbeing); and Graduate Certificate (Applied Buddhist Studies and Health and Social Wellbeing).

The $50million first stage of the campus incorporates teaching and community facilities, a museum and art gallery, library, cafe, gift shop and lecture theatres
The campus caters for 300 students and aims to build to 3000 students when a second stage is completed and will expand to include courses such as a business degree, Masters of Business Leadership and Doctor of Philosophy.

Nan Tien Institute is part of an international university consortium with three sister universities in Taiwan and USA and 16 colleges and memorandums of understanding with Australian and international universities.

Design firm Woods Bagot used the Buddhist symbol of the lotus flower as the starting point for the design of the building.

Nan Tien means "paradise of the south"
Nan Tien means “paradise of the south”

The Scan | Edition #161 | 29 August 2014

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Pyne introduces reform bill

 

28 August 2014   |    The government introduced its higher education reform legislation into Parliament – the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014.  As anticipated, the legislation closely mirrors the announcement on budget night. There is to be fee deregulation with a requirement that 20% of net additional revenue from fee increases be set aside for equity scholarships. Students’ loans through the HELP scheme will be indexed at the 10-year bond rate from 2016 but with no loan fee and no cap on the amount students can borrow. The Commonwealth Grant Scheme rates have the 20% cut applied through the new funding tiers. The Research Training Scheme will receive a 10% cut but with the potential for universities to charge a fee to compensate.   Grandfathering will work as announced on budget night, with a published fee maximum for current students until the end of 2020 or when they finish study, whichever comes first. Sub-bachelor places, such as associate degrees, will be funded at the same rate as bachelor degrees. Student fee subsidies will be extended to non-university providers  such as TAFEs and private colleges , at 70% of the rate offered to universities for similar degrees. Eligibility for non universities to the Commonwealth Grant Scheme will be based on registration with the regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA), and a signed funding agreement with the Commonwealth…..[ MORE ]……

 

UA calls for passage of an amended deregulation package

Belinda Robinson
Belinda Robinson

28 August 2014    |    Universities Australia (UA) has called on the Parliament to support the deregulation of Australian universities with changes to the government’s proposals that it says will assure affordability for students and taxpayers. UA chief executive, Belinda Robinson, said that the Parliament has a once in a generation opportunity to shape an Australian higher education system that is sustainable, affordable and equitable in serving the best interests of students and the nation. She said that with budgets under pressure, governments facing a myriad of competing priorities for public funding, and successive governments being disinclined to invest at the level that repeated independent reports have shown to be needed, full deregulation of higher education is needed. “Either the status quo of ongoing inadequate investment, or further cuts without deregulation will condemn Australia’s great university system to inevitable decline, threaten our international reputation and make it increasingly difficult for universities to meet the quality expectations of our students,” said Ms Robinson….[ MORE ]……

Pyne’s well oiled machine 

27 August 2014    |    Education minister Christopher Pyne has warned there is only “one shot in the locker’’ for university reform and Australia’s $15 billion higher welloiled2education sector will follow manufacturing into decline if his deregulation plan fails. He describes his proposed reforms as an integrated “well-oiled machine”.
Pyne insists that the sector broadly supports reform, though there are concerns among vice-chancellors about aspects of the controversial package of measures, particularly his plan to charge interest paid on commonwealth loans at the government bond rate, capped at 6% a year, rather than inflation. Although he is negotiating with senators and has indicated he is prepared to “compromise”, Pyne would not canvass his negotiating position. The legislation to be introduced to Parliament on 28 August will take in all measures unveiled in the budget, despite the criticism of the package. In addition to fee deregulation and interest rate changes, the package includes a 20% cut to university funding, funding of a new commonwealth scholarship scheme (funded from student fees), expansion of the current demand-driven admission system to sub-degrees and expansion of the Commonwealth Grants Scheme to non-university higher education providers….[ MORE ]……

V-C’s argue for a modified reform package

Reform26 August 2014    |    Vice-chancellors have converged on Canberra to lobby education minister Christopher Pyne to push ahead with plans to deregulate tuition fees but with amendments to the whole reform package, including a rethink of proposals to impose sharply higher interest rates on student loans. The vice-chancellors have also reacted strongly to the suggestion that the government might grab savings from university research budgets if it does not get its reforms through the Senate. Glyn Davis, head of Melbourne University, described as “chilling” Pyne’s refusal to rule out cuts to research budgets and said such cuts: would be more devastating than any other one action: devastating to Australia’s reputation internationally, to our scientific workforce, to medical research…..[ MORE ]…..

Govt to target research for savings…???

24 August 2014    |     The federal government will reportedly consider slashing billions of dollars worth of research funding from universities if Parliament blocks its <a href=”http://www.thescan.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/target.jpg”>Targetsweeping higher education changes. Education minister Christopher Pyne intends to introduce legislation into the House of Representatives on 28 August to deregulate university fees, cut course funding by an average 20% and increase the interest charged on student loans. While these changes </arequire legislative approval, cuts to research block grants, training schemes and other measures can be passed in appropriations bills which typically sail through Parliament unopposed. The government has identified cuts to research funding as a potential bargaining chip as Senate negotiations deepen over coming months…..[ MORE ]…..

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ATN Executive Director

ATN logoWith Vicki Thompson moving on to the Group of Eight, the Australian Technology Network is seeking a new Executive Director.  Applications close 8 September.

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Paralysis by analysis

29 August 2014

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I was recently introduced to the term “paralysis by analysis”, which put me in mind of the vocational education and training sector. VET must surely be the most officially inquired into, reported and advised on – and “reformed” – activity in Autstralia.  At any time, in recent years at least, there some sort of government initiated inquiry going on in one of the nine jurisdictions (the Commonwealth and eight states and territories).

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 analysis paralysis
Commonwealth industry minister Ian Macfarlane recently announced the appointment of a five-member Vocational Education and Training Advisory Board, charged with providing  feedback to the government as it continues reforms to the sector.

He  said, in particular, that  the government is focussed on” ensuring industry has a stronger voice in the VET system”, so that it “is efficient and effective in delivering the job-ready workers that industry needs”.

You have to read the sub-text of that as being industry doesn’t have a strong influence in VET and that it is not efficient and effective in delivering job- ready workers.

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Comment & analysis

Getting higher ed reforms fit to fly

25 August 2014

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Linda K2 Professor Linda Kristjanson, vice-chancellor, Swinburne University of Technology proposes five key changes to the federal government’s higher education package – including a maximum cap on student fees and moderating proposed changes to student loans interest rates.

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One of Swinburne University’s subject strengths is aviation, and so when our researchers see an interesting new aircraft design one of the first things they ask is: will it fly?

That’s the question that confronts anyone considering the higher education reform package that formed part of the recent federal budget.

