Online learning

The Scan # 145 6 January 2014

Summer Edition


Extremism risks uni reputation : PyneNews Wedge

Academic extremism risks damaging the standing of Australia’s universities, says education minister Christopher Pyne.

boycott_divestment_sanctions-300x198.jpg.pagespeed.ic.8ncFbpvFMR6 January 2014 | Pyne’s comments come in the wake of the controversy over the support for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement by Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and that a Sydney University senior lecturer was part of a WikiLeaks Party delegation granted an audience with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, where they affirmed “the solidarity” of the Australian people….[ READ MORE ]….

A ship of fools…?

6 January 2014 | Professor Chris Gurney, leader of the ill fated Australasian Antarctic Expedition, has expressed his inconvenient frustration over what he says “appears to be a misrepresentation of the expedition in some news outlets and on the internet.” The expedition has been accused of being a tourist trip with little scientific value (sort of the Love Boat in colder climes); of being ill-prepared for the conditions; putting rescuers at risk; and making light of a dangerous situation. Others have remarked on what they describe as the irony of climate researchers stuck in unexpected ice.…[READ MORE]….


Review of demand driven system

ua logoSubmissions to the review of the demand driven system initiated by education minister Christopher Pyne closed on 16 December 2013. University sector submissions support its retention and an extension to sub-bachelor places to create pathways for less academically prepared students. Submissions also propose readjusting fees, including a mechanism to allow full fees (IRU).



TDA argues for TAFE CSPs

tda_logo- largeTAFE Directors Australia submission to the review of the demand driven system has a number of propositions in support of extending the Commonwealth fee subsidy (Commonwealth supported places) enjoyed by university undergraduate students to higher education students at non-university HE providers such as TAFEs. It also argues for creation of a special provider category of ‘Polytechnic university’ or ‘University college’ , as teaching only institutions, that recognises the increasingly important role of the non-university provider and upholds the status of their qualifications offerings as an alternative equivalent to a traditional university qualification.




“It is not yet adequately understood that a university education is not, and certainly should not be, the perquisite of a privileged few. We must become a more and more educated democracy if we are to raise our spiritual, intellectual, and material living standards… The new charter for the universities, as I believe it to be, should serve to open many doors and to give opportunity and advantage to many students.”

-Sir Robert Menzies, 28 November 1957, quoted in the Swinburne University submission


The Scan in 2013

Most viewed items for the year

The%20hiatus%20pic%20cloudIn 2013, 816 items, featuring 936 pictures, were posted on The Scan (vs. 852 in 2012). We’re obviously an international publishing phenomenon, with visitors from 153 countries. The continuing ructions in the VET sector featured heavily in 2013 (Once was TAFE , a leading post in 2012, wasn’t too far off the pace in 2013, either), as did regulatory issues in both the VET and higher education sectors. You would have expected in an election year that politics and policy would rate highly: but it was the paucity of new policy, for either VET or higher education, that was notable BEFORE the election, although Christopher Pyne has had a bit to say since. With both a national commission of audit and a formal review of the higher education demand driven system to report in early 2014, next year’s budget (probably delivered on Tuesday 13 May 2014) should be full of interest.



The Scan December 2013

The 10 most viewed items on The Scan in December 2013, in order.



Job vacancy

Executive Director, Victorian TAFE Transition Taskforce

Empty chair
4 January 2013 | The Executive Director, TAFE Transition Taskforce, is responsible for providing oversight, support and advice to Government on the transition of TAFE institutes into a new operating environment to maintain a vibrant and competitive TAFE sector. The role is responsible for governance, performance monitoring, and reporting for TAFE institutes, universities and other adult and vocational education entities. The Executive Director is also responsible for strategic engagement across government with central agencies and Ministers as well as the TAFE sector as a whole.



TAFE in the era of skills reform

Leesa Wheelahan, formerly of the L H Martin Institute for Tertiary Education Leadership and Management at the University of tafe-imageMelbourne, recently moved to Canada to take up the William G Davis Chair of Community College Leadership at the Ontario Institute for Studies for Education at the University of Toronto. Leesa has been a champion of the public TAFE system and a strong critic of successive governments’ reforms of the TAFE and VET system in Australia, which has left the TAFE system in an emaciated state. In this “exit” interview. Leesa ponders the future of TAFE in the era of “skills reform.”

quote marksIn Victoria TAFE market share has dropped to 40% and while that’s not the only measure of institutional viability or health, clearly when you have had a massive loss of market share the implications of that for the sector are dire because you lose institutional capacity, resources, funding. The capacity of TAFE institutions has been undermined and attacked. In a couple of the other states the drift is just the same. Poised as you are to leave, looking back, what advice would you give governments? What will happen if TAFE falls over? Is there any way back from where we are at the moment?



Comment & analysis

The rise of Massive Open Online Courses is presenting higher education with a powerful challenge. Access to great teachers will help millions. But will MOOCs cause a massive institutional shakeout as well, asks John Yemma of The Christian Science Monitor?

Are MOOCs making education a monoculture?

MOOCs2A balance needs to be struck between the franchising of high-quality education and the more intimate, locally grown experience that occurs when teachers and students reason together in a classroom. It seems inevitable that the MOOC monoculture will spread. But let’s make sure we preserve the woodlot. Amazing, unthought-of ideas could be growing in it.



Bob Smith’s secret

Tech-savvy students are finding ways to cheat that let them ace online courses with minimal effort, in ways that are difficult to detect.

“Bob Smith”

2 January 2013 | “Bob Smith”, a student at a public university in the United States, spent just 25 to 30 minutes each week this past semester on an online science course, the time it took him to take the weekly test. He never read the online materials for the course and never cracked open a textbook. He learned almost nothing. He got an A.

His secret was to cheat, and he’s proud of the method he came up with—though he asked that his real name and college not be used, because he doesn’t want to get caught. It involved four friends and a shared Google Doc, an online word-processing file that all five of them could read and add to at the same time during the test.



Comment & analysis

Policy directions in higher education

In this commentary for the ACPET Journal for Private Education, Brendan Sheehan looks to the higher education policy horizon under the newly elected Coalition government.

signposts2It has been clear for some time that general budget pressures, and the ballooning cost of higher education, would bring the gaze of policymakers, post-election, to the efficacy of a demand-driven system — whatever the hue of the government.

The post-election gaze is unlikely to stop at the demand-driven system, and will certainly take in the architecture of the entire system, including the place of non-university higher education provision, which has a small but growing role in provision.



The first School in the Cloud opens

sole-mainLocated inside George Stephenson High School in Killingworth, England, this one-room learning lab is a space where students can embark on their own learning adventures, exploring whatever questions most intrigue them….[ READ MORE ]….


What’s our vision for the future of learning?

Future of LearningFor 150 years, formal education has adopted an ‘inside-out’ mindset – schools and colleges have usually been organised around the needs of the educators, not the learners. In areas such as research, this is nothing to be embarrassed about. Ground-breaking inventions and pioneering new thinking often arise from the selfishness that informs so-called ‘blue-sky’ research. Defending such freedoms from the external drive for practical and commercial implementation has often encouraged a necessary insularity….[ READ MORE ]…..


UA Conference 2014


2013 : Australia’s hottest year

3 January 2013

Data collected and analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology show that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record while rainfall was slightly below average nationally. As Nobel laureate Peter Doherty observes, no serious climate scientist seems to be surprised at this – although Maurice Newman, a banker and chief business adviser to the Abbott government, describes climate change policies as being based on “scientific delusion“. On the same day that Newman’s remarks were published (1 January 2014), the University of NSW released details of research, to be published in the prestigious journal Nature, which shows our climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than most previous estimates and that global average temperatures will rise at least 4°C by 2100 and potentially more than 8°C by 2200 if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced.



THE’s most read stories 2013

best-of-2013-rosett_450According to Times Higher Education, its readers have shown particular interest in global stories, including features on the rise of Singaporean universities and on life as an expatriate scholar in Japan, as well as the inaugural THE Global Gender Index, which exposed the inequalities facing women in higher education worldwide. Here, from fifteen to one (excluding stories on the THE World University Rankings), are THE’s most-read stories of the year.


28 December 2013

Google’s zeitgeist

What people searched for via Google in 2013

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Great Books 2013

GoldfinchBeing pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading. Research carried out at Emory University (US) found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

A selection of “best books” published in 2013 has been compiled by Booktopia for the the online news service The New Daily.

One of the most hailed works of fiction in 2013 has been Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Booktopia’s Caroline Baum describes it as a dense, intelligent, complex and dark story about a small jewel of a painting that goes missing from the New York Metropolitan Museum following a bomb attack.



The year in music

Jonathon Alley of Stack Magazine sums up the past 12 months of “tunes, ascensions and triumphs”.

17 year old New Zealand singer Lorde was the debut artist of the year – this You Tube clip has been viewed 116 million times, so you might have seen it.



Images of 2013


Pictures 2013

Reuters presents extraordinary images taken by its global network of photographers in 2013 (click “view all images” at the top left to open presentation).

Please note that some of the images are of extreme violence, which are distressing.

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30 December 2013

The year in cartoons

So much insightful, funny and cutting commentary comes from Australia’s great cartoonists. Many people miss out. Inspired by Barrie Cassidy’s Insiders Talking Pictures, this Facebook page Political Cartoons Australiahas a selection of the year’s best cartoons. Our personal favourite by Fairfax’s John Spooner accompanied the post The tide goes out, on the crumbling of the Gillard Government.


Best of life & stuff

Nothing – or is it?

Life & Stuff is our lifestyle section: art, music, musings, celebrations and anniversaries, silliness, wisdom. This is our selection of posts from the past two years.



Smarter cities, cheaper tablets…

..from expanded connectivity, drones and patent wars to cheaper tablets, monster games and smart Hudlwearables, and a bubble in “cryptocurrencies”, The Guardian previews likely directions in technology in 2014.



Life & stuff

Cricket’s on the radio

The sounds of summer

One of the sounds of an Australian summer is the cricket on the radio. And the sound is about to change with the imminent retirement of ABC commentator Kerry “Skull” O’Keefe. As Tim Lane describes it, the one-time peroxide-haired leggie, with an action more complicated than the deliveries it produced, grew from relative obscurity to cult figure status in the space of one or two guffaws of snorting laughter. The laugh and his idiosyncratic form of humour annoys some people but for most of us, Skull has given an added colourful dimension to the cricket. One of his more celebrated moments was the Frog Joke but Harsha Bhogle’s Naga Chillies was also a classic radio moment. He’s also an expert commentator on cricket.


iTunes U


If you’ve got an Apple device – iPad, iPhone or iPod – you can improve your mind while you’re relaxing on the beach – cue up ancient Roman history or physics podcasts on La Trobe University’s iTunesU.

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KMC moment


Summer School for Gardeners

Open GardensOpen Gardens Australia and the University of Melbourne are conducting the inaugural Summer School for Gardeners – Keeping Gardening Down to Earth at Melbourne’s Burnley campus 22-24 January 2014. The three-day seminar and workshop program will provide opportunities to learn about the latest gardening practices and contemporary horticultural issues from some of Australia’s most respected horticultural, environmental and gardening experts.

Find out_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Music, Melbourne & Me:

40 years of Mushroom and Melbourne’s Popular Music Culture

A celebration of the last four decades of popular music represented through music, songs, posters, photographs, costumes, memorabilia and iconic rock venues.

Paul Kelly
Joe Camilleri and Paul Kelly, 1983, Walk On By.
Photo: Mark Ashkanasy.

RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne, from 19 November to 3 March, 2014. Entry is free.

Opening hours are 11am till 5pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 7 pm (Thursdays), 12 noon to 5 pm (Saturdays). Closed Sundays and public holidays.



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


Are MOOCs making education a monoculture?

