Higher education revolution

The Scan | #139 | 27 September 2013


Pyne sends mixed messageagenda

27 September   2013   |   In his first interview as education minister, Christopher Pyne says his priorities are to “repair” international education, reduce red tape and review the demand-driven system.  Pyne said that international education issues would be tackled “sooner rather than later”, given the economic impact of a 20% to 25% decline in Australia’s biggest non-mining export industry. he nominated reducing universities’ regulatory load as the other high priority, guided by the recommendations of the recent review of university regulation.  Pyne said he would not be bound by the former government’s higher education policies, including its targets for attainment and inclusion and that  quality would be the prime consideration in the review of the demand-driven system…..[ READ MORE ]….

Abbott hoses down amenities fee furore

ABBOTT226 September 2013 | Prime Minister Tony Abbott has moved to calm concerns the Commonwealth Government is planning to scrap the university student amenities fee, saying there are “no plans for change in this area” as the government has a big agenda and higher priorities…..[ READ MORE ]….

Pyne hoses down caps debate

christopher-pyne26 September 2013  | Education minister Christopher Pyne is trying to hose down concerns he is planning to renege on a promise not to restore limits on university places, but says he has ordered a review because he says evidence suggests “quality is suffering to achieve quantity”. And he says there are concerns that students are not doing the right courses…..[ READ MORE ]….

Research returned to education

research225 September 2013   |   Responsibility for research policy and infrastructure will move to the education portfolio after its fleeting assignment to industry.  Education minister Christopher Pyne says this means “vice-chancellors will be able to work with one minister and one department on the crucial interaction between research excellence and teaching quality”……[ READ MORE ]….

Holmesglen & Healthscope partner for new private hospitalHolmesglen

25 September 2013  | Holmesglen Institute and private health company Healthscope are proposing to build a new private hospital at Holmesglen’s Moorabbin campus in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs. The project will convert an existing conference centre into a health and education precinct, providing clinical training for Holmesglen’s health science students, as well as health care for local residents……[ READ MORE ]….

Coalition plans a “drastic overhaul”

shattered pillar25 September 2013 | The Coalition promised stability as one of its “seven pillars” of higher education policy.  According to media reports of comments by education minister Christopher Pyne, this was a non-core commitment , if a commitment at all. Pyne’s comments are a direct contradiction of his unequivocal statement that while the Coalition welcomes “debate over the quality and standards in our universities, we have no plans to increase fees or cap places”. …….[ READ MORE]….

Industrial action over stalled EBA negotiationsnteu-logo

24 September 2013 | National Tertiary Education Union members at the University of Melbourne will begin a 24-hour strike from noon Wednesday 25 September, to noon Thursday 26 September while staff at James Cook University reject “monstrous double standards” over 3% pay offer…..[ READ MORE]….

Pay deals and benchmarks

Budget 224 September 2013 | Deakin University and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) have provisionally agreed on terms for a new enterprise agreement. The new agreement will include a 3% annual salary increase, and a $1200 initial increase to all salary bands (pro rata for non full-time staff)….[ READ MORE ]….


The cone of silence descends

The incomparable David Rowe makes a point in the Australian Financial Review
The incomparable David Rowe makes a point in the Australian Financial Review

The difference between being in government and opposition, Tony Blair once famously said,  is that in government a minister wakes up and thinks, “what will I  do today”.  In opposition, the spokesperson wakes up and thinks, “what will I say today?”  New education minister Christopher Pyne possibly began to appreciate this difference  when his public musings  about “quantity” versus “quality” (i.e. the pros and cons of the demand driven system), which sparked the most public attention of the nascent government’s term (except for deciding not automatically announcing new boat arrivals).   It certainly inspired the likes of  cartoonist David Rowe (above) and an enormous amount of media commentary and analysis.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has cracked down and directed that ministerial media commentary needs to be “co-ordinated” through his office – and nothing wrong with that either:  government policy does need to be subject to an approval process.  At the moment, government policy is that the demand driven system will be retained and that fees will not be increased.