Will it give Australia a better educated and higher-skilled population? Will it give us higher quality research to prevent disease, create better products and solve pressing social problems? And will it do these things whilst encouraging innovation and providing better value for money? Will the deregulated system work? In other words: will it fly?

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Ivory Tower

  28 August 2014

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There are many aspects of the US system of higher education which are admirable and which we in Australia should seek to adapt to our own circumstances – such as a liberal arts education (which includes sciences) as a precursor to a professional qualification and community colleges.    And we are.  However, the US system of financing what they call “tuition” is somewhat more problematic: it’s a big mainstream political issue in the US, as shown in a recent documentary which featured at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  The pre-release publicity for this documentary describes its a its “a must see for every parent and student facing the daunting task of selecting (and eventually paying for) their future education”. It’s a must see, really,  for our legislators in coming to an informed decision about the architecture of the deregulated system currently before the Parliament, so we’ll be sending it on to legislators and the minister. We encourage you to forward it on as well, to colleagues, friends and acquaintances.  This isn’t a film that will be played in cinemas but click the “read more” button for release and access details.

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Balancing act by universities can neutralise the effects of funding cuts

 29 August 2014

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Fairfax Media  reported on 26 August on “leaked modelling” presented to a “confidential briefing” conducted by the LH Martin Institute that would see elite universities (the Group of Eight)  reap massive benefits from higher education deregulation, while less elite universities, particularly regional universities, would struggle.  Not quite so: the briefing was conducted at a public forum and a description of the modelling is posted on the LH Martin website.  The point that the authors of the modelling sought to make is that the götterdämmerung scenario of sky rocketing fees and crippling student debt doesn’t necessarily follow from the deregulation package (a point also made by soon to be Go8 director Vicki Thornton in an interesting exposition on the vomit theory of political communication).  Of course, the package creates that possibility and, over time, that may happen.  In this article Andrew Faulkner, Lea Patterson and Leo Goedegebuure, who did the LH Martin work, and offer concrete workable options to steep increases in student fees to offset budget cuts and financially sustain universities.

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fees21

We have recently critiqued the government’s higher education reform package and questioned the logic suggesting steep increases in student fees. While we stand by our view, we agree that we need to offer concrete workable options.

Our alternatives are based on the work we did for a recent workshop on fee deregulation. The objective was to help universities determine the impact of the proposed reforms and what strategies could be explored to not only survive the changes but thrive in a deregulated environment.

Building on our experience of modelling numerous Australian universities, we created three realistic models covering these distinct university types: Group of Eight, metropolitan and regional.

These models are quite detailed, containing a full curriculum and workload profiles at the unit and course level. As with any modelling, these are simplified institutions where changes are smoothly implemented and results are shown without the associated costs of transition. This is the whole purpose of modelling, highlighting the “what if” possibilities and taking them to their logical conclusions. It’s an approach we believe is helpful in today’s complex policy environment.

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Sometimes you need to shout to be heard

24 August 2014

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With the federal government reportedly prepared to consider slashing billions of dollars worth of research funding from universities if Parliament blocks its sweeping higher education changes, this article, first published in June 2011, remains relevant today. The point was similarly made by former Australian Governor-General the Honourable Quentin Bryce AD CVO (who thankfully seems to have eschewed the title of Dame) in her recent Richard Larkins Oration:

It is time for us to remind ourselves that the most important tool we have are our voices. We must lift them to support our brilliant researchers.

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research-rallyRepugnant threats of violence against academics’ research on climate change reminds us that much of what occurs in universities is of a political nature.

What is taught and how it is taught influences social thinking and attitudes; remember the culture war and the depiction of universities being inhabited by Marxist ideologues?

The outcomes of research in both the natural and social worlds profoundly shape the zeitgeist. Think Einstein’s general theory, Keynes’s general theory, Fleming and penicillin, medical research and pharmacology generally . . . and research on climate change.

All these things have political implications of one kind or another because they affect the way we see and inhabit the world.

Generally, you would think the activities of research and teaching makes the world an overall better place; kinder, safer, healthier, wealthier. And, of course they do, setting aside the objection that some of the scientific, social and industrial advances of the past beg the solutions we now seek to present problems.

Why then is the academy and its contributions to human welfare, actual and potential so seemingly undervalued in the polity?

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 29 August 2014

Australian Policy Online wins award

Aust Policy

Australian Policy Online has won the ‘’Information’’ category in the 2014 Australian and New Zealand Internet Awards (ANZIA).Australian Policy Online, based at Swinburne University of Technology, is a database and alert service that provides free access to full text research reports, papers, statistics and other resources essential for public policy development and implementation in Australia and New Zealand.

 

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LH Martin logo

Dr Charles Goldman and Fintan Donohue OBE are both keynote speakers at the TDA conference 31 August – 3 September.   The LH Martin Institute, in conjunction with TDA, has engaged both speakers to present symposiums in the week prior to the conference.

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TDA Conf

The 2014 TDA National Conference will be held in Sydney at the Sheraton on the Park from 31 August – 2 September. register______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Life & stuff

Fairness and equity must remain guiding principles

  29 August 2014

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Quentin BryceWe need to carefully think through the ramifications before we deregulate university fees, to ensure that the right balance is struck.The risk we must be wary of with a de-regulatory agenda is that education does not become unaffordable for many Australians, especially those in regional and rural communities, and the rapidly expanding corridors of our metropolitan cities and for indigenous people.

–      Former governor general Quentin Bryce – 2014 Richard Larkins Oration 27 August 2014

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Higher education: a "public good" or "pernicious welfare" ?

20 June 2014

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In this op-ed piece originally published in The Australian, Ben Etherington (Univeristy of Western Sydney) takes issue with John Roskam’s proposition that “taxpayer-subsidised higher education is one of the more pernicious forms of welfare“.  Among other things, Roskam queried the relevance of studying the “emergence of poetry in various Caribbean Creoles”,  Etherington’s current project.
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Budget 2

“In an era of busy government and constant change, it’s insufficiently recognised how often masterly inactivity can be the best contribution that government can make to a particular sector. A period of relative policy stability in which changes already made can be digested and adjusted to … is probably what our universities most need now.” That sounds reasonable.

As does this: “If we have to change it, we will consult beforehand rather than impose it unilaterally and argue about it afterwards. We understand the value of stability and certainty, even to universities.”

Here’s another great line: “Reasonable public investment in higher education is not dudding poorer people to help richer people: it’s strengthening our human capital in ways that ultimately benefit everyone.”

Like the reassurances given to Ford factory workers about car manufacturing and a “sophisticated economy”, Tony Abbott’s speech to Universities Australia now looks like pure expediency.

There is an unfortunate symmetry here. Like car manufacturing, public universities were a great success of Menzies-era nation-building.

Public universities flourished at that time because liberals, socialists and conservatives all agreed on their value, albeit in line with different world views. Debates between these outlooks did not concern the right of public universities to exist; they were internal to universities, taking the form of intellectual struggles over the value of different modes of inquiry and relative importance of different disciplines.