2 January 2014


The rise of Massive Open Online Courses is presenting higher education with a powerful challenge. Access to great teachers will help millions. But will MOOCs cause a massive institutional shakeout as well, asks John Yemma of The Christian Science Monitor?


MOOCsA tree farm produces a monoculture you can count on. Its timber efficiently becomes the lumber that makes houses and furniture. A woodlot is a little more sketchy. It might begin as a forgotten weed patch, grow into a scrubby forest, and eventually host a mini-United Nations of species. Left alone, a woodlot can become an interestingly varied patch of earth, maybe even a natural treasure.

Conventionality or originality? Most of us choose both. We don’t want surprises when it comes to floor joists. We prefer our airline pilots not to let the muse guide them to Pittsburgh. But leave room for serendipity. Order keeps our world humming. The unthought-of tips the world’s equilibrium. It can be as disruptive as quantum physics, as fresh as Beethoven or The Beatles.

Education is forever balancing and rebalancing uniformity and creativity. Basic competence has to be mastered. But innovative thinking must be encouraged. Read the canon of great literature, but don’t be afraid to demolish conventional wisdom. Students and their parents seek out the best school and best teachers, hoping for the best education. But students can flourish at middling colleges and with average teachers if their reading is inspiring, their lab work intriguing, their thinking encouraged.

When you read Laura Pappano’s  story on the huge stir being caused by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs, pronounced “mooks”), you may at first think that there’s nothing new under the sun. Correspondence courses, after all, began in the 19th century. Over the decades, educational institutions have experimented with teaching via radio, television, closed-circuit video, and the Internet. And each new distance-learning technology has prompted predictions of the demise of ivy-clad campuses, the loss of mentoring by belovedly quirky profs, and the end of fond memories of college life. Fifteen years ago, a reporter from The Boston Globe marveled at how 1990s cutting-edge technology – “a two-way PictureTel compressed-video system linked by high-speed phone lines” – was connecting a classroom on Martha’s Vineyard with a university on the Massachusetts mainland. As one university official told him (well, actually, told me): “What is better in terms of quality – a dull, boring, standard lecture, or a penetrating lecture by a great teacher, backed up with all the best video props…?”

The PictureTel wonderment didn’t disrupt the college paradigm back then. Will MOOCs? Perhaps. The technology and pedagogy of online ed is constantly improving. And the pressing need to control costs seems destined to drive online education forward. That worries some people. This spring, philosophy professors at San Jose State University in California sent a protest letter to political philosophy superstar Michael Sandel of Harvard University decrying the MOOCing of his course of social justice. Among other things, they warned, “the thought of the exact same social justice course being taught in various philosophy departments across the country is downright scary – something out of a dystopian novel.”

quote marksA balance needs to be struck between the franchising of high-quality education and the more intimate, locally grown experience that occurs when teachers and students reason together in a classroom. It seems inevitable that the MOOC monoculture will spread. But let’s make sure we preserve the woodlot. Amazing, unthought-of ideas could be growing in it.


John Yemma

This article is by John Yemma,  editor of the Christian Science Monitor. Despite being owned by a church, the Monitor emphasises that it is not a religious publication but  “an independent international news organization that delivers thoughtful, global coverage. We want to inspire people to think about what they’ve read long after they’ve left the page. To share what they’ve learned with others. And to do something that makes a difference.”  It’s a very good publication.




How online learning is reinventing college

The online learning movement, spreading more by the week, will change how tomorrow’s students go to school, who teaches them, and what they learn.  By Laura Pappano, Christian Science Monitor.

End of College
Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

The Scan | #143 | 11 November 2013


Typhoon Haiyan slams the Philippines

Red Cross 2Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful on record, destroyed thousands of homes as it tracked across central Philippines. Winds of more than 300km/h, flash flooding and landslides have left families without shelter, food and water. Thousands of people are feared dead. Red Cross staff and volunteers are on the ground in the disaster-affected communities, helping people evacuate and providing emergency first aid and relief supplies, such as food, water and shelter.


ARC funding announced

research28 November 2013 | Education minister Christopher Pyne has announced $522 million in funding for 1177 new research projects under the Australia Research Council’s (ARC) Future Fellowships scheme (commencing 2013) and Major Grants scheme (commencing 2014). He says that if Australia is continue to produce groundbreaking research outcomes, ‘eureka’ moments and Nobel Laureates, then a strong investment in research is needed…...[ READ MORE]……

CSIRO gets the razorCSIRO

8 November 2013 | Almost a quarter of scientists, researchers and workers at Australia’s premier science institution will lose their jobs under the federal government’s present public service jobs freeze. The blanket staff freeze across the public service threatens the jobs of 1400 “non-ongoing” workers at the CSIRO and could paralyse some of the organisation’s premier research projects, with a ban on hiring, extending or renewing short-term contracts effective immediately. The freeze is part of the Abbott government’s plan to cut 12,000 jobs from the public service…..[ READ MORE]……

Would-be teachers face personality testing

Teacher8 November 2013 | At Melbourne University, aspiring teachers must now navigate an online test that looks for personality traits that will help them get the most from their training. This year about 1500 students with undergraduate qualifications used the survey tool, which also tests verbal communication and numerical ability. Only about a quarter of the applicants who took the test will be accepted into the postgraduate course....[READ MORE ]……

Lilydale grant suspended

8 November 2013 | A $100,000 grant to the Yarra Ranges Shire Council to look into options for how the former Swinburne Lilydale campusUniversity site in Lilydale could be used for education purposes has been suspended. However, a complaint was made to the Victorian Ombudsman about a potential conflict of interest over the site’s use in that the council said it wanted to use part of the site to house its new municipal offices, which the Ombudsman has decided to investigate ....[ READ MORE ]……

Open2Study reaches 100,000 students

Open2Study8 November 2013 | In just six months, Open Universities Australia has reached 100,000 enrolments in its free online learning platform with 53,000 students from more than 180 countries undertaking one or more of its massive open online courses, or MOOCs. Open2Study began by offering 10 free subjects in April, with each taking four weeks to complete. The platform currently offers 32 courses and with new subjects added almost every month, the Open2Study team expects to have up to 50 free subjects available by the end of 2013....[ READ MORE ]…..

Cap funding, says Davis

Glyn Davis8 November 2013 | Uncapped funding for university enrolments should be replaced by an entirely new system that caps funding to institutions but allows them to set their own goals, according to Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis. Under the Rudd-Gillard governments, universities witnessed a 34% rise in undergraduate enrolments, with government spending on university places forecast to rise from $5bn in 2010-11 to $7bn by 2016-17. Davis says the review of the uncapped system foreshadowed by education minster Christopher Pyne needs to give the government budget certainty while allowing universities the freedom to determine the make-up of their student body…..[ READ MORE]……


Capping uni funding would be a lose-lose

quote marks“Decide student profiles” sounds better than “restricting access” and “within the funding envelope” certainly sounds more agreeable than “cutting higher education funding” but they amount to the same thing.



News Lines

In case you missed the news, the “Asian century” is overor maybe it’s just the nuance of the rhetoric that’s changed ….. Analysis of News Wedgethe Coalition’s recent super changes indicates that the abandonment of the Low Income Super Contribution scheme will cost 3.6 million workers up to $27,000 each in lost retirement earnings….Check out Fairfax News Store – access to a lot of Fairfax Media news items for nix….. Early childhood education reforms, started under Labor, are looking increasingly shaky under a Coalition government….The TAFE Times – “vocational education’s clarion call” – is a useful news aggregation site…..TAFE chief accused of massaging entitlements….


The Scan in October

TAFE quals

Why institutions matter – why TAFE MATTERS….Hockey rules out privatising HECS debt…..Pyne promises easier work rights for international students….Why a minimum ATAR would improve efficiency and equity….Nice work, if you can get it….Employers losing faith in training systemTEQSA’s plan to cut redtape…..Australian unis suffer reputational damage….The La Trobe model?…. TEQSA commissioner “retired”…. Holmesglen & Healthscope partner for new private hospital



Comment & analysis

A quiet revolution

At a time of some debate about the quality of university education, RMIT vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner says there has been a ‘quiet revolution’ in university teaching which has seen a steady but significant improvement since the mid-1990s.

Professor Margaret GardnerEach year’s increase in graduates’ satisfaction with their teaching has been modest but over two decades the improvement has been big enough to indicate a transformation in university teaching. This improvement has occurred even though there has not been substantial performance funding to boost teaching, nor does teaching earn the reputational rewards that university rankings give to research The steady improvement in university teaching in Australia is due to a mutually reinforcing combination of several factors.

The first, and most important, is academics’ commitment to their discipline and their students.

A second important factor has been robust measures of the quality of courses and teaching, and their deployment throughout universities in a way that supports teaching improvement.



Life & stuff

Uncivil discourse

Keating unplugged

8 November 2013 | On Tuesday 12 November, the ABC will broadcast the first of four one hour interviews of Paul Keating by Kerry O’Brien. It ought to be great oral history. This piece from The Scan archive explores Keating’s often excoriating use of language. He’ll come across as a “political brawler” and, as Michelle Grattan once described him, a “bit mad” (“Look Ma, downhill, one ski, no poles”) – as undoubtedly he was – but the “real” Keating is also quite reserved, very polite (in the right circumstances) and “cultured”, down to his rather magnificent copperplate handwriting (rendered, of course, with a Mont Blanc fountain pen).

pjk-redfernOne of the great disher outers in Australian politics was Paul John Keating, ALP Prime Minister of Australia from 1991 to 1996 and before that the Treasurer (Finance Minister) from 1983. “PJ”, as he was affectionately known to his admirers (of which I am one), was truly a masterful exponent of the pithy put down, the scathing metaphorical thrust, the three or four word depiction of his point (it did occasionally bring him undone as with “the recession we had to have”).

A favourite illustration of Keating’s use of “crude, offensive language” is that he once told the Parliament that those opposite (the Opposition, in Australian parliamentary terms) were “like dogs returning to their own vomit” because they had no new insights or ideas into or about public policy.

Except Keating was quoting from the Bible – Proverbs 26:11

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

Apposite? Probably……



Remembrance Day 2013

On Remembrance Day, 11 November, in 1993, then prime minister Paul Keating spoke movingly about the just-interred Unknown Soldier, whose remains brought from France that week lay at the centre of that year’s commemoration ceremony. On Remembrance Day 2013, a brass plaque will be dedicated in the Hall of Remembrance with the words from the speech:

He is all of them. And he is one of us.

Poppy AWMWe do not know this Australian’s name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances – whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was.

Yet he has always been among those whom we have honoured. We know that he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front. One of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service in the First World War. One of the 324,000 Australians who served overseas in that war and one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century.



Learning @work

11-13 November 2013 | Australian Technology Park, Sydney



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




It’s free….no hidden costs… absolutely gratis



Open2Study reaches 100,000 students

Open2Study Media    |     28 October 2013

Open2StudyIn just six months,  Open Universities Australia has reached 100,000 enrolments in its free online learning platform with 53,000 students from more than 180 countries undertaking one or more of its massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

Open2Study began by offering 10 free subjects in April, with each taking four weeks to complete.

The platform currently offers 32 courses with Principles of Project Management, Food, Nutrition & Your Health, Writing for the Web, User Experience for the Web and Strategic Management attracting the highest enrolments.

With new subjects added almost every month, the Open2Study team expects to have up to 50 free subjects available by the end of 2013.

OUA Chief Executive Paul Wappett notes that the major challenge for MOOCs and free online education is that despite attracting mass volumes of students, most people fail to complete the course and therefore do not achieve the learning objectives.  However, one of the successes of Open2Study is that one in four students completing their studies, showing that Open2Study is “delivering an outstanding experience compared to other free online education platforms.”

…we attribute our early success to the academic quality of our subjects, high production values and, most importantly, our learning, teaching and assessment model which is designed with the online student in mind.