 Young Australians overqualified and underemployed

FYA_HYPAF13_Web_Banner_640x340Only around one-third of VET graduates are employed in the same occupation as their field of training, according to a report by the Foundation for Young Australians.  The report shows a misalignment between the skills many young people have and the jobs that are available to them: firstly, that many young Australians are overqualified for their jobs; and secondly, that those without qualifications are finding it much harder to get a good job


ATN logoATN In Profile September 2013

Action, not Titles, will be crucial in new Abbott Ministry – ATN Universities Enjoy Further Success in World Rankings – ATN Forms Historic Asian Partnership – Business on the Agenda for Coalition Government and Universities – Recap of Coalition’s Colombo plan – ATN Achievements



2013 Eureka Awards

Eureka1The University of Melbourne together with Monash University  won this year’s University of New South Wales Eureka Prize for Scientific Research for an accidental discovery that revealed the purpose of ‘mystery’ immune cells in the gut. The study shows how our immune system interacts with the complex bacteria ecology in our gut, and opens new paths for drug discovery that could revolutionise the design of modern vaccines, improve outcomes for people suffering inflammatory bowel disease and infection and deliver new drugs to patients more safely .



Comment & analysis

TIck a box on climate  science

Tick3As Ross Gittins observed in Fairfax Media (including Pravda on  the Yarra, which proved its independence by being one of only two newspapers in the known universe to endorse the return of the Labor government – the other, strangely enough was the Economist), the Abbott government has had a disconcerting starting “to do list”:

…..sack econocrats guilty of having worked with the enemy, pass an edict against climate change and discourage all discussion of it, stop publicising boat arrivals, build more motorways, move to a cut-price national broadband network and take science for granted.

The disbanding of the Climate Commission has excited lots of comment but its sacked members have reconstituted as the Australian Climate Council, and with the support of community funding, and will volunteer their time to interpret climate science from around the globe.

There are other strong, independent and credible sources of advice and information about climate change issues, such as the Centre of ClimateExcellence for Climate System Science, which was established in 2011 with extensive investment from the Australian Research Council and comprises  the University of New South WalesMonash University, the Australian National University, The University of Melbourne, and the University of Tasmania.   It seeks to build on and improve existing understanding of the modeling of regional climates to enable enhanced adaptation to and management of climate change, particularly in the Australian region.  We can’t be absolutely sure but we don’t think even Jamie Briggs would label this “ridiculous research”.

On 27 September  2013 the 5th Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be released.  Here, the Centre’s director, Professor Andy Pitman, previews the report, one part of which will address the so-called “warming hiatus”:

This is the argument that warming has stopped, with the further assertion in some quarters that we therefore have nothing to worry about in the future.

It is a fact, based on observations of air temperature, that the rate of global warming measured as surface air temperature has slowed over the past 15 years. The last decade is still the warmest in the past 150 years.

If you measure global heat content then global warming has not slowed. If you measure other indices including sea level rise or ocean temperatures or sea ice cover global warming has not slowed.

However, the warming trend in air temperatures has slowed over the last 15 years. There is a great deal of interest in this “hiatus” in the sense of whether it points to some fundamental error in climate science.



Life & stuff

A gardening tip

Plant tomatoes on Grand Final Day, not Cup Day


Ever since anyone can remember, Melbourne Cup Day – the first Tuesday in November – has been the day for gardeners to start planting tomatoes in Melbourne, when warmer overnight temperatures are more reliable.  But University of Melbourne “urban horticulturalist” Dr Chris Williams says due to climate change, AFL Grand Final Day, the last Saturday in September, should replace the time-honoured planting signpost in gardening folklore.  He says that overnight temperatures through winter into early spring have warmed over the past ten years to make Grand Final Day the new seasonal signpost for tomato planting.



Learning @work

11-13 November 2013 | Australian Technology Park, Sydney



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Universities Australia on the university agenda for the incoming government

8 September  2013

ua logoUniversities Australia congratulates the new Abbott Government and looks forward to working together on a future agenda for cementing higher education as a critical pillar supporting long-term national prosperity and well-being, as identified in the Coalition’s, Real Solutions.

“It is impossible to overstate the transformative power of universities in changing lives, pushing the boundaries of knowledge, driving innovation, solving our gravest national problems and for securing Australia’s place as global influencer,” said Professor Sandra Harding, Chair of peak body, Universities Australia.

“Whether as a provider of international education; a generator of new products and knowledge; educating our people; or as a contributor to regional prosperity, universities are an essential ingredient of national success.