All held in common the assumption that “universities serve the public good because their mission is to pursue unprofitable truth”; words which I used in the HES a fortnight ago. They were provocative enough to prompt John Roskam, director of the Institute for Public Affairs, to argue that funding universities on the grounds that they serve the public good is “pernicious welfare”. The public good can be determined only by what people are willing to pay for: “it will be the market, in the form of the choices students make, that decides what’s in the public good,” he wrote in The Australian Financial Review.

Why does the public good even figure in his argument? To understand this we need to insert a missing term: “it will be the market in the form of the rationally self-interested choices students make, that decides what’s in the public good”. It is the public good because it is founded on the only rationality you can count on: consumer behaviour.

Roskam is not arguing for an end to public spending on education. Public funds are rightfully spent if distributed through the consumer choices of rational economic agents.

This is a world view that, as we all know, has dominated discussion for many years.What it entails concretely is diverting taxpayer dollars to for-profit institutions that are under no obligation whatsoever to serve the public good.

What is confusing about all this is that none of it squares with Abbott’s conservatism: values which were in plain view in his address to Universities Australia. Particularly, the principle that changing institutions should never be undertaken lightly.

Something has gone awry. Instead of regarding this about-turn as revealing the “real Abbott”, we need to ask how flippant hipster neoliberals, alongside lobbying from private colleges, have managed so quickly to hijack the higher education portfolio.

See
The 7 pillars of Coalition HE policy

Quelle surprise: student fees to rise, in a big way

Fairfax Media    |    1 June 2014

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Uni Melb logoStudent fees at Melbourne University will need to rise by up to 61% in Uni Sydney logosome courses to manage federal budget cuts and the government’s increasingly controversial overhaul of higher education. Price hikes of a similar scale are predicted for Sydney University.

In an email sent to staff members on Friday 30 May, Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis estimated fees across the university would soar, as he outlined the university’s plan to work through the budget.

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Davis says initial analysis shows the gap caused by reduced public funding

…..is momentous indeed – fees would need to rise by 45% to make up lost funding in social science disciplines, by 54% in Science, and by 61% in Engineering. The budget has significantly changed the allocation of public money across disciplines. There are some winners – mathematics and humanities – and many losers.

Davis is the first vice-chancellor to indicate potential fee increases if course fees were to be uncapped. He said students would be offered “nothing new” for the increased debt.

Students will be hit with double fees for some arts degrees and at least 55% rises for engineering and science degrees at the University of Sydney.

An analysis of the cost implications to the university from the government’s planned 20% reduction in funding for university places shows fees for communications, social science, environmental and engineering degrees will soar.

A Sydney University three-year bachelor of environmental systems costs a domestic student a minimum of $25,839 based on current fees.

Under the changes, students would face a bill of at least $42,405 for the same degree from 2016.  A communications degree costs a student about $18,132 but that would skyrocket to about $37,000.

Go8 Equity scales

Davis told staff that they should “urge the Government to moderate the interest rate imposed on student debt and reconsider deep cuts caused by the change in funding clusters”.

Everyone on campus, student and staff member alike, understands we are now entering an unprecedented era in higher education. There are challenging issues involved in setting fees that cover the real costs of university education, yet minimise debt levels for the next generation.

As one of Australia’s elite universities, with high demand for many of its subjects, Melbourne University is well-placed to increase its fees.

However, in an interview with Fairfax Media, Davis said the university would not increase fees to charge the maximum possible.

“An economist would tell you that competition should hold fees down,” he said. “I think there’s some truth in that.”

He said if students have more choice in where to go for tertiary study, universities would keep their prices low enough to attract applications.

Davis said he is “concerned” about parts of the federal budget and found parts of it “distressing”, despite his general support for tertiary fee deregulation.

“The only reason I am for fee deregulation is because both sides of politics have showed us they aren’t prepared to do enough public funding.  Let me be clear about that: I’m not in favour of fee deregulation in its own right […] I’d prefer something else, but I and anyone else has to live with the world as it is.

But he also said he supports fee deregulation because “it never seemed to me sensible to have government setting fees. Why is government the right body to decide exactly what the fees are?”

 

 

Vann's stand

CSU     |    28 May 2014

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Andrew-VannIn this  forensic analysis, Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Andrew Vann demolishes what he describes as the “pretexts” of the recent budget with respect to higher education.  Vann rejects the idea that deregulation is required to create diversity: “Charles Sturt University is nothing like the University of Sydney, nor does it wish to be anything like it.” Neither does he think that fee deregulation will enable Australian universities to climb up the global university rankings: for an Australian university to make it into the Top 20, for example, “I have previously suggested we might be able to pull this off by merging Melbourne and Monash or Sydney and UNSW, selling one of each of their campuses and investing the proceeds in research.” Vann predicts that fees are going to increase substantially: “For CSU we calculate this to be an average of 23.5% across the board. Some areas would need to rise (more) substantially.” And he describes the proposed scholarship fund as “a fundamentally regressive proposal” which could well result in the universities who currently support the most low SES students being least able to do so in the future.

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Here are my thoughts on the government’s proposals on fee deregulation, which are quite lengthy, but this is a critical set of reforms for the sector and for us.

Let me start by saying I do not argue that we need to balance the Federal budget over the longer term. I would also agree that we have probably been too generous in terms of personal tax cuts and tax relief. However, personally I would have preferred us to have had a decent conversation about the balance of taxation and welfare before the last election which would have allowed the electorate to make a more informed decision. This is not a particular criticism of the Government as neither Labor nor the Coalition really facilitated this conversation. In any case despite that we now have proposals which are acknowledged by the Minister to be the biggest reform in 30 years and I do not think he is exaggerating. What do they mean, what are the advantages and what are the potential problems?

The major aspects for me are:

  1. A deregulated fee market – universities are free to charge any amount for domestic tuition as long as it does not exceed international fees. My presumption is that this means that domestic fees at a university cannot exceed the international fees at that university.
  2.  An average across-the-board reduction by 20% of government support for student tuition. This will shift the balance of average student contribution from 41% to about 52%. Note that because students were paying less, this means that the proportional increase for students is more like 27% – assuming the overall cost of education doesn’t change.
  3.  HECS debt to carry a real rate of interest equivalent to the 10-year government bond rate capped at a maximum of 6%. This is an increase of something like 1.5% and means that, unlike now, if students are not paying off their debt it will be growing in real terms (assuming that inflation stays below 6%).
  4. If universities raise their fees beyond the amount required to replace lost government support, they will be required to put 20% of the money raised into a scholarship fund which will be available for use at that university.
  5. Sub-degree places will now be uncapped and covered by commonwealth support.
  6. Private providers and TAFE will also have access to commonwealth support. The government sees this as contributing to competition (the Minister talked about an ‘adrenaline jolt of competition’) in the sector.
  7. PhD students will also be required to pay a part of their tuition costs, which will also be supported via a HECS loan.
  8. Any student who enrolled after the date of the budget (13 May) will move onto the new fee arrangements from 2016. Anyone who enrolled before that date will stick with the existing fee arrangements until the end of their course, until they change course, or until 2020 whichever is the earlier of the three.
  9. The government has committed to an additional year of NCRIS (National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme) funding and to fund Future Fellows for the foreseeable future.