Wappett said the Open2Study platform also enforced a high quality, consistent learning experience for students and that quality control was proving to be “very advantageous”.


Open Universities Australia MOOCs attract 100,000 students
Open Universities launches MOOC
OUA claims MOOC completion rates four times higher than global industry standard

The debate we have yet to have

MG slide1

Regulation of what and why?

The topic of this series of annual forums, governance and regulation, begs the questions: of what and why?

When the ‘what’ refers to individual institutions the answers relate primarily to university mission (purpose, direction and goal focus) and self-governance at various levels from the Council or Senate as the governing body (including Finance Committee), the Executive as the strategic managing body, Academic Board as the internal quality assurance entity, and Faculties and Centres, Business units and Administrative services, including their policies and procedures for self-regulating and monitoring, and for external reporting on capacity, needs and performance, including accountability reporting for the use of public funds. This is a rich and dynamic area for inter-institutional comparison and process benchmarking. Within the Go8, we have been developing benchmarking tools (e.g. Go8 Dashboard, Go8 Facilities surveys, Go8 Verification System), we are exploring common tools with the AAU, LERU and C9 (e.g. via Academic Analytics), and will convene an international symposium in 2014 on productivity improvement in universities, considering opportunities for increasing productivity (efficiency gains without loss of quality) in learning and teaching and research, and back-office administration. Currently, Go8 universities are exploring options for collaboration via cloud computing for administrative systems.

The ‘why’ answers at the institutional level are more elusive, for several reasons. First, universities are, at least in-principle, self-governing – although in recent years, regulation policy changes of the Australian Government, and the behaviour of the national higher education regulator, have constrained aspects of university self-governance – a problem we hope will be rectified following the report of Kwong Lee Dow and Valerie Braithwaite into TEQSA’s performance and their call for the size and scope of the regulator to be reduced. Second, the establishment Acts for universities in Australia give the governing Council or Senate broad powers to do all lawful things necessary to advance the purposes of the university. Typically those purposes are expressed at a high level (e.g. “The object of the University is the promotion, within the limits of the University’s resources, of scholarship, research, free inquiry, the interaction of research and teaching, and academic excellence” (University of Sydney Act 1989)[2]. Third, the establishment Acts are ‘enabling’; they are, in the quaint language of lawyers, ‘always speaking’, such that “a university can do what a university can do” – what it is legally able to do under its Act is defined by, albeit not confined to, what other entities with the title ‘university’ have done or are doing, for instance, in commercial activities, whether or not commercial activities are listed in the Act expressly as functions of the university (Phillips Fox, 2001).

Fourth, the combination of the foregoing three factors means than a university’s functions are not necessarily fixed, although some may be constant – especially relating to the core function of higher education and the production of qualified graduates. Importantly, the governing body has the authority to sanction new functions in response to, or anticipation of, changes in the external operating environment. By so doing, a university can also modify its ‘mission’ and ‘vision’ – its sense of what it is, why it exists, who it serves, where it is going, and how it knows how well it does what it stands for. There is no Act that defines or fixes a university’s mission. This conception of university mission as an open rather than closed aspiration is important, not least for the capacity of universities to adapt and evolve. It will be relevant also when we come later to considering the notion of balance in the supply structure of a nation’s higher education system and the role of any ‘mission-based funding compacts’ between government and universities.

[Slide 2: Higher education policy models]


When the ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions about governance and regulation are answered in respect of higher education systems they relate to: national purposes and goals; system scale, structure and balance; steering mechanisms and incentives; and the accountability cluster of provider licensing, quality assurance, consumer protection, performance monitoring and reporting, and compliance with the plethora of mandates in areas of privacy, non-discrimination, security, health and safety, ethical conduct of research, defence trade controls and so on and on.

There is also a significant set of second-order questions. For instance, in respect of system regulation: what is to be regulated, for what reasons, and what are the principles for guiding how best to conduct regulation? Again the TEQSA debacle illustrates the need not only to legislate for risk-based regulation but to ensure that the regulators know what the legislation permits and what it does not authorise. In respect of system governance, to what extent is governance or steering necessary for a nation’s higher education system? Here we should recall that ‘steering’ as a metaphor is distinguished from ‘rowing’, in order to allow operating discretion for local managers to achieve results, and to employ diverse ways and means of meeting set goals rather than have their processes micro-managed by central controllers (Osborne & Gaebler, 1992)[3]. Governance as steering, therefore, suggests guiding and monitoring rather than directing and determining. Would the rowers end up at different destinations if they had to navigate the changing circumstances without the steerers? I guess that depends on the severity of the circumstances, the quality of the steerers and the rowers, and which way they are facing! However, in systems that involve high levels of financial support from government there is a risk that taxpayers’ funds will be used poorly and gaps in service provision will emerge if all the rowers are setting their own course, and there is no knowledge or capacity to ensure that broader community needs are met.

It is 25 years since we had an open policy discussion about higher education system scale, shape and steering, with the release of the 1987 Green Paper by JS Dawkins, then Minister for Employment Education and Training. Indeed, these may be seen as areas of policy drift if not neglect in the Australian context. Alternatively, matters of structure and steering may be seen no longer to matter and to reflect outmoded models of state control. Either way, they are issues that need revisiting in the changing world of higher education, for many of the conceptual foundations and policy assumptions underpinning such constructs as ‘structure’ (especially notions of institutional ‘type’) and ‘steering’ (especially notions of conformance to national requisites without regard to global developments) are challenged by changes, to date and impending, in the scale and composition of student participation, on a national and international basis, along with changes in the technologies of higher education and research, changes in the academic workforce, changes in the sources of finance for students and institutions, and the dynamics of these changes in a competitive environment, including the emergence of multiple forms of higher education supply, increasingly involving non-university and non-public providers, and providers in industries other than the traditionally-conceived education industry.

Many of the concepts, as well as the terminology, relating to higher education structure and steering still reflect a predominantly Q1 view of the world, whereas things are moving in a Q4 direction (see Slide 2). Some, though not many, argue that higher education should be driven and shaped by market forces alone, and regard the higher education industry as one of the few remaining economic sectors yet to be unshielded from market imperatives. Yet governments have established public higher education institutions to function for the benefit of communities, including but not limited to educating progressive cohorts of learners. Societies have a profound and long-term interest in their higher education institutions that goes beyond the immediate interests of current students, academic staff and administrators (World Bank, 2000). Notwithstanding the various omens, whether those of a technology-determinist bent or those of a consumer-revolt bent, depicting the demise of the university as an institution, there are strong social forces sustaining it. What we need to consider is how Q1 and Q4 policy interests might be reconciled, without fettering institutional responsiveness to changing needs and circumstances, and without diminishing the longer-term benefits for the society of its investment in higher education institutions. In that regard, the Go8 has outlined a set of principles that might serve as a basis for the discussion we have to have. The most relevant principle for this conversation is that of structural diversity, although when you see the principles as a package you can understand that structural diversity is both a means to giving effect to other principles and a consequence of the interaction of other principles. That is to say there is no desired structure as an end in itself, and structure is fluid rather than static.

[Slide 3: Higher Education Policy Principles]

MG slide3

Application of the ability-to-benefit principle in higher education

“Higher education institutions should be primarily concerned to establish systems of access for the benefit of all persons who have the necessary abilities and motivations” (World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century: Vision and Action, UNESCO, 1998)

In the dying days of the Gillard Government we saw desperate efforts to find extra funding for schools while protecting the uncapped system of taxpayer-funded university admissions, whose costs were continuing to blow out alarmingly, by cutting back assistance to students and research programs, and imposing an efficiency dividend on universities, including funds for teaching and research block funding. Those lazy ‘saves’ seemed to be driven more by a political narrative and quest for a legacy than by policy worth; they certainly were not subject to any assessment of cost-effectiveness or policy coherence – neither for schools nor higher education. The containment of costs in the May 2013 Budget followed two earlier containment exercises, one in the MYEFO 2012-13 with the cut to forward funding for the ironically titled ‘Sustainable Research Excellence’ program, which was designed to raise funding for the indirect costs of research, and the other in the previous year when sub-Bachelor degree programs were removed from the so-called ‘demand-driven system’. More recently, under the Rudd return, we saw efforts to unscramble the mess over capping tax deductibility of self-education expenses, and mollify disgruntled university students and staff, with a search for alternative savings. The re-appointed Innovation Minister, Senator Kim Carr, this time with responsibility for higher education as well as research, called for ideas that could generate the necessary savings and address concerns about quality, without the adverse impacts of the Gillard measures.

In that context, the Go8, whose member universities are disproportionately and seriously affected adversely by the various ‘saves’, suggested that around $750 million could be saved over the budget forward estimates period by applying the merit principle through an ability-to-benefit test of an ATAR of 60 or better to school leavers seeking direct entry to a Bachelor degree course (and 70 for BEd students), with some of that saved amount reallocated to sub-Bachelor pathways. This suggestion was not universally welcomed. It was contentious even within the Go8, not least because it could be construed as limiting the autonomy of other universities. It was seen as an overly crude approach that applied variously to one part of the entering cohort of students such that it could operate unfairly for some individuals, and could be manipulated by some institutions, such as through bonus points.

The ATAR cut-off was suggested, partly on technical grounds, because it provided a data basis for calculating the potential scope for savings. As it has turned out, Minister Kim Carr, with an inclination to contain growth in intakes, indicated a preference for a negotiated approach with each university through mission-based funding compacts, which would have the advantage of allowing universities to use contextual data in their admissions. Presumably, that would involve the Government setting an upper limit on annual outlays, and each university proposing an enrolment mix within its given funding envelope. However the method of implementation has not been revealed, nor the extent of savings that might be sought from this approach, or whether all universities would retain the funding for their current enrolment pipeline plus or minus forward adjustments for growth or decline in intakes. One consequence of permitting variations in the number of places within a set funding envelope could be variable rather than standard public funding rates per place, with interesting implications for the nexus with student contribution amounts. Of course, a change of Government could alter the whole ballgame.

It is not my purpose here to delve into the ATAR debate but rather to use it to illustrate some problems we have in the design of what we might call temporarily ‘Australia’s higher education system’. I say, temporarily, because it is not necessarily a ‘system’, it is not exclusively Australia’s, and it is not all about what we used to understand to be ‘higher education’. Briefly a few points should be noted about the ATAR controversy.

First, there has been some conflation in the policy debate of three quite different approaches: re-capping enrolments; ending the ‘demand-driven system’; and requiring an ability-to-benefit threshold for admission to Bachelor degree studies.

Re-capping means either placing upper limits on the number of students that the Government would fund in any particular university, or putting upper limits on the funding envelope that the Government would resource for particular institutions. There has never been any suggestion by the Go8 for the Government to adopt either of those options. If re-capping also means going back to a centrally-driven allocation of student places by field of study, that option also has never been suggested by the Go8.

Ending the demand-driven system, presumably, means restricting students’ choices about what and where and how they study, in particular by limiting their choices to specific institutions or fields of study. Again this has never been advocated by the Go8. To the contrary, in our public and behind-the-scenes advocacy with all political parties, the Go8 has argued consistently for relaxation of central controls on enrolment volumes and prices. Nor have we advocated for total deregulation. Our argument has been for universities to have operational flexibility with accountability for results, within a policy and financing framework that delivers cost-effective outcomes for the community, including through open competition among all rival providers, public and private alike. This is to suggest: (a) that what we have now is not actually a demand-driven system; (b) that its further evolution and fuller expression is necessary; and (c) that in its present and future forms it will not be a sufficient basis for underpinning a balanced higher education system.