Addressing the Universities Australia conference earlier in the year, Tony Abbott reiterated the importance of policy stability, certainty and consultation and observed that:

 as intellectual powerhouses, good universities deserve all the support and encouragement they can reasonably be given and as much freedom to run their own affairs as can reasonably be managed’ and that ‘not everyone needs a university education but everyone benefits from one.

Universities Australia’s policy statement, A Smarter Australia, provides the basis for early discussions on the framework needed for a vibrant university sector that is more than up to the task that the public expects of it.

“International education and the New Colombo Plan, valuing all research, reducing red tape and the Government’s position in relation to the higher education cuts, particularly the $2,000 cap on tax deductible self-education expenses, will be at the top of the list of topics to discuss,” Professor Harding said.

“But our highest priority will be to convey our commitment to working in partnership in pursuit of our common goal to secure a higher education system that is the envy of the world.”

Professor Harding also acknowledged the Rudd and Gillard governments’ higher education reform legacy, both in the cities and regions, despite the set-backs of the past year.

“The demand-driven system creates an unprecedented opportunity for those with the ability, regardless of their socio-economic background, to obtain a university education,” Professor Harding said.

“The introduction of a properly indexed formula for per–student public investment means the level of funding can keep pace with the cost of providing every student the highest quality education.

“Streamlined visa processing and post-study study work rights are re-energising international higher education.

“New investment in national research infrastructure and programs for encouraging and supporting research excellence and capacity provides the foundation for strengthening Australian research; and the student service and amenities fee means universities can provide vital and necessary services to students.

“Looking ahead, Universities Australia will be seeking early meetings with Mr Abbott and his team to give effect to our mutual desire for a strong economy, a diverse and innovative industrial base, and a workforce with the requisite skills to meet the labour market needs of the future,” Professor Harding said.

Labor proposes greater use of compacts

The Australian    |     4 September  2013

ALP logoA re-elected Labor government will make greater use of direct agreements with universities, or compacts, with Innovation Minister Kim Carr flagging they would be used to allocate greater numbers of capped sub-degree and postgraduate places.

Amid sector concerns that greater use of compacts could prove code for greater control, Carr said the aim would be to give universities more autonomy and that there would be no retreat from the demand-driven system of uncapped undergraduate places under which commonwealth-supported places have increased by 190,000 students or 35%.

“We are in the middle of one of the great cultural reforms in our nation’s history – nothing less than opening up avenues of opportunity to whole sections of our community for the first time. Labor started that revolution and we are determined to continue it,” Labor said in its policy documents.

Just days ahead of the election, Labor released on 3 September a swag of policies around research, universities and international education.

Key initiatives include

  • $2.5 million to examine the feasibility of rolling out new pathway college campuses connected to universities, dubbed University Colleges, to be located in areas of low participation.
  •  commissioning chief scientist Ian Chubb to come up with a long-term funding plan for research infrastructure, designed to end the uncertainty every time funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy is up for renewal.
  •  a top-level council to devise a new strategy to protect Australia’s $15 billion international education industry from tough new competition overseas.The council would bring ministers and sector representatives together in a move in line with the recommendations of the Chaney report released in February, following complaints from the industry about a lack of policy co-ordination.
  •  extending  “streamlined visa processing” by the end of the year to TAFE and private providers. The opposition has already promised to extend streamlined processing.

However, commentators suggest the policies are long on reviews and plans but give few concrete details.

The Scan 22 August 2013

#134     |     22 August 2013


Opposition push to lift O/S student numbers

flags1An Abbott government would make it easier for foreign students to obtain post-study work rights in Australia as part of a Coalition push to repair the lucrative education export industry.  Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne says the Coalition ”cannot promise to reverse the $2.8 billion of cuts to higher education”.  However he vowed to increase revenue to universities within 100 days of being elected by ”rebuilding” the international education market, which he said had shrunk under Labor from $19.8 billion in 2008 to $14.5 billion today (although the decline has been concentrated in the VET sector)….. [ READ MORE ] …..

Peak bodies call for measures to restore international sector

inter-visasAustralia’s education peak bodies has  urged all political parties to get behind measures to restore global competitiveness and innovation to Australia’s international education sector.  They warn that Australia is losing ground to international competitors whose governments place a higher value on international education than Australia  does.  Expensive and inflexible student visas, a complex and stifling regulatory system and a reluctance by governments to aggressively promote Australian education abroad are combining to turn potential students away from Australia and into the “welcoming arms of Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA”….. [ READ MORE ] …..