A point of detail to note, there was early concern that there was a threat to our Dental school because of the budget changes. We did lose $15m that had been pledged by the previous government to build additional dentistry clinics in Taree, Kempsey and Port Macquarie. This would have allowed us to expand clinical placements and hence student numbers as well as working to reduce the public dental waiting lists in that area. The loss of this funding does not affect our existing operations but as noted will prevent any expansion of Dentistry or Oral Health on the Mid-North Coast.

The government’s view is that the suite of proposals provides a fair balance of costs between the private benefits that students receive and the benefit that the nation receives from higher education. Whilst many people have drawn comparisons to decades past where higher education was free, or substantially cheaper, that was a very different world. A very small proportion of the population attended university, there was very much less gender equity and very much less social equity. I do not think it is realistic to expect that we could make higher education free with the participation rates that we have now. That is unless we are prepared to pay a lot more income tax, which it seems we aren’t. So I don’t think we should be debating whether students and graduates should bear some of the cost, what we need to debate is whether policy settings will drive the kinds of social and economic outcomes we are looking for.

Good things in these proposals are that the demand driven system is retained, that sub-degree places are included and that the Government has committed support for NCRIS and the Future Fellows scheme. I think it is reasonable also that private providers be brought into the system, provided we retain some means of funding the social good part of public universities’ missions. I will talk more about the possible problems with fee deregulation below, but it has to be said that an unregulated market in the international space released a lot of creativity and entrepreneurialism from universities and grew international education substantially. Of course, that was bringing new money into the country, not redistributing existing money within the country.

So what’s likely to happen? The Minister has suggested some fees might go down. According to our calculations Mathematics and Humanities will be receiving more government support than they currently do and, if substituting commonwealth money with student fees is all we do, that would allow a reduction. Fees in all other areas would have to rise, simply to replace the money removed by the government. For CSU we calculate this to be an average of 23.5% across the board. Some areas would need to rise substantially. Science fees would need to be increased by 62%, Agriculture by 48% and Environmental Studies by 114%. Is it going to be as simple as this? I don’t think so because we will need to consider the totality of the fees we set so that we can do the best job for our communities and we will have to see how the market behaves, and what happens to student demand, when it starts operating in 2016. I will have a bit more to say about how fees might play out below.

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For CSU we calculate [fees will rise by] an average of 23.5% across the board. Some areas would need to rise substantially. Science fees would need to be increased by 62%, Agriculture by 48% and Environmental Studies by 114%.
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So what are the potential concerns? My first concern is with the pretexts on which this is being pursued. The first pretext is that we don’t have enough diversity in the sector and that diversity is a good thing. I agree with the second proposition but not the first. Early last year I attended a workshop on the U-Multirank tool run by the LH Martin Institute. The conclusion of this workshop was that in fact the sector is already very diverse. Charles Sturt University is nothing like University of Sydney, nor does it wish to be anything like it. We have very different missions, cater for very different student demographics, have different levels of research intensivity and we employ different kinds of staff. We teach more than half of our students by distance education and USyd teaches almost all of theirs by face to face. I think what people from Group of Eight universities mean when they say ‘we don’t have enough diversity’ is ‘we don’t have teaching-only universities, and therefore we have to share our research money with universities that shouldn’t have it.’

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I think what people from Group of Eight universities mean when they say ‘we don’t have enough diversity’ is ‘we don’t have teaching-only universities, and therefore we have to share our research money with universities that shouldn’t have it.’
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This to me is not a good reason for seeking more diversity. I did my first degree at what was then Trent Polytechnic. The staff were mostly professional engineers with a couple of researchers thrown in. They took their teaching very seriously and they did a very good job. However, there was a bit of intellectual spice missing from the education and at the end I did feel a little bit like I’d had the creativity beaten out of me. That was probably OK in 1989 but given the way the world is changing I think we need more flexibility of thinking, not less and I think the inclusion of some research in the culture is important to that end. In both Australia and the UK the binary divide was abolished for a reason and we are better for it.

The second pretext is that fee deregulation will allow Australian universities to climb up the global university rankings. Noting that these are almost exclusively research rankings, I remain to be convinced that requiring students to provide increased funds is going to do the job. On the Times Higher Education rankings, our highest performer in 2014 is the University of Melbourne at 43. To make it into the Top 20 it would need to more than double its score to 14.9, and this at a time when particularly Chinese universities (from a country of one billion people, let’s note) are having mind-boggling quantities of funds injected by their government. On the ARWU rankings, Melbourne again is our highest performer at 54 with a score of 30.2. To lift itself into the top 20 on the ARWU, it needs to improve this score by about 50% and go past University College London and Imperial College as well as the Universities of Illinois, Toronto and New York. If the Go8 are serious about shrinking their student numbers to get more focussed, their undergraduates are going to be paying a very high price indeed for this kind of ambition. I have previously suggested we might be able to pull this off by merging Melbourne and Monash or Sydney and UNSW, selling one of each of their campuses and investing the proceeds in research. I hate to be a grouch, but personally I’m not even sure what, apart from national bragging rights, would be the advantage of having two universities in the Top 20 as opposed to six in the Top 100? What would be the benefit to the economy or community?

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…..apart from national bragging rights, would be the advantage of having two universities in the Top 20 as opposed to six in the Top 100? What would be the benefit to the economy or community?
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The second concern I have is with the impacts on workforce supply. In the existing system we have been able to boost the supply of skilled professionals in regional areas. I worry that this may be undermined by these changes as regional students are put off studying. It would appear that the current higher education market has saturated – that is that the demand for higher education at its current price has plateaued. Assuming that the higher education market operates like any other, we are now looking at a substantial increase in price and we would therefore have to assume that some students will decide not to come. Universities have many fixed and semi-fixed costs which, even if staff were shed to match the fall in students, would not scale down at the same rate. On top of this, note that the Minister’s intention is for universities to be better resourced as a result of these changes “education institutions themselves will be able to grow, to employ more people and invest more back into their local communities.”http://budget.gov.au/2014-15/content/glossy/education/html/index.htm Both of these would suggest that fees will need to rise more than the simple replacement value. On top of this, it should be noted that in previous fee deregulations around the world, fees have risen. The most recent example of this is in the UK where fees tripled – almost all of them up to the cap. I find it very difficult to believe therefore that fees will not rise beyond the simple replacement value which is likely to deter even more people. The minister may be counting on private providers and TAFEs to provide enough competition to restrain price rises and to expand supply. However, if this does happen note that even if it’s good for students it will go against the idea that universities will be able to grow and invest more into their communities as suggested in the budget material above.