Second, the proposed ATAR cutoff was intended (and costed) only for domestic school leavers aged 17-19 years seeking admission to a funded Bachelor degree program in a public university within 2 years of completing Year 12. It was never a proposal to determine, as in some countries, such as via China’s gao kao or Egypt’s Thanawiya Amma, the life chances of individuals on the basis of their once-in-a-lifetime attainment score in final school exams. It was envisaged that more mature applicants would continue to be admitted on broader criteria, regardless of their school attainment, in recognition of their opportunity to learn from their wider experience. Go8 universities admit more than 50% of their commencing undergraduate cohorts from direct school leavers, whereas other universities generally cater more to the mature-age student market at the undergraduate as well as graduate levels.

Third, the ATAR threshold proposal was complemented by an explicit transfer of savings to provide additional funding for sub-Bachelor degree pathways for immediate school leavers. The reasoning behind that proposal was that many students with ATARs below 70 have been found to struggle with university studies without support. Presumably, less well-prepared students need even greater support to succeed. It is not that they lack aptitude but that they lack adequate preparation. Yet the Government has not accepted the arguments of several reviews that funding rates per student – including for the less well-prepared students – should be increased by the order of 10%, so that any additional student support has to be provided from current funding per student. Generally, students with low levels of school attainment are more likely to benefit from preparatory programmes to improve their readiness for advanced learning, even in fields that require little if any mathematical competence.

Sue Willis, one of Australia’s best informed analysts of student progression, argues that “some of the money being spent on enrolling more low-ATAR students into degrees could be better spent on pathway programs and vocational education and training.” The Monash University data that Sue draws upon show that low-ATAR students, who are selected on the basis of their performance in pathway programs, perform strongly and in a wider range of fields than they would otherwise be able to access:

“Admitting under-prepared students with low ATARs not only increases their risk of non-completion, it restricts their choices. Lower ATAR students admitted directly to bachelor degrees are being selected on the basis of their current preparation, rather than their potential for university study, while graduates of pathway programs have a chance to prepare for a wider range of disciplines, and demonstrate their aptitude for tertiary study.”[4]

Without access to pathways, students may be subject to failure, or have limited study options, or find themselves with qualifications that have little use value for employment and further learning. Lowering the entry bar to a Bachelor’s degree yields no benefits for anyone. It is particularly not fair to induce equity groups into pursuing studies that will not lift them up and may well let them down.

[Slide 4: Absolute change in offers to school leavers with ATARs, by ATAR & SES 2009-2012.]

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The admissions debate also seemed to equate low ATAR with low SES. However, in aggregate 4 out of 5 of the  students admitted on the basis of an ATAR over the last four year were middle and high SES, and they comprised the bulk of offers at every ATAR decile. Arguably, laissez-faire admissions, post Bradley, have been of greater benefit to students of lower-attainment from middle and high SES backgrounds than to more able students from low SES backgrounds.

One apparent structural flaw in the Australian higher education design is that the base of the system is too narrow to accommodate growth and diversification of the student body cost-effectively. That is, the Australian structure is unbalanced in terms of program levels and pathways relative to the trend of domestic student demand, ironically in a system that has a very wide and diverse range of preparatory and pathway education services for international students.

What has been a major pathway to university study, TAFE, has been enhanced over the last decade through Associate Degree and Diploma courses tailored for particular occupational progressions but its scale has been contracting through cuts in funding and by the increased admissions capacity of universities. Sub-Bachelor courses were excluded from the ‘demand-driven system’ from 2012, partly to stop a cannibalisation of TAFE and partly to save costs, including Commonwealth substitution for state government expenditure on TAFE. Costs have continued to rise, however; indeed, the cost of a university place is higher for the Commonwealth than that for the sub-Bachelor program in TAFE for which it substitutes. Pathways for students have been narrowed, and a number of students who could have benefitted from preparatory programs have gone directly into Bachelor degree studies. Unfortunately, there is no adequate data publicly available to inform us how well those students are doing.

[Slide 5. Commencing Domestic Sub-bachelor Students by Broad Level of Course, Full Year 2012]

MG slide5

Government-supported opportunities for access to higher education at the sub-Bachelor Degree level totalled 25,482 places allocated to public universities and Table B institutions (Bond, Notre Dame and MCD University of Divinity) for starting students in 2012 (including Associate Degree and Other Undergraduate programs, and Enabling courses). This allocation of places represented just 6% of commencing undergraduate students. Enabling courses comprise two thirds (16,428) of all these government-supported access places.

The purpose of enabling courses, where participation is free and universities are paid a top-up in lieu of the student contribution, originally was stated as being “to provide a pathway to higher education for students from disadvantaged groups who do not yet have the academic preparation to enroll directly in award courses” (DETYA, 2001). In the 2012-13 Budget, the Government announced that in 2013 the enabling loading will be increased from an estimated $1,833 to $2,500 per place, and from 2014 to $3,068 per place (with the rate indexed in later years). The distribution of enabling and sub-Bachelor allocated places among universities appears to reflect historical factors rather than low-SES and Indigenous student enrolment shares. The University of Newcastle, for instance, has 2,506 enabling places for commencing students, followed by CQU with 1,400, Charles Darwin with 1,336, USQ with 1,326 and then Edith Cowan with 1,009, whereas Wollongong has 382, Victoria 230,Western Sydney 193, Sydney less than 5 and Deakin, QUT and Swinburne none. Similarly, the allocation of Associate Degree places appears arbitrary, with Charles Sturt having 1,066, RMIT 917, UTas 630, USQ 619, Southern Cross 249, and Deakin 136. All the rest have less than 100, including 20 that have none. Of course, it becomes difficult to increase the number of sub-Bachelor allocated places with the cost of uncapped Bachelor places continuing to rise.

The rationale for enabling courses has become somewhat blurred and the effectiveness of the program is not evident, as there are no publicly available data on the progression and success of students, both those entering via enabling programs and those admitted directly to Bachelor degree studies. In the context of foundation and preparatory programs offered by many university commercial entities and other private providers, and noting the low participation of domestic students in those programs, there may be issues relating to competitive neutrality in the contested market for higher education preparatory services that need to be addressed, along with matters of horizontal equity for students in the light of different conditions for access to loans. Data on the bases of admission of commencing undergraduate students have not been published since 2006. It would help an informed discussion if we had access to those data, and student unit record data on admissions, progression and completions, especially over the period 2008-2013, for all students at all levels. In the absence of monitoring data, there has been, in effect, a social experiment with the lives of young people, randomly across the nation, over the last five years, that no responsible ethics committee would have ever allowed.

[Slide 6. Offer rates by university group, 2010-2013]MG slide6

In the absence of available student tracking data, we can only look at access indicators – access alone, regrettably has been the policy preoccupation since 2008 – one set being applications, offers and acceptances. Here we see that all university groups have been raising their offer rates, in the case of regionals to over 100%.

[Slide 7. Offer rates by university 2012]

MG slide7

In 2012, 5 universities had offer rates above 100% (i.e. they were going beyond the pool of students who had indicated a first preference to study with them), and 26 universities had offer rates above 80%.

[Slide 8. Change in offer rates by university, 2009-2012]

MG slide8

Offer rates have moved around on an institutional basis over the period. This reflects changes in a number of factors, including: strategic positioning (e.g. in the case of ANU and UWA to achieve greater scale efficiency); and growth in revenue or substitution through enrolment revenue of income lost from other sources and cost increases). This points to another flaw in the system design: universities have to keep taking in more students in order to increase or maintain their operating revenues, partly because they have no pricing discretion over what is, for all of them, their core business – educating domestic undergraduate students.

[Slide 9. Undergraduate students, 1949-2012]MG slide9

Looking at historical trends for domestic students (international student numbers were not separately and consistently reported before 1992, so they are included in the preceding period but their numbers were relatively small at that time), we can see four spikes. The first and steepest, in the 1970s, is the transfer of state-funded higher education students to the Commonwealth budget after the Whitlam Government’s decision that general taxpayers should pay the costs of all higher education students. The second spike is in the early 1990s with the expansion of enrolments following the Dawkins’ amalgamations of higher education institutions. The third Spike is in the Howard Government’s extension of enrolments to full fee-paying students. The fourth spike is the post-Bradley enlargement of access on an uncapped basis.

[Slide 10. Increase in Domestic Undergraduate Students, 1979-2012]MG slide10

When we compare rates of growth in access (commencements) and persistence (enrolments), we can see three points at which commencing student growth spurted ahead of total enrolment growth. Again we see the impact of the Hawke Government post 1985 and the Dawkins’ expansion, with the aim of raising graduate supply to the labour market. Then we see a labour market sheltering effect during the mid 1990s. Finally we see a big kick post 2010, driven by universities optimising the opportunity to gain revenue growth through enrolment growth.

It is a moot point that we have a demand-driven system actually operating. The available data indicate that university admissions growth over the last five years has been more supply-push than demand-pull, with growth in offers exceeding growth in applications. Additionally, student options are constrained by what providers have the capacity to offer. The offerings available to domestic students in aggregate, depend on the overall supply structure of the nation’s higher education system. Allowing students to exercise their choice only in universities and only for Bachelor degree courses is itself a serious restriction of the demand-driven principle, because students cannot be supported at an equivalent level if they want to do an Associate Degree or Diploma with a non-university provider, even if that would get them the employment outcome they seek more quickly and at lower cost.

With a narrow base and range of short-cycle pathways, and government funding an unlimited number of students that universities admit to Bachelor Degree programs in the most expensive supply category – the public general university – we have seen the costs to government rising steeply, universities getting bigger, and qualitative distances between universities widening.

[Slide 11. Higher education providers by scale of enrolment, 1987 & 2012]

MG slide11

Over the 25 years since the last policy discussion of higher education structure in Australia we have seen three main changes. First, there has been a loss of horizontal diversity. The public providers in 1987 included autonomous universities and a range of colleges of advanced education (CAEs), formed earlier from amalgamations of former specific-purpose, state-controlled institutions. The CAEs included what would be known as polytechnics in several other countries, and while they had limited autonomy they were mission-directed to serve particular occupational segments and industry innovation needs. This binary divide was collapsed subsequently into a so-called ‘unified national system’ largely in order to give students wider learning options than were available under more narrowly formed and smaller institutions. Importantly, from a system steering perspective, the conversion of specific-purpose and mission-directed institutions into universities involved redefining them from being ‘state’ institutions to being ‘public’ institutions. All the autonomies attaching to the university tradition were transferred to the amalgamated institutions, including the autonomy to set and re-set their own missions.

Second, the private sector has expanded. In 1987, Australia had an almost fully public system, with only a handful of faith-based private providers of teacher education. Now there are over 130 private providers, including 10 that have more than 2,000 students, the benchmark size identified in Dawkins’ 1987 Green Paper as the minimum for a reasonably cost-efficient institution, although none are yet at the 5,000 threshold for membership of the ‘unified national system’. Again, from a system steering perspective, private institutions are market-driven rather than mission-directed.

Third, the scale of the system and the size of universities have grown significantly. With the closure of the binary divide, the large bulk of enrolment growth has taken place in public general universities.

It’s like we have only SUVs on the road. They are big, multi-purpose, family-friendly, often hard to see past, and not always agile. They are not the cheapest vehicle one can buy (although on the Australian road at present they are all the one price!). They range from the elite brands like Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, the interloper Lexus, and the electric Tesla, and through mid-ranging brands like Citroen, Ford, Holden, Honda, Hyundai, Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Skoda, Subaru, Suzuki, Volvo, VW, and Toyota (which has multiple campus-like models) to lesser brands like Chery, Kia, Great Wall and Ssangyong. (In vain I tried to find 40 but could only find 26, although there were some scratchings, such as Geely!) Some of these brands (like Kia) are rising up the ranks, as they gain a reputation for reliability and take on some characteristics of the elite brands. Is there diversity among them? Yes, of course, whether 8, 6 or 4 cylinders, whether diesel, petrol or hybrid, whether all-wheel or front wheel or back wheel drive, whether black, white, or silver. Some have more air bags than others. Some are getting easier to enter. Some have built in screens for the young people in the back to play games. Yes there is diversity among the SUVs, but there are no sedans, no utes, no sports coupes, no vans, no trucks on the road. In private garages may be found some of these other vehicle types parked for want of fuel – that is, the private providers cannot compete with the support available to students in public universities. Others, including both public and private models, are overseas and not licensed here – such as the “polytechnic”, “technical university”, “university of applied sciences” and “liberal arts college”.