Schools DO matter

The  academic standard of a school is a critical factor in whether disadvantaged students complete Year 12 and significantly raises their Hands up2chances of studying at university by as much as five times. A report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research has found that pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds who are weak students and attend a school of low academic quality have a 30%  of completing Year 12, and a 10%chance of studying at university.  But attending a school of high academic standards gave them an 80 per cent chance of finishing school, and a 50 per cent chance of going to university….. [ READ MORE ] …..

ATAR limit would drastically slash student numbers

competitionAn analysis by the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) has found that a proposal from Australia’s Group of Eight (G08) universities to limit university entry to students with an ATAR of 60 or more would have cut the number of university offers to school-leavers this year by 23% or 13,200 offers.  The proposal would halt the surge in undergraduate enrolments, which have grown by 190,000, since Labor came to office in 2007 and save the Commonwealth budget about $750m over 4 years. The Go8 proposes this could be used to offset savings of over $2b imposed earlier this year….. [ READ MORE ] …..

Tertiary “integration” a long way off

The outgoing head of the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER), Dr Tom Karmel,  has lamented the slow Regulatory frameworkprogress on implementing a ‘seamless’ tertiary education sector, as proposed by the Bradley Review.  Karmel says the promised integration between higher education and vocational education is “more distant now than ever”, while overstated differences between the sectors are producing dysfunctional outcomes. Other commentators agree that progress with the integration agenda is not only  a long way off but suggest that higher education would become an even more dominant partner if there were to be “forced marriage” with vocational education….. [ READ MORE ] …..

Industry demands clarity on apprenticeships

TradesA meeting of employer organisations, peak provider groups (including TDA and ACPET) and Industry Skills Councils has called on all political parties to respond, as a matter of urgency, to the dramatic drop in apprenticeship commencements.   According to the group, employers are losing confidence in the apprenticeship system, not because of a lack of commitment to a long-standing model of training delivered in a work context, but because they cannot rely on consistency in the approach by both Federal and State Governments…… [ READ MORE ] …..


NTEU’s “National Day of Action”

nteu-logo19 August 2013   |   The National Tertiary Education Union, together with the National Union of Students (NUS) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) held a National Day of Action on Tuesday 20 August to “champion the cause of publicly-funded and properly-funded higher education in the lead-up to the Federal election”.   NTEU members at 10 universities are also taking industrial action as enterprise bargaining negotiations break down over key issues, including workloads and job security…. [ READ MORE ] ……

Australian unis rank highly

Rankings 201316 August 2013  | With five universities in the world top 100 and 19 in the top 500, Australia has one of the strongest higher education systems internationally – in spite of scarce research dollars and small population and economic scale. The University of Melbourne again took the title of Australia’s “best” university at 54th. It was accompanied in the top 100 by the Australian National University (66th), University of Queensland (85th), University of Western Australia (91st) and Sydney (97th)…. [ READ MORE ] …..


Comment & analysis

Uncapped funding “fair and efficient”

In an opinion piece published in the  Australian Financial Review, Swinburne University’s head of Corporate and Government Affairs, Andrew Dempster, says that uncapped funding for higher education is fairer and more efficient. He also says it’s consistent with Coalition policy – and Labor , of course, introduced it.

UNIVERSITY STOCKThere is a degree of resignation in higher education circles that the system of funding undergraduate university places according to student demand may be on its last legs.

This is not new. Hand-wringing about the sustainability of the so-called demand-driven system has been fashionable for some time.

There is heightened scepticism of the demand-driven system among Australia’s sandstone universities, which have an unfortunate tendency to look down their nose at those institutions that take students with ATAR [Australian Tertiary Admission Rank] scores of 70 and below, as if those that do are “lowering the standards” for everyone else.

This is despite the fact that many establishment universities would not know what a student with an ATAR of 70 looks like, let alone how university teaching might be configured to assist these students to succeed.

It is also conventional wisdom that, because the demand-driven system is a Labor creation, it will inevitably be for the chop under any Coalition government that follows.

While budget pressures are real, it does the Coalition no credit to assume the demand-driven system will be dispatched to history if it forms government this year.

Indeed, there are many reasons why it may survive and even prosper.



2013_election_logo (2)The Election Page

News, views policies and links on the 2013 Federal election.



Election 2013

A crock….?