The third concern I have is with the scholarship fund. As currently planned, this requires 20% of the additional dollars raised above the replacement level to be put into a fund in each university for scholarships. Quite clearly, the most elite universities will be able to charge the highest prices and will therefore have the largest scholarship funds. Currently, these universities have the lowest level of low SES students. This therefore runs the risk that they will be incentivised to recruit students from regional Australia and if, as the Minister intends, competition restrains fees elsewhere in the market, the universities who currently support the most low SES students will be least able to do so. This is a fundamentally regressive proposal which in my view needs to be changed.

Other concerns follow for me, including knock-on macroeconomic effects like graduate wage inflation and the possibility that if the sector raises fees too enthusiastically there might be some rapid re-regulation. I mentioned regional work force above, there is also the possibility that the prices we set (because of the costs of programs like agriculture, veterinary science or engineering) are out of whack with student demand and we end up with even worse labour market shortages in regional areas than we already have.

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It seems almost certain to me that [regional universities] will lose some students who have the least financial resources.
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What does it mean for Charles Sturt University and other regionally-based universities? It’s really hard to say. It seems almost certain to me that we will lose some students who have the least financial resources. We already know that some students struggle to attend university and this may be enough to deter them. It is possible that some students currently moving to capital cities to study may decide to stay in their regions instead. Perhaps it will increase the trend of some students studying for a year or two before moving to the city to finish their degree off and vary their experience. It is possible that more students may decide to move from metropolitan areas to regional areas to study. It is really difficult to do more than guess what the combined impacts may be. We have a great reputation for being entrepreneurial but I think we would be foolish to think that Charles Sturt University will be unscathed or significantly better off. I suspect we would at the very least be significantly different. It will take quite some time to fully work this through.

I am hoping that compromise can be reached on the proposals as the budget makes its way through the Senate. Certainly at the moment Labor, The Greens and the Palmer United Party have said they are against it. We will begin to do contingency planning and work out how we will walk the path through the next few years as things unfold. I think this will amplify the existing trends of competition and privilege, much of which is based on history, in the sector.

As a final point, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) produces a regular report called ‘Education at a Glance’. One of the sets of tables in this gives a calculation of the private and public benefits of tertiary education. For Australia, the private rate of return is approximately 9% whereas the public rate of return is approximately 13%. I don’t know what difference these proposals might make to this (perhaps any economists reading can) but I think it does indicate that simply making the tuition costs 50-50 between students and the state does not necessarily give the full picture on the full benefits. My concern is that we do not unintentionally shrink the system and therefore undermine the benefits both to individuals and to our communities.

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…the changes in higher education policy are a very important step for our nation. I think our local Members of Parliament need to hear your opinions on this as they decide what to do about steering the budget through the Senate.
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Finally, the changes in higher education policy are a very important step for our nation. I think our local Members of Parliament need to hear your opinions on this as they decide what to do about steering the budget through the Senate. The government has indicated it is willing to make compromises and it is important that they are informed about community opinion. You may be in favour of these changes, ambivalent, or dead against them and I would be very relieved to discover that none of our students is worried by these proposals. However, I think democracy would be served by sending an e-mail to your local Federal Member of Parliament to let them know your thoughts. They do take community feedback very seriously and it will help them to understand your perspectives and therefore hopefully make wise decisions.

 

The Scan # 149 15 May 2014

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Budget 2013

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Higher education

mortar boardHigher education spending will rise appreciably in 2014-15, from $8.7 billion to $10.9 billion (25%), with the extension of the demand driven system to sub-bachelor places and non-university higher education providers. Modest further growth is forecast out to 2017-18, to $11.8 billion (9%).

The key elements of higher education spending in the 2014-15 Budget, according to Universities Australia.

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  • Extending the demand driven system to sub-bachelor places and non-university higher education providers thereby admitting approximately 80,000 additional students into the system (at a cost of $820 million);
  • Full deregulation of student fees from 1 January 2016
  • Commonwealth’s contribution towards course fees will be reduced by 20 per cent on average (at a saving of $1.9 billion);
  • All higher education programs will be indexed at a lower rate based on CPI (at a saving of $203 million);
  • A scholarship scheme to be funded by higher education providers directing 20 per cent of additional revenue raised by higher fees;
  • Ongoing funding for the Future Fellowships Scheme (at a cost of $140 million);
  • An additional year’s funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (at a cost of $150 million);
  • Changes to the Higher Education Loans Program that would see the removal of the 25 per cent loan fee for undergraduate FEE-HELP, a slight drop in the HELP repayment income threshold to $50,638, and the introduction of an interest rate equivalent to the 10 year government bond rate;
  • The abolition of the Education Investment Fund with assets ($3.5 billion) to be rolled into the new Asset Recycling Fund;
  • Government funding for Research Training Scheme Doctoral Students to be reduced by 10 per cent (at a saving of $174 million); and
  • Efficiency dividend applied to Australian Research Council.

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Skills

The key elements of VET spending in the 2014-15 Budget

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skills (1)The “tools for your trade payments” for apprentices will cease from 1 July 2014. It will be replaced immediately with a Trade Support Loans Program providing $439m over five years to provide apprentices with financial assistance up to $20K over a four year apprenticeship through a student loan repayment scheme. The Government will also establish an Industry Skills Fund to provide $470m over four years to support the training needs of small to medium enterprises that cannot be met by the national training system. Expenditure is budgeted to decline about 13% in 2014-15 over 2013-14 (from $1.67 billion to $1.45 billion) and 8% over the four years to 2017-18 (to $1.55 billion)…..[ MORE ]….

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Science & research

The Australian Academy of Science says the 2014-15 Budget is mixed for science, investing in some areas while pulling funding from others

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research4The Budget provides for a new Medical Research Future Fund, to start with $1.1 billion, which will come from winding up the Health and Hospitals Fund, and growing to $20 billion by 2020. On the other side of the ledger, the Budget cuts at least $420 million over the forward estimates to five vital science agencies — the Australian Research Council (ARC) ($74.9 million), the CSIRO ($111.4 million), the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) ($120 million), Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) ($27.6 million), and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) ($7.8 million) – as well as the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program ($80 million).

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Tertiary education in the 2014-15 Budget

Sector responses.

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Budget drives sweeping changes to higher education

ua logoThe budget puts higher education on a path of radical change … and will fundamentally alter the shape of Australian higher education…In deciding to extend the demand driven system and government funding to non-university providers, UA is pleased that further work will be done to ensure competitive fairness and that the relative government support appropriately takes account of the differing community expectations and public good obligations…..[ MORE ]….