The question arises as to how balanced is a national higher education system which comprises only autonomous universities and private providers. If the universities do not want to fit a particular need and there is no market incentive for the private providers to do so, how do governments fill the supply gap? One option is to use Q3 financing mechanisms (see Slide 2) such as competitive tendering. Another could be to use mission-based funding compacts with universities to ameliorate market failure, but to do so would be inconsistent with the very notion of them being mission-based. A third option is to provide for the establishment of new provider categories which could be both private and public. Such categories might include “polytechnic” or “institute of applied studies” and other models. However the catch-all, albeit somewhat dismissive, category of “other higher education provider” allows for diversification of non-university providers. If we want diversity of universities it will be necessary to create a new category such as “community university”.

[Slide 12. Number of students, 2002 & 2012]

MG slide12

Over the decade 2002-2012, the number of students enrolled in higher education institutions in Australia increased by 361,101 (40%), from 896,621 to 1,257, 722. Domestic student numbers grew by 220,546 (31%) and international enrolments grew by 140,555 (76%). Enrolments with private providers grew to 65,928, becoming in aggregate larger than Monash, although that number represents only 5% of all enrolments. The opportunities available to domestic students stand in stark contrast to the opportunities for international students. There is potential to make greater use of private provider capacity in serving future growth in domestic student demand.

[Slide 13. Academic rankings of world universities, 2013, student size, graduateness and asset strength]

MG slide13

This crowded slide shows the top 30 universities on the 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities, and the top 20 world ranked Australian universities. This ranking by the Education Faculty of Shanghai Jiao Tong University is based on research-related metrics. The indicators for each of the universities listed are interesting to compare: enrolment size, graduateness of enrolment (the ratio of postgraduate to undergraduate students), and wealth (in Australian dollars as at July 2011).

In terms of wealth, Harvard is the outlier ($33.7b). Harvard has more than double the wealth of Princeton ($15.7b) which has five times the wealth of Oxford ($3.2b) and Melbourne ($3.5b). Stanford ($20.5b) and Yale ($19.1b) sit between Harvard and Princeton. Wealth matters, but it is not the only thing that matters. UC Berkeley, Cambridge, CalTech and Oxford rank above several universities with more than twice their wealth. Australia’s leading universities generally have net assets on a par with, and sometimes stronger than, Imperial and Toronto, yet don’t rank as highly.

With regard to total student numbers, 5 of the world top 10 have fewer than 20,000 enrolments, (CalTech, Princeton and Johns Hopkins have less than 10,000) whereas none of the ranked Australian universities have less than 20,000 (ANU is the smallest with 20,060). Australia’s top public universities are much larger than the top private US universities and, also tend to be larger than the leading public universities of England and the US, with a few exceptions.

Australia’s top ranked universities, except for Melbourne (0.7) and ANU (0.6), have postgraduate to undergraduate student ratios less than 0.5. Sydney has 0.4 and UNSW 0.36, UTS 0.35 and Flinders 0.33. The rest are below 0.3. The top ranked US universities have postgraduate ratios often above 1.0. Columbia’s is 2.48, Harvard’s 2.16, Chicago’s 1.83, and MIT’s 1.48. Chicago, Columbia and Harvard have big coursework Master’s degree enrolments. Nevertheless, most of the leading US universities have strong concentrations of research degree students and post-Docs, and they are magnets to the top intellectual talent from around the world. It is this ingredient, absorbed in a culture valuing excellence, that most distinguishes the leading universities.

It is not unreasonable, on the basis of these indicators, for Australia to aspire to rise in the world university rankings, and not only have several universities in the top 100 but also a couple in the top 50. To that end, given the current scale and shape of Australian universities, the comparator institutions ought to be the leading public universities of England, the US and Canada, Japan and Switzerland. The top US privates are simply out of reach, even for the leading public institutions of other countries, unless they receive massive capital injections, contain their student numbers and increase their graduateness. Perhaps the likes of China, Korea and Singapore will move in that direction, but talent does not necessarily follow dollars alone.

ETH Zurich (ranked 20th) is a Federal university with special funding in a rich economy, with a smaller student enrolment than any Australian university and a graduate ratio of almost 1.0. Tokyo University (ranked 21st) is smaller than most of Australia’s leading universities in student numbers, except for ANU, Adelaide and UWA. However, Tokyo U has a postgraduate to undergraduate ratio greater than 1. We don’t know its asset base but we do know it is highly prestigious within a status-oriented culture, and therefore likely to attract and retain Japan’s top talent. The University of Toronto (ranked 27th) has over 80,000 students, a postgraduate ratio of only 0.23 and net assets of $1.8b. UT is bigger, less graduate, and not much wealthier (poorer by some comparisons) than most of the ranked Australian universities. Why does it do so well? Why don’t better resourced Australian universities have higher rankings? A key factor is the rankings measure of citations dominated by the North American academic literature, where it may be easier for Canadians than Australians to feature, including through co-authored publications.

While the Toronto exemplar presents an interesting challenge, it would not seem generally to be to the advantage of Australia’s leading universities to grow their undergraduate numbers much further.

[Slide 14. Projected growth for 16-18 year olds, 2010-2040]

MG slide14

It is reported that there have been 190,000 additional domestic students in Australia’s universities between 2008 and 2013. That growth reflected an increase in the participation rate without any growth in the population of the school leaver cohort. In the next few years, however, we will see a demographically-driven rise in school leaver numbers in Queensland, WA and the NT initially, and then from Victoria and, after 2020, from NSW, Tasmania and South Australia. Taken together with increased participation among older age groups, including for qualifications upgrading, we estimate that there will be a need to accommodate at least an extra 500,000 students by 2025.

One question we need to ask is how to accommodate future growth in student demand. Had the growth of the last 5 years not been absorbed in established universities it may have been necessary to build around 20 new universities at an average size of around 10,000, although that would have been very difficult to achieve physically because of the lead times involved in securing land, building facilities, staffing up and preparing programs. As many of the established universities have grown large, should they get bigger, or should there be more universities, or should there be other ways and means of meeting the demand? There is not a lot of time left to start implementing the answer(s). One part of developing an answer is to assess what has been put in place over the last 25 years, and the patterns of development over the last decade or so.

[Slide 15. University Revenue by source, 1939-2011]

MG slide15

It has taken around 35 years to recover from the Whitlam aberration and regain some balance between the contributions to costs of general taxpayers, private beneficiaries, community benefactors, and institutions’ own efforts. A significant development over the last 25 years has been a growing level of dependency on international student fee income. Future real growth in income from that source cannot be taken for granted. There are multiple factors at play, including: changing demographics in traditional source countries; increasing import replacement in source countries; rising competition from providers of other nations, and global provider consortia, including on-line services; currency and cost of living relativities; and recognition of academic quality.

Universities are responding to those questions in their own ways, driven increasingly by the fierce and intensifying international competition for intellectual talent and the reputation race. The research capacity and performance of a university is a major factor in the academic reputation race, and figures significantly in the more respectable world university rankings at the institutional level and by discipline.

The offerings available in specific institutions, such as universities, are largely set by their academic staffing structures. Those staffing structures reflect historical investments, including in response to prior patterns of student demand, local community needs and expectations, including industry and employer requirements, government incentives, and more enduring orientations to scholarship and research ranging from local to global interests. It is necessary to ask, in consideration of these factors, to what extent student demand – which may be fickle, ill-informed and even faddish – should shape university staffing. If more students want to study pharmacy or forensic science, for instance, do we expect universities to hire academic staff in those fields and reduce staffing in areas of lower student demand, such as in philosophy and physics? If so, by what means and how well would Australia’s research capacity in philosophy and physics be sustained? Or does that not matter?

The universities are operating in three very different spaces: one where tuition prices are set by the Government (for domestic undergraduate students) and another where prices are set by the market (for international students at all levels and for domestic students at the postgraduate level). The third space is that of competitive funding for research, both the contest for government-funded national competitive grants and the competition for industry funding of research. With the exception of ANU last century, there has been a connection between university staffing and research capacity mediated through staffing for teaching. But the scale of growth in international student demand, in a narrow range of fields at the undergraduate level, has generally not led so much to enhanced research capacity in Business, Commerce and Economics as to deeper institutional capacity to support research across a range of areas.

[Slide 16. Total research income, by university, 1995 & 2011]

MG slide16

Whereas most countries have increased the formal, horizontal diversity of their higher education structures over that time, Australia, England and Sweden are the only countries to have closed the binary divide in higher education. Sweden did so first, in 1977, but retained a range of more focussed institutions, such as agricultural colleges, fine arts institutes and teacher education colleges alongside universities. In England, a slacker approach has been adopted to university title than in Australia alongside a more extensive set of collaborations between universities and colleges of Further Education. Australia has continued to insist that “the use of university title should be limited to those institutions which have demonstrated their capacity to deliver and develop substantial and high quality research and postgraduate programs” ( NBEET, 1989). This charter is expensive, and not all can gain the necessary resources.

[Slide 17. ERA 2012: Field of Research (2 digit) rank of 4 or 5 by university]

MG slide17

There appears to be a close correlation between resource inputs and the quality of research outputs. As we have noted, research quality is a key factor in international rankings of universities.

[Slide 18. Postgraduate research students, 2002 & 2012]

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There is not such an obvious correlation between research resources and quality, on the one hand, and growth in postgraduate research enrolments, on the other hand. With substantial undergraduate growth, efforts to raise the postgraduate to undergraduate ratio, especially in research degrees, can lead to a stronger emphasis on quantity than quality.

[Slide 19. FTE for Research Only staff with academic and non-academic classifications (including casuals), 2001 & 2011]

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The term ‘research-only’ (RO) is a bit misleading. It’s not that they only do research; most of the academic RO also supervise doctoral students and many teach aspects of other degree programs. The RO classification includes casual appointments, such as research assistants working with a principal investigator on a research project and technicians working on research instrumentation. The growth in RO appointments is largely driven by growth in research funding. One can expect a higher quantity of high quality research output from a larger concentration of RO appointments, especially alongside larger groups of doctoral students and postdocs. An important feature of growth in RO and doctoral students is that it does not necessarily follow patterns of undergraduate enrolment by field.

Taking these various indicators of scale and cost into account, and noting that several universities are still fledgling in research after more than two decades, it is not self-evident that Australia should create more universities on the same model in the future. Two controversial observations may be made in this respect. The first, as Martin Trow identified in 2003, is that it is unreasonable, unfair and inefficient to place expectations on institutions to become what they are not set up to be:

“A central problem for higher education policy in every modern society is how to sustain the diversity of institutions, including many of which are primarily teaching institutions without a significant research capacity, against the pressure for institutional drift toward a common model of the research university – the effort alone shapes the character of an institution to be something other than what it is – a prescription for frustration and discontent (Trow, 2003).

The second observation is the flip side of that coin. The Australian universities with the greatest capacity for research – not least on the basis of sunk investment by their supporting communities over many years – are being driven to increase their teaching effort and direct more of their research effort to short-term instrumental interests of governments, at times socialising the costs of private industry R&D, and thereby limiting their capacity to remain research competitive with their international rival peers.

The future fiscal environment

In an arresting article last month, David Uren and Chris Richardson suggested that “winning the election may yet prove to be a curse”.[5] They documented the overhang policy costs of the resources boom years 2003/4-2013/14, including higher recurrent expenditure lock-ins with a reduced taxation base. They noted that there is no proper provision in the out-years, especially post 2016, for large-scale and long-term commitments in such expensive areas as disability care, schools funding, superannuation, defence capability, transport infrastructure, and other proposals, such as the resettlement outside Australia of people coming on boats, or the touted conversion of northern Australia into a mega food bowl. Moreover, under current taxation arrangements, with deteriorating terms of trade, and rising social costs associated with population ageing among other things, there is a widening gap between the claims being made for additional government outlays and the fiscal capacity to pay for them.