David Rowe

The Australian Financial Review’s incomparable David Rowe captures the general reaction to the Coalition’s paid maternity leave scheme, which has been described as bad policy, inequitable and extravagant.



Melbourne Masterclasses – Faculty of Arts Winter Series

The Mysteries of Thera: Pompeii of the Bronze Age Aegean  24 August
The Mysteries of Thera: Pompeii of the Bronze Age Aegean 24 August

The University of Melbourne presents the 2013 Faculty of Arts Winter Series of masterclasses designed to expand horizons, enliven the mind and enrich the soul this Melbourne winter. The masterclasses are scheduled over a series of weekends in winter and into spring, featuring the university’s most celebrated teachers and public intellectuals.





ACPET National Conference

VET and Higher Education: the future is in the private sector

29-30 August | Adelaide

???????????????????????????????ACPET’s national conference is the largest gathering of private and not-for-profit educators and trainers in Australia and provides an opportunity for networking and professional development.

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Tertiary “integration” a long way off

The Australian    |    21 August 2013

Regulatory frameworkThe outgoing head of the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER), Dr Tom Karmel,  has lamented the slow progress on implementing a ‘seamless’ tertiary education sector, as proposed by the Bradley Review.

Karmel says the promised integration between higher education and vocational education is “more distant now than ever”, while overstated differences between the sectors are producing dysfunctional outcomes.

If you’re a dual-sector institution, for example, you’ve got completely different rules for everything – how you do your buildings, how capital is treated. That can’t be an efficient way of doing things.

Greater integration has been hindered in part by another key proposal from the Bradley higher education review.

One of the major things Gillard did was uncap undergraduate places. If the caps had been removed such that TAFEs, for example, could also start offering degrees under those arrangements, that would have made a big difference.  You have this tension between making universities more demand-driven, but at the same time constraining who provides the places. That took the steam out of it.

Other commentators agree that progress with the integration agenda is not only  a long way off but suggest that higher education would become an even more dominant partner if there were to be “forced marriage” with vocational education.

Higher education red tape reviewer Kwong Lee Dow said a single tertiary sector could not be contemplated “with any genuine reality” for the next three to five years.

I don’t think we’re ready for it.   The danger would be that (VET) would increasingly succumb to the higher education culture. It would diminish the importance of a lot of certificate programs and links with industry.

Destination data from Victoria’s annual On Track Survey reveals the increasing dominance of higher education.  More than 53% of surveyed students who left school last year said they planned to go to university, up from 41%10 years ago.  The proportion planning to enter training courses, apprenticeships or traineeships had plunged from 32% to 23% across the same period.

Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven said the autonomous nature of universities makes an integrated tertiary sector improbable.

I can’t see it ever happening.  Universities are part of civic society, (with) autonomy over who they bring in as students, who they hire as staff, what they teach and what they research. That just doesn’t apply to TAFEs or private colleges. A single regulator would break on the difficulties of homogenising a single regulatory regime.

NTEU launches “vote smart” TV campaign

NTEU News    |     12 August 2013

Claiming that university classes have almost doubled in size, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) began its Vote Smart advertising campaign on 12 August.

The TV advertisements call for a Green vote in the Senate and will air in Perth, Adelaide, northern Tasmania and regional Queensland – Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns.melb (1)

A variation on the TV ad will promote a vote for independent Andrew Wilkie in the seat of Denison in Hobart.  Billboard advertisements will also be erected in the seat of Melbourne advocating a vote for Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt (who is being challenged by Labor’s Cath Bowtell, a former NTEU official).

NTEU National President Jeannie Rea says

The NTEU is taking the unprecedented step of spending $1 million on its own campaign to shore up the Greens’ balance of power in the Senate, and two House of Representatives MPs who have supported universities and the values of members.  Despite having had advice from two official reviews calling for funding increases, both Labor and Liberal Parties have supported over $4 billion of higher education cuts over the past three years.

She says  the ads graphically  demonstrate that chronic underfunding of higher education means the ratio of students to staff has almost doubled in a generation,  undermining the quality of education.

Rea stressed that the NTEU was not making any donations to the Greens, or any individual candidate.

NTEU election campaign kicks off

Keep the caps off: Grattan Institute

Grattan Institute     |    7   August 2013

Go8 Equity scales

The latest report from Grattan Institute’s Higher Education Program, Keep the caps off! Student access and choice in higher education, urges the Commonwealth Government to reconsider any plan to end its university open access policy.