A package to explore for the future

IRU has long advocated continuing with charging caps, set to ensure universities have sufficient revenue to provide good IRU logoquality education. Ensuring the open charges system is introduced well, is a major challenge. The changes move more of the cost of higher education onto students, including research students. We need to ensure that this works and that students gain the education they deserve and need for the additional impost…..[ MORE ]….

Structural reform long overdue

Go8 logo newThe Government has announced a number of important measures to position the Australian higher education sector for the future. These historic reforms reconcile access and quality, and make growth affordable. A more dynamic higher education sector will continue to expand opportunity in a sustainable way. It will be more responsive to students’ needs, offering greater diversity and new opportunities…..[ MORE ]….

An ambitious budget for higher educationRUN Logo

Keeping the demand driven system for bachelor places and extending it to sub-bachelor places, will assist in providing pathways and lift participation in higher education in regional Australia for less well prepared students. This will assist in providing pathways and lift participation in higher education in regional Australia for less well prepared students….[ MORE ]….

Students to bear costs of reform

ATN logoAustralia’s future university students, who will form the backbone of a skilled national economy, are the big losers in the Federal Budget. While the Government has confirmed its commitment to ensuring access for all students who qualify to attend an Australian university the cost of that reform will be borne by the very students they hope to attract. The demand driven system is a significant reform measure and its continuation is welcome, however the sting in the tail is the impact upon our future students…..[ MORE ]….

A fair deal for higher education in TAFE

tda_logo- largeAdvocacy by TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) over more than four years has emerged cessful, with Budget 2014 overhauling Federal course funding contributions toward students enrolling in higher education courses at TAFE Institutes and non-university institutions. Student loans for apprenticeship students is the major feature for skills in the Budget. The student loans will replace traditional apprenticeship payments for completions of staged course segments. Student loans will be offered up to $8,000 in Year 1, $6000 in Year 2, $4000 in Year 3, and $2000 in Year 4….[ MORE ]….

Reforms create a level playing fieldPrint

The government’s higher education reforms are a major milestone, and deliver equity and fairness for the growing number of higher education students choosing to undertake their degree or sub- degree program at a non-university institution. The changes the government has announced offer all students funding support from the Commonwealth. They will support genuine student choice and competition amongst all of Australia’s 173 higher education providers…..[ MORE ]….

The road to ruin

nteu-logoNo longer will students gain entry into university based solely on academic merit, but on their capacity and willingness to pay the market price for a degree. Student fees will now skyrocket at some universities, university funding has been cut, the cost of servicing student debt will increase and the viability of some of our universities will be undermined by for-profit private providers…..[ MORE ]….

 

Reforms empower student choice

The higher education sector could use a good dose of student focus and greater innovation in order to drive better OUAlearning outcomes. Any industry that makes price the issue is giving more power to consumers. In other industry sectors, deregulation of fees has led to better outcomes for consumers. In a demand driven system, we encourage students to expect and demand more from their education providers. Work out what you really want. For some, prestige will always count but for many more, flexibility and affordability will be key….[ MORE ]….

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The higher education revolution – redux

9 May 2014 | In a speech to open Monash University’s Diamond Deposition Suite, education minister Christopher christopher-pynePyne has set the scene for extensive changes, to be announced “in-principle” in the forthcoming Federal Budget (13 May), to higher education funding arrangements, as proposed by the Kemp- Norton Review and the Commission of Audit. In particular, he has come out strongly in support of allowing universities to compete on price by deregulating what fees they can charge students and extending the publicly subsidised demand-driven system to non-university higher education providers (NUHEPs). Students at NUHEPs would receive a lesser subsidy than students at universities because they do not need to fund research activities. He also strongly backs another Kemp-Norton recommendation for the federal government to subsidise pathway programs into universities. He indicated that the burden of the cost of tuition also might be shifted, from the government currently providing on average 60% of the costs to something less, with the student contribution rising….[ MORE ]….

 

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Comment & analysis

14 May 2013

Funding: it’s not rocket science

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Ahead of the Budget, Suzanne Cory, president of the Suzanne CoryAcademy of Science, challenged Tony Abbott to be visionary, in the manner of Robert Menzies, and to build his own science legacy for our future, and recognise that an investment in science and research is an investment in the future of Australia. Abbott failed the challenge, at least in this year’s budget. As reported elsewhere, science and research was a net loser, notwithstanding the announcement of the Medical Research Future Fund.

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If I had to name one of the big political heroes of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the first to come to mind would be Sir Robert Menzies.

It’s hard to think of any one politician who had more of an impact on the Liberal Party tradition. But just as influential was Menzies’ impact on science and research in Australia.

Under his leadership, war and depression gave way to a new kind of scientific optimism. He led a massive expansion of Australia’s scientific research capacity, was involved in the creation of the Australian Academy of Science, and funded the building of important infrastructure such as the giant radio telescope at Parkes and the phytotron in Canberra. He also oversaw a tenfold increase in the budget of the newly formed CSIRO in just 15 years.

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MenziesIn 1958, Menzies predicted: ”If there’s one thing that shines out in the history of this century it is the enormous capacity of science to expand its boundaries. By the end of this century … the boundaries of knowledge will have been pushed back to places as yet unseen and unimagined.”

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Bobby said it better….

Tbobby_kennedys_unfinished_mission-293x307he future is not a gift: it is an achievement. Every generation helps make its own future. This is the essential challenge of the present…
– Bobby Kennedy – Seattle World’s Fair, 7 August 1962

 

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Prosperity is not a gift. It needs to be earned.The government will consider newly released recommendations from the Commission of Audit, which has suggested stringent cuts across the board. AAP/Lukas Coch

Joe Hockey- Australian Budget , 13 May 2014

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Higher Education Policy Seminars 2014

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Has Australia the imagination and will to create and maintain international pre-eminence in higher education? Key issues must be tackled across the next few years if an excellent higher education system is to be designed and built. The series commences Wednesday 28 May.

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Why would you chop CSIRO?

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Budget night will be a bad one for at least a couple of national icons. The ABC is bracing itself for a deep cuts and so too, apparently, is CSIRO.

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Now one can understand (though not necessarily agree) with the Coalition government’s antipathy to the ABC, populated as it is by pinko greenie journalists and producers and with an audience of the same ilk.

CSIROBut what’s the Coalition’s problem with CSIRO? It has made incalculable contributions to national security and prosperity, since its modest beginnings as the first step towards a “national laboratory” nearly a hundred years ago . Think of some of these contributions: from the invention of everyday household products such as Aeroguard and Softly detergent to the plastic banknotes in your purse or wallet, to the reduction of the blowfly problem in Australia through the introduction of the dung beetle, the building of Australia’s first (and just the world’s fourth) programmable digital computer through to the invention of th WiFi technology by which you are probably viewing this post.