The incoming government will also face serious challenges in relation to higher education and university research. There will simply not be enough money from government to attend to pressing needs that will not go away, especially regarding research infrastructure, and will become more expensive the longer they are not addressed. The problem is that the damage may well be done before it is evident to the public and policy makers, because performance in higher education and research is tracked mostly through lagging rather than leading indicators.

A protracted period of parsimony, if not austerity, ahead also has implications for productivity improvement at the institutional level (back office administration, shared teaching and research resources) and at the national level (reduced wastage, relevant skills formation, quality as well as quantity). In building the supply capacity to serve future growth in student demand, cost-effectiveness will be a major factor. We have not only seen the peaking of public funding per student in real terms for established universities but also a limited capacity for governments to fund the establishment of new universities. There will necessarily be greater reliance on private provision, and any expansion of public provision will need to be at a much lower cost than that involved with the established universities.

The changing higher education landscape

The challenge of diversifying the structure of supply has global as well as local dimensions. The future massive growth in learner demand around the world, an increasing share of it emanating from poor segments of the youth bulge in developing countries, as well as from the rising middle class households, will give rise necessarily to new forms of higher education supply. This may involve both segmentation of existing institutional provider functions alongside new combinations of institutional types, and the emergence of completely new players.

Some see greater competition in mass and post-mass higher contexts creating opportunities for new institutions to enter the market with new products and services, and for established institutions to take up niche positions or be overtaken or taken over. The growth of various private providers and new consortia around the world gives this view support. The UK’s Department for Business Innovation & Skills suggests that supply will not be determined by any government policy but will be an outcome of response to learner demand:

“What will influence the size and shape of UK higher education in the years to come? The institutional map for the sector will likely emerge from decisions taken in response to user demand and the changing environment of the 21st century” (

In like vein, the Asian Development Bank, noting major changes in learner demand and supply technologies, sees the future configuration of supply being shaped via markets serving consumer needs:

“Whereas the state or its institutions often drove earlier supply, now it is the clients of education who are driving the growth. Such customer-driven demand is beginning to have its impact on the modes of supply, the operating costs of institutions, the range and diversity of products and services, the nature and profile of students, as well as the cost to the user. Provisions for postsecondary learning at the workplace, as a lifelong requirement available flexibly and at affordable cost, have become part and parcel of the new supply arrangement” (Asian Development Bank, 2012).

The capacity for market-driven supply arises from the scale and diversity of emergent learner demand, inadequate responsiveness and high-cost lock-ins on the part of traditional suppliers, and unbundling on the supply and demand sides. UniversitiesUK (UUK, 2012) has outlined dimensions of ‘unbundling’ (compartmentalising and disaggregating) education delivery and support processes, and education consumption:

Supply side unbundling – compartmentalising and disaggregating delivery processes

Infrastructure: e.g. use of third parties for delivery of essential infrastructure and back office functions such as IT network management

Teaching: e.g. use of externally contracted staff to teach, draft curricula or develop resources

Teaching & awards: e.g. portability of the higher education ‘product’ in the form of degree award validation and the external delivery of curricula through franchising and partnership provision

Demand side unbundling – compartmentalising and disaggregating outputs or consumption

Personally tailored learning: e.g. quicker or multiple routes to qualification, pay-as-you-go credit accumulation, optional purchasing of resources, learning support and facilities

Educational resources: e.g. formal and informal access to on-line resources

Additionally, the rising costs of research mean it will be difficult for all the research-intensive universities to retain their current disciplinary span if they wish to be world class players in research – some might specialise and use collaboration to allow disciplinary diversity to continue (Thrift, 2009).

Some see the multiple-mission universities of the US becoming unbundled too:

“We should expect to see even more segmentation of US higher education in the years to come. Indeed, the “multiversity” itself may be disaggregated. Given the size, scope and complexity of many universities, it is plausible that some will “unbundle” their research, undergraduate teaching, athletic and outreach programs, and medical centers into separate enterprises – a “divide and conquer” strategy that would further segment US higher education” (Staley & Trinkle, 2011).

Of course, these trends offer market opportunities to the consulting firms as well as to the real players. Some are presenting future options as terrifying inevitabilities that will be not only ‘transformative’ but also ‘disruptive’ as established universities ensconced in costly campuses will be overwhelmed by paradigm shifting avalanches. Two weeks ago, Mike Boxall of PA Consulting warned of “zombie universities that are trapped in a cycle of decline but unwilling or unable to abandon out-of-date models” (The Australian, 22/8/2013).

In his foreword to Pearson’s 2013 report, An Avalanche is Coming, former Harvard President Larry Summers, wrote:

“Just as we’ve seen the forces of technology and globalisation transform sectors such as media and communications or banking and finance over the last two decades, these forces may now transform higher education. The solid classical buildings of great universities may look permanent but the storms of change now threaten them. Of course, competition between universities around the world has been intensifying for decades, and now they fight for talent and research funding. In An Avalanche, the authors argue that a new phase of competitive intensity is emerging as the concept of the traditional university itself comes under pressure and the various functions it serves are unbundled and increasingly supplied, perhaps better, by providers that are not universities at all. Thinktanks conduct research, private providers offer degrees, Thiel Fellowships have more prestige than top university qualifications, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) can take the best instructors global. Choosing among these resources and combining them as appropriate, many of those served by traditional universities may be able to better serve their objectives.”

One of the Avalanche authors, Michael Barber, suggested that “traditional, middle-ranking universities face extinction within the next decade (and) even elite universities could struggle to survive in the face of competition from online courses and giant for-profit colleges” (The Guardian, 11 March 2013). This prediction derives in part from observed falls in rates of return to graduates alongside rising costs of getting a degree. A recent editorial in Britain’s Observer commented:

“The flaw at the heart of social mobility by expansion is its assumption that all degrees are equal. The reality is far from the truth. On the one hand, a degree from a top university is almost a prerequisite for a job in professions such as medicine, the law, the civil service and the media. On the other, there is huge variation in the employment prospects of graduates of newer institutions. Too many young people find themselves in a “graduate” job that would have recruited school leavers 20 years ago; and four in 10 recent graduates are in jobs not even requiring a degree. Is it a responsible message to young people that it is always worth taking on debt of at least £35k to go to university, regardless of the quality of the institution?” [6]

Does diversification of supply pose a threat to established higher education institutions? In some ways yes, but not necessarily, depending on how established institutions respond. The potential competitive advantages of global corporates like Apollo are in combining affordability (course costs are typically set just below campus-based courses in public universities), convenience of study places and times, and relevance of learning to jobs (with teachers having to be practicing professionals rather than academics). Greater competition may be no bad thing from a student perspective to the extent that it widens choice and spurs improvement, innovation and greater responsiveness to student needs in established institutions. Of course, established institutions will need to be clear about their business value proposition, not only for students but also for employers. Expressions of employer dissatisfaction with graduates persist, and in some professional fields, including at the top end, there is capacity for professional service firms and other bodies to arrange their own education and training and gain accreditation to award their own degrees. In the BCE fields, such a development could have implications for university revenues from both domestic and international students if universities are insufficiently responsive.

Nevertheless, alternative forms of higher education provision, which may compete or cooperate with established institutions, are more likely to complement rather than replace them. This is because diversification of supply is largely a function of rapid large-scale growth and diversification of demand. On the one hand, it is a response to demand for re-skilling and up-skilling – or at least for keeping up with credential inflation in the labour markets of advanced economies. Here we have seen for-profit providers setting up to serve adult and second-chance learners. Interestingly, in Australia and elsewhere, these new providers have not taken market share away from established institutions. To the contrary, many universities have moved into the markets that the new providers have generated, as well as into markets previously served by non-university providers, such as TAFE colleges and private VET providers, albeit with advantages of public subsidy and brand equity that stretch understanding of competitive neutrality.

On the other hand, supply diversity is a necessary response to demand for higher qualifications (sometimes substituting for higher skills) in developing economies with youth bulges but insufficient fiscal capacity to meet the demand from public resources and in conventional ways. In India, for instance, the scale of demand is totally beyond the capacity of the governments there at the national and provincial levels to accommodate – not only young people from the growing number of middle income households but, more significantly, poor youth who also need education and training. The options for providing advanced education to India’s poor or the poor of Africa, Latin America and the Pacific must include cheaper alternatives than the traditional campus-based model. That is not at all to suggest that campuses will close but rather that other avenues will open, probably via cyber-education in one form or another.

[Slide 20. Possible future configuration]

MG slide20

With regard to MOOCs, which are in an experimental phase, and range from lectures on-line to highly interactive group learning sessions, they appear to be doing five main things. First, they are exploring the possibilities of new information and communications technologies for learning: the demand for high-quality on-line learning, including understanding better what learners want; the effectiveness of virtual learning, including simulations, games-based learning and automatic marking; the scope for interactivity in large groups; the scalability of interactive on-line learning, including distributed delivery across multiple nations and with multiple partners; the cost-effectiveness of different methods, including time of teachers and instructional technologists in design, preparation, support, assessment and feedback to students; and the nature of any viable business model.

Second, MOOC consortia are building up profiles of student learning behaviours, including preferences in ways of working, areas of strength and weakness, persistence, communication skills, capacity for problem solving, creativity, and team work. The learner diagnostics element itself has various potential business applications, not least for people presenting for employment, who may want to demonstrate what they have done, how they work, and where they have particular strengths.

Third, MOOCs may help to raise the status of on-line learning and qualifications obtained virtually. This would be a major benefit for the poor of Asia, Africa and elsewhere where on-line higher education is provided as a second-chance fallback, and qualifications are regarded as inferior to campus-based qualifications. However, it is not yet clear to what extent different employers and public policy makers will accept MOOC-based qualifications.

Fourth, they are enabling individuals, in diverse places and times, to access a smorgasbord of learning modules, and potentially to customise their own educational packages, whether to see how they fare, or to satisfy a particular need, or to go on to further learning. Many participants in MOOCS are already degree-qualified. Current participation by people from developing countries is low. If MOOCs flush out more people interested in and able to succeed in credentialed learning they will add to rather than subtract from demand for formal higher education. Some for-profit global assessment houses may emerge to take up some of the emerging market, but that does not mean they would come to monopolise degree credentialing. If they were to piggyback on the brand equity of the university providers of MOOCs the assessment standards of the credentialing houses would have to be very high. That would not make for a viable business model on the part of the assessing houses, and any effort to dilute standards and damage brand would be rejected by the MOOC providers.

Fifth, MOOCs enable established and new higher education providers to combine in new ways, such as by sharing courseware, and entering into new partnerships, thereby strengthening rather than weakening their capacity. More basically they allow institutions to expand the learning available for their students, whether, in the model of the so-called ‘flipped-classroom’, by providing a knowledge source prior to tutorials which can then become richer learning opportunities, or by adding subject areas in a broad curriculum, without necessarily adding to an institution’s direct delivery costs. They may also enable accelerated learning if students can present for assessment when they are ready. Importantly however, most of the MOOCs presently on offer emanate from prestigious universities and are intellectually demanding. Indeed they can be more rigorous than the on-campus courses of some universities. It is not self-evident that all students in all universities will be able to benefit from the MOOC options. Current levels of completion are low. What may well emerge, given the array of participants in current ventures with Coursera (for-profit), edX (not-for-profit) and UDACITY (for-profit and for-credit), for instance, is the sharing of MOOCs among higher education institutions of equivalent quality. If that is an outcome, we may see divisions of MOOC-like options emerging, designed for different markets.

What is structure?