Higher education minister Kim Carr has raised the prospect of limiting public university enrolments.   Some university leaders support such a change.

Yet the open access policy, initiated by the current government, has been a major success.  More university applicants are getting into their preferred course, enrolment growth is strong in areas of labour market shortage and the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds is increasing.

Universities are also innovating to draw in more students, starting online courses and collaborating with TAFEs. All these policy achievements are at risk if the government ends the demand-driven funding system that began with bipartisan support last year.

The report shows that a proposal from Group of Eight chairman Fred Hilmer to set a minimum Australian Tertiary Admission Rank of 60 for university entry would be unfair to many university applicants.  Completions data show that students entering with ATARs below 60 have a good chance of finishing their degrees. A minimum ATAR would cut the number of students from low SES backgrounds.

Putting caps back on the higher education system would hit the people who miss out hard.  Many students who do get a place would also be worse off.  They would be less likely to be able to enrol in their preferred course or university. Keep the caps off! explains why the government should stick with one of its best higher education policy initiatives.

Why the caps should remain off

Grattan Institute     |     7 August 2013

Higher education minister Kim Carr has raised the prospect of limiting public university enrolments through re-imposing some form of cap on enrolments, a move which would be supported by some university leaders, notably in the Group of Eight. In a just published report –  Keep the caps off!  – The Grattan Institute’s Andrew Norton argues that this would  undo a major success in higher education.  The open access policy, initiated by the current government, has seen more university applicants  getting into their preferred course, strong enrolment growth  in areas of labour market shortage and the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds is increasing.  This is the Overview to the report.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

UNIVERSITY STOCKAfter just 18 months of operation, Australia’s radical experiment in uncapping undergraduate university enrolments is under threat.

According to its critics – which include the higher education minister and a leading vice-chancellor – it admits academically under-prepared students and consumes higher education funding that could be better used elsewhere.

This report  – Keep the caps off! –  shows that the new system is achieving its goals.  It is lifting the supply of graduates to Australia’s economy, increasing student choice, and improving access to higher education for disadvantaged groups.

The old system of government allocating student places to universities was unresponsive to student demand.  With uncapping, universities are responding to demand trends in science, health and engineering by providing new student places.   The last two fields are also areas of labour market shortage.   Across most other disciplines, university applicants’ chances of admission to their first-preference field of study have increased.

With their new freedom to offer more places, universities now offer Commonwealth-supported students innovative new options.  Several new online ventures have started, ensuring that Australia  Is not left behind in this global trend. Universities are collaborating with TAFEs to meet the needs of new students.

Uncapping has meant that more students with lower ATARs  (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) are admitted to study. A minimum ATAR of 60 has been suggested. But degree completions data show that 60 is an arbitrary cut-off point. It  would exclude the more than half of low ATAR students who successfully complete a qualification.

An ATAR cut-off of 60 would hit low socioeconomic status university applicants hard. In 2012, 8,000 low SES applicants would have been rejected without further consideration. With eased enrolment restrictions, the number of students from low SES backgrounds grew by 40% after years of stagnation.

University is not for everyone. Universities have an ethical responsibility to advise applicants who are at high risk of not completing a degree. Information about completion rates should be much more easily available to people considering further study.

But there is too much variation between courses and individual applicants for a national policy on university admission.

There are many hidden costs in capping university enrolments.

Student places get misallocated between disciplines, because universities cannot easily adjust supply to demand.  New higher education initiatives are hard to start.  People miss out on their preferred careers. Social mobility suffers. There would be a high price to pay to offset $300 million in university funding cuts.

quote marks
It would be a policy tragedy to recap university places now.   It would make Australia’s higher education system less fair, less efficient, and less productive.

The Scan Main Edition 1 August 2013

# 131


Industrial action intensifies

NTEU bannerIndustrial conflict rages across the sector as the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) battles it out with universities over the terms of a new Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.  An application by Monash University to suspend bans on releasing assessment results was effectively thrown out by the Fair Work Commission but a similar application by Swinburne University succeeded.   Industrial action is intensifying at James Cook University, ANU and RMIT….[READ MORE]…..