There’s been a lot of noise and light around the razor job being prepared for the ABC, with the Friends of the ABC and the the Get Up! organisation swinging into action. There’s growing concern developing about CSIRO but there should be a lot more noise about the impending damage to Australia’s national laboratory.

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Print

The ACPET 2014 Higher Education Symposium will provide a comprehensive analysis of the issues related to policy, regulation, academic governance and learning and teaching practice.

Marriot Hotel, Circular Quay Sydney on 22 may 2014

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Comment & analysis

14 May 2014

Tafe: getting the job done

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Writing in The Age recently (Getting the job done, The Age, March 31), Claire Field (chief executive officer for the Australian Council for Private Education and Training) observed that reform always throws up winners and losers, and the training sector is no different. According to Field, the winners in the case of market-oriented VET reforms “are industry Meredith Peaceand individual students – and taxpayers who invest billions of dollars in training and skills development. The losers are those with self-interest, and who refuse to reform at the expense of the community.” The Australian Education Union’s Meredith Peace acknowledges that it’s hard to disagree with Field on the proposition that reform always throws up winners and losers. Unfortunately, says Peace, one of the big losers under Victoria’s new training market is the quality of vocational education and training.

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Market systems have serious flaws when it comes to delivering fairly the quality education that successful modern economies and individuals require. For decades TAFE institutes have adapted to local needs and an ever-changing economy, building an enviable reputation for quality along the way. They are at the heart of our communities.

How can they continue to do this? While TAFEs and other providers invest in staff and facilities to improve their courses or serve emerging sectors, some private providers are cutting costs and aggressively marketing courses to win a greater market share.

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Life & stuff

Looking on the bright side

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14 May 2014 | Last week it seemed that New Matilda, which has been publishing intelligent coverage of Australian and international politics, media and culture since 2004, was about to fold. but it has found a white knight in the person journalist and former Tracker magazine editor, Chris Graham. New Matilda’s regular cartoonist is Fiona Katauskas.

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Budget Bright Side

 

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No Frills‘No Frills’ is a well-known annual national conference, hosted by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, where researchers and practitioners in the vocational education and training (VET) sector come together to present, discuss and share information about key issues confronting the sector. The conference also provides professional development opportunities for new and existing researchers.

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Higher education in the Budget – the government's statement

13 May 2014

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Higher education spending will rise appreciably in 2014-15,  from $8.7 billion to $10.9 billion (25%), with the extension of the demand driven system to sub-bachelor places and non-university higher education providers. Modest further growth is forecast out to 2017-18, to $11.8 billion (9%).

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“Australia’s higher education system is the key to our economic prosperity.”

This is where the professional workforce for the jobs and the economy of the future is formed. It is through universities and colleges that individuals are given the opportunity to realise their aspirations to a high skill career. Australia needs to be sure that it is providing graduates with skills that are internationally competitive and relevant.

Universities and colleges also provide the platform for innovation, creativity and productivity. Australia’s economy relies on the research and the highly skilled graduates produced by higher education to innovate and adopt world’s best practice. Our researchers are leading the world in solving some of the most pressing problems facing Australia and the world through a highly competitive and well-resourced research capability.

To ensure that we retain our position as a knowledge-based nation, the Government has announced a comprehensive reform agenda for a world class higher education system. This agenda focuses on providing choice and opportunity for students, wherever they study in Australia and whatever they choose to do. It will foster excellence by deregulating the provision of higher education and directing public funding to where it is needed, so that the decisions of students, the needs of employers and the initiative of our academic leaders drives the future of our higher education system.

From January 2016, universities will be able to offer Commonwealth supported places on a demand-driven basis to students enrolling in any accredited undergraduate qualification. For the first time ever, the Australian Government will provide tuition subsidies for undergraduate students studying at any registered higher education provider for any accredited course.

These changes will give students greater choice about where they study, as they will be able to access an Australian Government subsidised place no matter which higher education provider they choose. It will also generate competition in the higher education market as institutions will compete on a more equal basis for students. This will help to drive quality improvements. By 2018, over 80,000 additional students a year will be supported to study in the course that is best for them.
From January 2016 there will also be changes to the amounts the Australian Government provides under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme. These changes, combined with changes to the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP), will help ensure the sustainability of the higher education system into the future.

These reforms will ensure that there is a fair sharing of the costs for higher education between public funding and the students who benefit from this education. The removal of the maximum student contributions for all Commonwealth supported students will for the first time enable competition based on quality and innovation in the higher education system. Current students will continue under existing arrangements until 2020, or when they complete their studies―whichever is earlier.

The retention and improvement of the HELP will mean that no student is denied the opportunity to study for financial reasons. The removal of loan fees and limits, together with the application of a fair interest rate and repayment threshold will ensure that this scheme remains affordable, so that the Government can continue to help students defer the costs of their study until they are earning.

These new arrangements will facilitate choice and opportunity for students from all backgrounds. Alongside the continuation of the Higher Education Participation Programme, higher education institutions will also dedicate 20 per cent of their additional revenue raised through student contributions to scholarships and other supports for disadvantaged students.

The Government has committed a strong and sustained investment in research that supports innovation and allows industry to grow and generate exports and income. Through a total investment of $11 billion over four years in research in universities, the Government has ensured the future of key programmes such as the Future Fellowships and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.

These reforms also provide a focus on quality. Students will have better information to support their decisions about where and what to study. Accreditation arrangements will be improved and streamlined through the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.

The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government, supported by a commitment of $100 million in new funding over five years which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo Pacific in Australia and strengthen people-to-people and institutional relationships, through study and internships undertaken by Australian undergraduate students in the region.

HE Budget 2014-15HE Budget 2014-15 (2)

See the full statement – Higher Education Budget Statement and Tables

TAFE essential to a diverse and polychromatic VET system

22 April 2014

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The LH Martin Institute provided a submission in May 2013 to the House of Representatives Inquiry into the role of TAFE. The submission proposed a new national partnership that would supersede the current National Partnership Agreement, which was established in April 2012 at the Council of Australian Governments meeting but has since broken down in key respects such as overall funding of VET and maintaining the capacity of TAFE. The new national partnership proposed would be based on the outcomes of a “TAFE base funding review”; provide for the maintenance of current funding levels per student contact; recognise the role of TAFE as a comprehensive service provider; and consider the efficacy of current national arrangements.

On Tuesday 15 April 2014 LH Martin Institute Senior Fellows John Maddock and Brendan Sheehan appeared before the current House of Representatives Committee on TAFE to discuss the LHMI submission. Their opening statement below triggered an extensive and intense discussion with the Committee.

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The LH Martin Institute at The University of Melbourne undertakes research into tertiary education and training sector issues, provides policy advice and conducts professional development programs.

The Institute is agnostic as to the efficacy of a market orientation in VET provision: it doesn’t matter what institution is delivering a qualification – public or private, TAFE or university – so long as it represents value in terms of both cost and quality.