Structure can be understood as a factor of supply. In general terms, structure refers to the distribution of institutions that provide higher education by their size, mission and type, and location (Skolnik, 2004), and, importantly, to the balance between different provider types and the relationships among them, including avenues for student access, mobility and recognition of prior learning. Structure has been seen as “a specification of sectoral or institutional missions by enabling or limiting their time and resources for research and teaching” (Enders, 2006). These definitions, however, focus on how governments orient and fund institutions, and do not account for demand-side factors and competitive forces.

Does structure matter?

Structure, as formal shape, can matter for three broad reasons: (i) for the purposes of rational planning and efficient allocation of resources within the higher education system; (ii) for the strategic purposes of enhancing the contributions of the higher education system to national innovation, productivity and competitiveness; and (iii) because a rigid structure can impede change and adaptation and protect provider privilege. A structure that is disorganised or poorly designed or malfunctioning can lead to sub-optimal performance and adverse consequences for a nation and particular groups within it.

With regard to planning and resource allocation, structure may function as:

  • A distributional mechanism in respect of student access. The supply of higher education opportunities may be structured purposefully to provide reasonably equitable access across geographic regions and socio-economic groups.
  • A rationing mechanism with regard to graduate output. Specific providers may be designated with responsibilities for preparing graduates for particular occupations (e.g. medicine, nursing, teaching, engineering) in order to control the balance of graduate supply to labour market demand.
  • A cost containment mechanism. Structure may be employed as a means of absorbing enrolment growth cost-effectively, and containing mission drift and inefficient duplication of offerings.

With regard to strategic purposes, structure may function as:

  • A focusing mechanism. Each higher education institution has a clear and distinctive charter, mandate or mission, not only for its own development but also for its contribution to societal goals.
  • A cultural organising mechanism. Each higher education institution can develop its internal values and incentives, both for staff and students, and build complementary relationships with other institutions and business and community organisations.

Structure may also obstruct change and diminish dynamism. An inflexible structure can be a barrier to adaptation. It can also act to shelter some institutions from competitive pressures and limit opportunities for new entrants. In these circumstances the barriers of the formal shape may become contested.

Institutional diversification within national higher education systems is widely believed necessary to achieve two important goals: more equity in terms of access to a wider variety of students, and more excellence through institutional specialisation. The need for greater diversity arises from the need to accommodate a more diverse learner population, segmentation of graduate output to meet varying labour market requirements, focus on strengths as a basis for upholding quality, and the need for greater cost-effectiveness through expansion of non-public and non-university providers, and universities that do not carry high research cost overheads.

The range of models around the world

[SLIDE 21. Alberta’s postsecondary system]

MG slide21

North American models are diverse, with often different strata of universities, both public and private, and teaching-focussed liberal arts colleges and community colleges. The US models vary across states. The Canadian models also vary by province but, unlike the US, are dominated by public institutions.

[Slide 22. Korea’s higher education structure]

MG slide22

South Korea has a stratified university sector, alongside horizontal diversity, with access to different universities and universities of technology being determined by end of school exam scores, and access to vocational colleges and cyber-universities available for those who cannot enter directly into universities.

[Slide 23. Higher Education in Israel]

 MG slide23

Higher education participation in Israel has expanded from 88,800 students in 1989/90 to 306,600 students in 2011/12. Most of the growth has been in academic colleges, many of which articulate to university studies.

  [Slide 24. Singapore’s postsecondary education structure]

MG slide24

Singapore has both publicly funded (autonomous) universities and private universities, some of which are highly specialised, focused on narrow discipline areas or areas of business need and some of which cater specifically for people already in the workforce. The polytechnics train the middle level professionals needed to support the nation’s technological and economic development, while the Singapore Institute of Technology provides industry-focused university education for polytechnic graduates. Polytechnics perform research, including research aiming to convert inventions resulting from intellectual breakthroughs in universities to practical propositions for industry. The clearly defined and differentiated missions of the various higher education institutes result from and promote further innovation, specialisation and responsiveness to business and community needs.

[Slide 25. Germany’s higher education structure]

MG slide25


The German tradition of the unity of teaching and research provides professional training to students in a way that directly involves scientific and academic research and artistic development. University and Technical University education is closely linked to basic and theoretical research. Teaching and research in Universities of Applied Sciences is practically oriented, usually integrated with a semester of practical training (internship), and teaching is by professors who have professional experience as well as academic qualifications.

What structural developments have been occurring in the higher education systems of other countries?

[Slide 26. Structural changes in higher education]

MG slide26

Several countries appear to have attempted a re-designation of institutional types following a period of ‘drift’ on the part of some, whether ‘academic drift’ or ‘research drift’ on the part of non-university types or ‘vocational drift’ on the part of universities, and an underlying concern with the inadequate international competiveness of higher education and research (Reichert, 2009).

The Slovak Republic has re-designated its higher education institutions into three classes: ‘university’, which offers bachelor, master and doctor degrees and conducts basic research; ‘professional higher education institution’, focused on bachelor degrees and applied research; and ‘higher education institution’, which offers bachelor and master degrees and basic research in limited fields. Finland and Norway have promoted institutional mergers.

The Netherlands has moved to a ternary model. The results appear to be mixed but one can infer that a return to a simple binary divide is neither possible nor sensible in many countries, not least because existing institutions are themselves considerably diversified internally and have external collaborations with others. That is to reinforce the understanding that the most useful focus of structural reform in higher education is on function rather than form.

Attention has also been given, across OECD member nations and elsewhere, to the regional complementarities of higher education institutions and their interactions with enterprises. Tightened fiscal circumstances have also spurred structural reviews. In Wales, for instance, in 2001, a policy review commissioned by the National Assembly for Wales proposed “a revised structure of higher education based on a ‘cluster model’, essentially geographical in nature but with a functional dimension, through which issues of regional delivery, reduction of duplication and critical mass could be addressed” (HEFCW, 2011). Subsequently the Welsh authorities have envisaged sector restructuring as a key means to the end of escaping the ‘spiral of decline’ and “positioning higher education to be the best it can be for the funds available” (HEFCW, 2011).

Across Europe and Scandinavia there is growing diversity within designated types of higher education institutions as well as greater collaboration between them:

“While the description of higher education systems as evolving from elite to mass higher education through a process of increasing differentiation can be verified cross-nationally in Europe, the notion that differentiation proceeds towards growing maturity by first introducing and then abandoning binary systems, to make way for systems in which autonomous institutions will differentiate around diverse market niches, is grossly oversimplified and therefore misleading. Rather, different mixes of regulatory, financial and reward instruments, as well as the norms which underpin or undermine them, make binary systems appear less rigid and ‘post-binary’ integrated systems less integrated and flexible than they are often portrayed” (Reichert, 2009).

In Finland, the number of universities has decreased from 20 to 15 in just a few years. In Denmark, since 2007, 25 universities and research institutions have been reduced to 8 universities and 3 research institutions. These universities will be among the biggest in Europe in terms of resources, which will enhance their ability to attract and retain skilled students and researchers.

Across Europe, the long-held conceit that all of a country’s universities are essentially equal has also given way to an acceptance of institutional hierarchies. Germany’s Excellence Initiative, which singles out select institutions for billions of dollars in extra financing, has been the clearest example of this shift.

The French government has helped spur the merger trend with increased financing for 17 clusters of universities and research bodies that have been formed since 2007. The University of Strasbourg—the country’s largest institution—was formed in 2009 through the merger of three universities that had been loosely linked before being broken up in the early 1970s in a national trend at that time.

The debates others are having

The apparent trade-offs between structural specialisation and comprehensiveness have been perceived differently in those countries that opt for distinctive institutional types and those opting for unitary or more permeable binary and ternary systems. It is not clear to what extent higher education systems are becoming more integrated or dispersed, convergent or divergent, homogeneous or heterogeneous. The policy debate can be seen to involve four main strands: a concern about isomorphism; a concern for differentiation; a desire for greater porosity; and a need for experimentation and evaluation.


The phenomenon of ‘academic drift’ or ‘mission creep’ or ‘isomorphism’ is generally seen to lead to higher administrative costs, inefficient program duplication, elimination of vocational programs, and a reduction in higher education accessibility (Longanecker, 2008). Isomorphism takes two forms: mimetic (emulative behavior, mimicking successful competitors as a strategy for survival in competitive environments) and normative (that develops through increasing professionalism and adoption of ‘good practices’ based on shared standards) – (File & Goedegebuure, 2000).

Population ecology theorists suggest that institutional diversity in higher education is a natural result of institutions seeking out distinctive niches (Birnbaum, 1983). Others, emphasising the role of isomorphic forces (Dimaggio & Powell, 1983) suggest that institutional differentiation is “largely the product of political competition and state sponsorship” (Rhoades, 1990). The implication of the later view is that if institutional diversification is a desirable feature of a national higher education system it will need to be directed to that end by deliberate public policy (Codling & Meek, 2006).

Frans van Vught and others have pointed to the range of drivers of sameness and difference in higher education systems (van Vught, 2008).The strong drivers of homogenisation include the power of academic norms that place most value on research-based prestige, reinforced by rewards in the academic labour market. Additionally, sameness can result from normative policy settings, financial incentives and regulations set by governments, and ‘market mechanisms’ encouraging competition for similar rewards. The inference is that while policy needs to allow the play of market forces in shaping a higher education system, reliance on market mechanisms alone will not be sufficient to achieve balance. Whereas normative policy and financing models can impede diversification, market forces can induce copying and reduce diversity, and the more so when permeated by homogenising academic norms.


The earlier functional specialisation of higher education systems, involving a diversity of institutional types, can be seen to reflect the needs of occupationally segmented labour markets, particularly when skilled workers were required for clearly specialised roles (Bleiklie, 2007). Demand for specialised graduates continues in traditional professional fields (e.g. medicine, engineering), in new graduate occupations (e.g. paramedical, marketing), and in niche areas of specialisation within parts of the services sector (e.g. sports, hospitality), (De Weert, 2009). Changing conditions encourage much finer-grained and flexible differentiations of institutions than in the industrial economy age of functionally-specialised higher education “types”, and these forces may well lead to a growing volatility and fuzziness within and across ‘systems’ (if not fragmentation).

At the same time, the imperative to concentrate investment in research capacity and linkages with enterprises and other centres of research is driving the kind of differentiation we see in Denmark, Finland, France and Germany, and similarly in Singapore and South Korea, through mergers and clusters. These approaches involve strong incentives for cross-institutional collaboration in research and graduate education particularly, and in close connection with enterprises. In the Danish model, Aarhus University has a cluster within its organisational span.


In the context of the new requirements for labour in the ‘knowledge economy’, some have suggested a reduced need for functional specialisation and the concurrent development of “more hierarchical and horizontally permeable systems” (Scott, 2009). Some contend that we are witnessing “more and more vertical and horizontal specialisation, far beyond the classical divide between teaching only and research universities” (Laredo, 2007). This porosity in mass higher education makes a structured national ‘system’ and solid hierarchies out of place, requiring “soft diversity” – more fluid structures, more flexible and adaptable institutional missions – rather than “hard differentiation” in which institutions at different levels have separate and fixed missions.

Experimentation and Evaluation

The German Science Council, noting increasing differentiation via the development of new types of higher education institutions as well as internal diversification within larger higher education institutions, driven mainly by an emphasis on research achievements (including the impact of the German Excellence Initiative), has provided considered advice on ways of diversifying German higher education “as a whole and with respect to all core functions” (Wissenschaftsrat, 2010). Its approach aims to improve the performance of the higher education system as a whole “without increasing the performance required of each higher education institution to an unrealistic degree”. With the need for strong internationally competitive universities taken as given, the focus is on action to “counteract the one-sidedness of the excellence discourse and put an end to the delegitimisation of a large part of the quality spectrum”. Particular attention is given to avoiding regional asymmetries by encouraging institutions to adapt their strategies to changing conditions by “giving them a stronger international focus where appropriate, promoting cooperation with regional partners (companies, non-university research facilities) and offering programmes that meet the profile of the students they actually recruit” (Wissenschaftsrat, 2010).