BCA plan to deregulate fees

University fees would be deregulated, red tape slashed and the federal government would assume more control of vocational training$ image under a sweeping pre-election manifesto unveiled by the Business Council of Australia.  The Economic Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity says market arrangements should be further embedded in universities to foster “world-class and more differentiated” specialist university courses…..[READ MORE]…..

UC chases rankings

uc-logoThe University of Canberra proposes to spend $15 million over the next five years on attracting top researchers as the university pushes to break into world rankings by 2018.  The university has budgeted $3 million a year to attract 10 ”high performing” researchers in five specialist areas: governance, environment, communication, education and health.  The recruitment drive has started with advertising in the London Times Higher Education supplement, the target of UC’s campaign being the ranking of ”young” universities, with 13 Australian universities already in their top 100…..[READ MORE]…..

Pearson to get out of VET

Education publisher Pearson, which owns a number of brands, including Penguin and a share of The Economist, has announced that itStack of books will wind down its traditional publishing activities in the Australian vocational education and training market.  As a result of these changes, 75 positions are potentially redundant.  Pearson says it plans to build greater capacity and capability in its services businesses, in particular teacher professional development and course development.  Pearson attributed to the decision in large part to the continuing flux in the VET system…..[READ MORE]…..

Australia’s super computer

ANU super computerAustralia’s most powerful computer has been officially launched at the opening of the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) high performance computing centre at The Australian National University (ANU).  Named after the Japanese god of thunder, lightning and storms, Raijin can perform the same number of calculations in one hour that would take seven billion people armed with calculators 20 years.  The supercomputer is the largest in Australia, and reputedly the 27th  largest in the world, and will enable researchers to process vast volumes of data that would otherwise take years to complete, and simply not be possible using desktop computers……[READ MORE]…..

Project to map humanities and social sciencesASSA2

The Australian Government has commissioned a new project to map the national research and teaching capacity in the humanities and social sciences (HASS).  The report will profile the HASS sectors, including trends in student enrolments and infrastructure capacity.  The project will also consider how government, universities and the humanities and social sciences communities might address issues of sustainability and gaps in capability……[READ MORE]…..

Chubb proposes STEM strategy

ian-chubb2Chief Scientist Ian Chubb has outlined the urgent need for a national Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) strategy and released a position paper , Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: a Strategic Approach.  The paper highlights the central importance of investment in STEM as well as in social sciences and humanities research and education.   The paper proposes a strategy with “four essential, interconnected elements”…….[READ MORE]…..

quote marksThe need to move is illustrated by some simple facts of  life: there is no entitlement to a particular future; there will be no free ride on the back of the accomplishments of the rest of world; or on the back of our own resources.


Circle of silence protest over Brabham

26 July 2013    |    Deakin University Institute of Koorie Education (IKE) staff are staging daily silent protests after the removal of their director, Professor Wendy Brabham, on 15 July……[READ MORE]…..

Circle of Silence



New Race Discrimination Commissioner appointed

Tim SDr Tim Soutphommasane has been appointed as Race Discrimination Commissioner.

He is currently University of Sydney Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in the University of Sydney, and an opinion columnist with Fairfax Media. He is also presenter of Mongrel Nation on ABC Radio National.

Dr Soutphommasane has contributed to national and international debates about multiculturalism and national identity through his numerous books in political theory, and through his regular media commentary in print, television and radio. His research has focused on the concepts of citizenship and identity, as well the development of multicultural policy in Australia. He holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford.

He is also a board member of the National Australia Day Council, a member of the Australian Multicultural Council and a fellow of Per Capita and St James Ethics Centre. Dr Soutphommasane previously worked as a speechwriter to Bob Carr when he was NSW premier.

Dr Soutphommasane has been appointed for a period of five years and will start in the position on 20 August 2013.


Comment & analysis

Two views on Victorian TAFE reform

Victorian skills minister Peter Hall takes issue with a report by the self-described progressive think tank Per Capita, commissioned by the Victorian TAFE Association, that while contestability is OK, the way successive Victorian governments went about implementing has been somewhat less than OK.  Per Capita suggests the need for stronger government direction, including caps.   Hall responds that instead of wasting money on reports harking back to “good old days” of no competition and little accountability, theVTA should be supporting its members to capitalise on the opportunities the state’s system provides.


TAFEs delivering on quality and price


I would be the first to agree that much of what occurs in TAFE is special and continues to serve Victorians well. But does that mean it cannot stand on its own feet and prosper in an open market, as the [Per Capita] report argues?