It follows that governments should be equally agnostic.

FEDERAL BUDGET 2013 PACKAGE

We acknowledge that private registered training organisations (RTOs) can add useful diversity, innovation and choice to the overall system.

But the thread running through our submission is that TAFE, as the public provider network, underpins the whole VET system and contributes to the public good in numerous tangible and intangible ways that private RTOs do not.

 

  1. TAFEs offer the opportunity of broad, accessible and quality vocational education and training to meet community needs (such as for qualified workers in nursing and aged care), individual needs (upskilling, reskilling and further education) and business needs (workforce and business development). The reach of TAFE, through its network of over 400 campuses throughout Australia and the scope of its provision, cannot be matched by private RTOs, without substantial public subsidy.
  2. For several generations, TAFE has been the heavy engine of skills formation in this country, providing services for the skilling, upskilling, reskilling and educating of Australians. Millions of Australians have acquired skills and qualifications through the TAFE system, generally contributing to Australia’s economic development.
  3. TAFEs contribute to meeting the education and training needs of communities and to the maintenance of the economic, social and cultural fabric of their communities, particularly in regional communities.  A campus contraction or closure has cascading negative effects through a community, including: the reduction of education and training opportunities; direct job losses; reduced regional economic activity; and population loss, as people are forced to relocate to pursue education or employment opportunities.
  4. While TAFE is recognised for the strength of its technical training, it also has a strong presence in further education, with some 80% of activity being in areas other than trades training.  TAFE is able to meet the diverse education and training needs of individuals and communities through the spectrum of Australian Qualifications from Certificate I to Bachelor Degree. TAFE’s scope and reach makes the possibility of VET reasonably available to most Australians, particularly in regional (and outer urban) communities.  At the other end of the qualifications scale, TAFEs are increasingly important higher education providers, both in collaboration with universities and in their own right.  TAFE’s widely distributed network, together with the pathways that TAFE institutes provide, creates the possibility of making higher education accessible to more Australians than ever before.

However, moves to contestability of public VET funding present fundamental challenges for the public TAFE sector which need to recognised and addressed in appropriate ways.

In 2012, there were over 1.2 million students enrolled in the TAFE system – 65% of total VET enrolments. An impressive proportion – but down from 75% in 2008, almost entirely on the back of changes in Victoria, where enrolments in TAFE fell from 66% to just 40%. As contestability is progressively introduced throughout Australia, we can expect national TAFE enrolments to decline quite precipitously.

If we’re agnostic about the character of a provider delivering AQF qualifications, does this matter?

In the past, TAFEs have been instruments of public policy, in a way that private RTOs have not been, and as “bulwarks against market failure” (AWPA).

But we are now beginning to see an actual form of market failure which will see TAFE unable to act as such a bulwark.
A case in point is the closure of the former Lilydale campus of Swinburne University, announced in 2012, which provided both VET and higher education to several thousand students from communities with limited access to such opportunities and with generally low levels of attainment.

Private RTOs are not well placed to fill holes in provision created by the withdrawal of TAFE from both certain activities and localities. In many cases, private providers lack the relevant capacity and the vagaries of the funding system, as governments struggle to contain costs, are not conducive to long term planning and investment.

LH Martin has advocated a number of corrective measures:

  • In the competitive market being created by policy makers, proposals to introduce a new Vocational Qualifications System, setting a higher bar for training provider registration, are appropriate.
  • We strongly endorse the recommendation of the Kemp/Norton review of the HE demand driven system that CSPs be extended to non-university HEPs.
  • TAFE is disadvantaged in the international sector by onerous visa requirements and the extension of the streamlined arrangements that apply to universities should be extended to the TAFE sector. Most importantly, funding of TAFE must be sufficient to enable TAFE to operate efficiently as a comprehensive, accessible provider. There is merit in a review of VET funding, specifically encompassing a “TAFE base funding review”, to establish the minimum funding required to sustain TAFE in its role as a comprehensive service provider.
  • Consideration needs to be given to the efficacy of current national arrangements. The current National Partnership Agreement has failed to create the clarity, certainty and consistency necessary for effective national arrangements and a new agreement needs to focus on establishing such arrangements.

To conclude, as a direct result of public policy, TAFE institutes are being forced down the path of “rationalisation” by dropping activities they undertake – or used to – for the benefit of businesses, individuals and the community.

Under current settings, many TAFEs risk becoming residualised, needing “special assistance” to cover declining revenues. This runs counter to the logic of “marketisation” and it runs counter to Australia’s economic and social interests.

The capability and reach of the VET system is being rundown and what is now a diverse and polychromatic system will be reduced to a disturbingly homogenous and monochromatic system.

RUN says uncapped system boosts equity in HE

The Australian     |    24 March 2014

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With the review of the demand driven system due to report, regional universities have defended the uncapped higher education system from claims it is doing little to boost social mobility.
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Go8 Equity scalesIn a policy note published last month, the Group of Eight said demand-driven higher education had done more for the privileged than the battlers. It said that while the proportion of low socio-economic status students had increased by around one percentage point between 2008 and 2012, the majority of the growth had come from people of medium or high SES.

The Go8 said just 12,000 of an additional 60,000 higher education students had come from disadvantaged backgrounds, suggesting those from the bottom 25 per cent of the wealth spectrum had claimed only 20 per cent of the extra places. And regional students’ share of undergraduate enrolments had dropped marginally.

But Regional Universities Network executive director Caroline Perkins challenged the claims, saying low SES students had comprised almost one-third of commencing domestic bachelor enrolments at the network’s institutions in 2012.

She said that while the Go8’s data showed that the medium and high SES groups had grown most strongly in raw numbers, the rate of growth had been highest among their low SES counterparts.

Perkins claims more recent data on applications and offers confirme the trend. Between 2009 and 2013, offers to low SES students applying through tertiary admissions centres had grown by 22% compared with 19% for medium SES applicants and 14% for high SES applicants.

Last year’s 2.2% increase in offers to low SES students was double the rise for medium SES and almost six times the growth for high SES, she said.

University of Southern Queensland vice-chancellor Jan Thomas said the notion that wealthier students had benefited more from the demand-driven system was “hardly surprising”.

(It) reflects a trend seen each time the Australian higher education sector has undergone a period of significant expansion. That advantaged students are better positioned to make the most of emerging opportunities than their relatively disadvantaged peers is hardly rocket science. The penny has still not dropped for many people in the sector that simply ‘opening the doors’ is not sufficient as a basis for broadening university participation.

She said more is needed, including school outreach, “just-in-time” support services, multiple access pathways, personalised learning and early identification of students at risk of failing.

Treating everyone the same simply serves to perpetuate advantage. Social justice requires individual needs to be met, which necessarily require resources to be directed unequally but equitably.