TAFEs are businesses with a worldwide presence and turnovers of up to $200m annually. More training dollars are on the table than before and they are placed to win greater market share.

The world has moved on and TAFEs need to move with it. Instead of wasting money on reports harking back to “good old days” of no competition and little accountability, the Victorian TAFE Association should be supporting its members to capitalise on the opportunities the state’s system provides.

Every one of our 14 stand-alone TAFEs is receiving more money from government-subsidised training than it was under the previous government, while fee-for-service revenues are growing. Do we really think TAFEs should be paid more than the other community-owned providers for delivering the same certificate II in aged care or disability services?


Lessons from the Victorian Experience

per capitaFew areas of Australian public policy have undergone such rapid change as vocational education and training (VET) in recent years.The introduction of private provision, known as ‘contestability’, has radically reshaped the VET sector. Contestability was first embraced in Victoria in 2009 in response to a widespread skills shortage, with other states since following suit. The objectives of contestability were to increase the supply of qualified trainees, while attracting greater private investment and improving quality through competition.

In a 2008 paper, Per Capita called for a new market design in vocational training based on contestability (Cooney, 2008). Now, five years on, we evaluate the experience of contestability in Victoria against its original objectives. We find that it has succeeded in one of its primary goals: dramatically lifting the supply of new trainees.

However, there have been unexpected and damaging consequences elsewhere.

The ‘uncapping’ of the market has led to a bubble which has resulted in a $300m p.a. blow-out in public spending on VET



Life & stuff

Fifty shades of red

Note the keys

The London Fire Brigade has attributed a marked rise in the number of people trapped in handcuffs in recent years to the popularity of erotic fiction such as Fifty Shades of Grey.  It advises people indulging in such play to “always keep the keys handy.”    There are a remarkable number of things into which people insert themselves from which they need professional help to be extracted, including toasters, and vacuum cleaners.   As one Brigade member  observes, some of the incidents our firefighters are called out could be prevented with a little common sense.”

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Policy in the Pub

What’s really happened under reforms to VET in Victoria

PrintTue 6 Aug 2013, 4:00pm to 6:00pm (Melbourne)
  • Nick Chiam, Director of Tertiary Education Policy, Department of Higher Education and Skills
  • Bruce McKenzie, CEO, Holmesglen TAFE
  • Claire Field, CEO, ACPET



Tertiary Ed Book

When the political parties will not talk about the substance of higher education and research, we depend on civil society, the media, the public in all its forms, and the institutions of higher education and research themselves, to define and advance the issues.

This book is designed to stimulate and contribute to such a process of discussion.





Fulbright ComFulbright Professional Scholarship In Vocational Education and Training

This Fulbright Scholarship is for employees within the vocational education and training sector or training leaders in business and industry. It is not for university academics that study VET as an academic discipline. Applications close 14 August 2013.



ACPET National Conference

VET and Higher Education: the future is in the private sector

29-30 August | Adelaide

???????????????????????????????ACPET’s national conference is the largest gathering of private and not-for-profit educators and trainers in Australia and provides an opportunity for networking and professional development.

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Don’t rush reform – UA

The Australian    |     24 July 2013

Sandra HardingMajor policy reform of the demand-driven system cannot be rushed in just 72 hours and needs further consultation to avoid unintended consequences, according to Sandra Harding, chair of Universities Australia.

At a recent meeting with vice-chancellors, higher education Minister Kim Carr asked them for advice on possible budget-neutral alternatives to the $900 million university funding cuts announced in the May budget, possibly by reining in growth in student places.

While UA hasn’t developed an alternative proposal, Harding said it had advised the minister of potential issues arising from any changes to the uncapped system.  She said new places would still have to be available where needed and that funding for the predicted “bulge” in the student pipeline from the recent expansion would have to be guaranteed, as would the need to be able to enrol sufficient students to support new infrastructure.

The important thing is to ensure that where demand exists that demand is met and where growth is needed that growth can occur.

As to whether introducing a blanket minimum ATAR entry across the sector is on the agenda, Harding said she believed Carr is considering a more sophisticated approach.

She said there are two key “threshold” issues: the proposed cap on self-education expenses for tax deductions should be abandoned and universities should be insulated from further cuts to compensate for that.

Second, any alternative savings identified in the higher education budget should be directed at reducing the proposed “efficiency dividend”.