Importantly, the Science Council puts its emphasis not on the external form of institutional type but on the internal diversity of institutions, and encourages governments to “try out new forms of higher education institutions within the scope of experimental clauses and strive to further develop established types of higher education institutions”:

“A restrictive understanding of the type classification is now out of date and prevents the further development of individual higher education institutions, entire types of higher education institutions and the higher education system as a whole. For a period of transition, the risk of greater complexity can be accepted in the process. The Council advocates therefore an expansion of the opportunities for universities of applied sciences to develop, and the development of new types of higher education institutions which do not fall in the binary typology. Organised cooperation and linking of established types of higher education institutions can be an appropriate step to encourage the new formation of distinct types of higher education institutions” (Wissenschaftsrat, 2010).

The Council encourages a period of experimentation and development after which “the diversity of the higher education system then achieved will be assessed and, if necessary, will have to be reorganized typologically” (Wissenschaftsrat, 2010). Its specific recommendations include promoting internal differentiation by establishing some colleges and professional schools offering doctorates, by reducing duplication of offerings and strengthening differences in disciplinary offerings, , without over-specialising Bachelor programmes but structuring them to allow transitions to Master programmes of other institutions and related subjects, and having some institutions focus on cooperation with vocational continuing further education.

[Slide 27. ]

MG slide27

Intimations of greater diversification in Australia

There are various indications of structural change in parts of Australia’s tertiary sector, initiated by institutions and endorsed and funded by governments, state & territory and federal. Some involve institutions seeking to widen their market reach and improve their viability in collaboration with others also wanting to expand (e.g. APN) or reduce their scope (e.g. Federation University). Some are moving beyond dual-structure institutions of the Victorian model (e.g. RMIT, Swinburne) where the TAFE and university offerings are adjacent but not blended, to a more integrated model.


“We are about to blur that line between TAFE and university to the point where our students don’t even realise they are drifting back and forth between the two. Our students will get to experience the best elements of each institution – from award-winning teachers to state-of-the-art facilities to real, tangible industry links – with the goal of producing the most holistically skilled, well-rounded and employable graduates in the country. I’m talking about electrical engineers with practical TAFE competencies built into their degree; TAFE-trained enrolled nurses who don’t think twice about returning to their alma mater to train further to be a registered nurse; and sports science students with a personal trainer qualification built into the first year of their degree so they can work in the industry while they study, rather than at a pub or cafe.” CQU Vice-Chancellor, Scott Bowman, on the merger of CQUniversity and CQ TAFE (7.12.2012).

Federation University

Legislation has been introduced into the Victorian Parliament to amend the University of Ballarat Act 2010, to change the name of the university to Federation University Australia from 1 January 2014. In addition to three campuses in Ballarat, the University has campuses in Horsham, Stawell and Ararat and leads a partnership with regional TAFEs delivering a suite of degrees across the breadth of Victoria. The University will be further strengthened if the Federal Government approves the proposal for Monash University’s Gippsland Campus to become part of the university and provide a further major higher education campus,”

Australian Polytechnic Network

The Australian Polytechnic Network (APN) is being founded by the University of Canberra, Melbourne’s Holmesglen Institute, Northern Sydney Institute, South Western Sydney Institute and Brisbane’s Metropolitan South Institute of TAFE. The announcement follows the decision of the Government to approve Commonwealth Supported Places for delivery of University of Canberra degrees at the network member campuses from 2014. “Our network of TAFE students will now have seamless pathways into UC degrees, which will open up a whole new world of opportunities, particularly for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.”

The APN model involves paying the university funding rate to TAFE providers, and may not be competitive with an expansion of private provision. Otherwise it is an interesting development which appears to include a mix of academic drift and vocational drift, which could play out in an isomorphic way over time or in a new fusion that is responsive to varying needs.

More broadly, these developments are occurring within public institutions only. Without some levelling of the playing field as between public and private providers, we are unlikely to see the much more innovative offerings that could emerge through a stronger private sector and more inter-dependent public-private-partnerships.


[Slide 28. Australia’s higher education structure]

MG slide28

  • Growth and diversification of student demand requires greater variety and choice in higher education supply.
  • Lack of horizontal diversity in Australian higher education restricts student choice and is costly for taxpayers.
  • Higher education systems with a monotype structure become less permeable and more unequal the bigger they get. As a consequence, there is increasing vertical stratification, with qualitative as well as other barriers for student pathways, dilution of the national investment in capability (infrastructure and talent), and undifferentiated pressures on all universities to play instrumental roles.
  • It is not fit to contemporary and changing times to go back to 1960’s tight types of institutional demarcation.
  • A diverse higher education system appropriate for mass participation necessarily has properties of both horizontal and vertical differentiation, with porous borders in all directions.
  • A more open and contestable market for higher education services, rather than continuation of a dominating set of public sector institutions, is necessary for encouraging the entry of new providers and growth of diversity in national higher education systems.
  • Initially private providers of preparatory education and pathway programmes for international students could be encouraged to expand their capacity to service domestic markets, consistent with the principles of competitive neutrality for providers and horizontal equity for students.
  • It may be necessary to add new categories of higher education provider to the currently limited list of permitted categories. One option is a category of ‘community university’ which is attractive to students and staff, puts a strong emphasis on quality and relevance in education, and does not carry research cost burdens. Other options include ‘institute of applied studies’ and ‘cyber-university’.
  • Australia should be open to foreign co-investment in higher education delivery capacity, including cyber-delivery, and global corporate supply, as a supplementary means of underpinning Australia’s participation in international higher education.
  • Fiscal constraint will not permit future demand      to be financed mainly in public general universities.
  • Further expansion of public provision on the      established university model will draw resources away from the imperative      for sustaining the concentrated research power needed for international      competitiveness.
  • At least, along the lines of mature discussion in      Germany, we should allow a process of experimentation and evaluation,      which allows new structural options to emerge and be tested.

It is inevitable that the structure of higher education supply in the future will be shaped predominantly by the responsiveness of providers to the diversity of learner demand and that governments will play a residual but important counter-balancing role aimed at ensuring that all needs are met. Thought needs to be given to the structure of incentives for university research in that context, given that it is unwise and counter-productive to limit research capacity and orientation, especially for long-term research requiring substantial investment, only to fields of immediate interest to students.

The six pillars of Australia’s higher education policy architecture – (i) student-based funding for providers; (ii) income-contingent student loans; (iii) competitive funding for research; (iv) mission-related funding compacts; (v) student visas with work rights for international students and graduates, and (vi) a risk-proportionate national regulator – provide the essential framework for expanding participation and diversifying provision while safeguarding threshold standards. This Australian framework is distinctive and offers comparative advantages in the context of rising demand for higher education on a massive scale in developing economies with large youth populations, as well as catering more appropriately and cost-effectively to growth and diversification of domestic learner needs and circumstances. It is a framework, however, whose potential is not yet fully realised.


Asian Development Bank (2012). Access Without Equity? Finding a Better Balance in Higher Education in Asia. Mandaluyong City, Philippines.

Barber, M., Donnelly, K. And Rizvi, S. (2013). An Avalanche is Coming: Higher Education and the revolution ahead. Institute for Public Policy Research. London.

Birnbaum, R. (1983). Maintaining Diversity in Higher Education. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco.

Bleiklie, I. (2007) “Systematic integration and macro steering” in UNESCO Forum Occasional Paper No. 16.Main transformations, challenges and emerging patterns in Higher Education Systems. Paris.

Codling, A. and Meek, L. V. (2006) Twelve Propositions on Diversity in Higher Education. Higher Education Management and Policy. Volume 18, No. 3, pp. 1-24.

Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (2001). Higher Education Report for the 2001-03 Triennium. Commonwealth of Australia. Canberra.

De Weert, E. (2009) Graduates in the knowledge society: Employer and Higher Education Perspectives. Presentation at ANECA conference Madrid. Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies, University of Twente. The Netherlands.

DiMaggio, P. and Powell, W. (1983). “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields”. American Sociological Review, Vol. 48. No. 2. 147-160.

Enders, J., File, J., Huisman, J. and Westerheijden, D. (2005). The European Higher Education and Research Landscape 2020: Scenarios and Strategic Debates. CHEPS. University of Twente. Enschede.

File, J. and Goedegebuure, L. (eds.) (2000) Thinking about the South African Higher Education Institutional Landscape: an international comparative perspective on institutional differentiation and restructuring, Pretoria, Council on Higher Education.

Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).(2011). Future Structure of Universities in Wales, confidential advice to the Minister for Education and Skills.

Laredo, P. (2007) “Revisiting the third missions on Universities: toward a renewed categorization of university activities. In UNESCO Forum Occasional Paper Series No. 6: Diversification of Higher Education and the Changing Role of Knowledge and research. Paris.

Longanecker, D. (2008). Mission differentiation vs. mission creep: Higher education’s battle between creationism and evolution. National Conference of State Legislators. []

National Board of Employment, Education and Training (1989). Report of the Task Force on Amalgamations in Higher Education. AGPS. Canberra.

Osborne, D. And Gaebler, T. (1992). Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. Reading. MA.

Phillips Fox Lawyers. (2001). The Regulatory Environment Applying to Universities. Evaluations and Investigations Programme. Higher Education Division. Department of Education, Science and Training. Canberra.

Reichert, S. (2009).Institutional Diversity in European Higher Education: Tensions and challenges for policy makers and institutional leaders. European University Association. Brussels.

Rhoades, G. (1990). “Political Competition and Differentiation in Higher Education”, in J. Alexander and P. Colony (Eds.). Differentiation Theory and Social Change: Comparative and Historical Perspectives. Columbia University Press. New York.

Scott, P. (2009). Structural Changes in higher Education: The Case of the United Kingdom, in Palfreyman, D. & Tapper, T. (Eds.) Structuring Mass Higher Education: The Role of Elite Institutions. Routledge. N.Y.

Teichler, U. (2006) “Changing structures of higher education systems: The increasing complexity of underlying forces”. Higher Education Policy 19 (4): 447-461.

Thrift, N. (2009). “We can’t go on like this: British Higher Education as it is and as it could be.” RSA Lecture. Times Higher Education.

Trow, M. (2003). “On Mass Higher Education and Institutional Diversity”, in University Education and Human Resources. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Tel Aviv.

vanVught, F. (2008). Mission Diversity and Reputation in Higher Education, Higher Education Policy 21: 151-174.

Wissenschaftsrat. (2010). Recommendations on the differentiation of higher education institutions. Bonn.

World Bank (2000). Higher Education in Developing Countries: Peril and Promise. Report of The Task Force on Higher Educatio

[1] The views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of Go8 Vice-Chancellors.

[2] (2) The University has the following principal functions for the promotion of its object:

(a) the provision of facilities for education and research of university standard,

(b) the encouragement of the dissemination, advancement, development and application of knowledge informed by free inquiry,

(c) the provision of courses of study or instruction across a range of fields, and the carrying out of research, to meet the needs of the community,

(d) the participation in public discourse,

(e) the conferring of degrees, including those of Bachelor, Master and Doctor, and the awarding of diplomas, certificates and other awards,

(f) the provision of teaching and learning that engage with advanced knowledge and inquiry,

(g) the development of governance, procedural rules, admission policies, financial arrangements and quality assurance processes that are underpinned by the values and goals referred to in the functions set out in this subsection, and that are sufficient to ensure the integrity of the University’s academic programs.

(3) The University has other functions as follows:

(a) the University may exercise commercial functions comprising the commercial exploitation or development, for the University’s benefit, of any facility, resource or property of the University or in which the University has a right or interest (including, for example, study, research, knowledge and intellectual property and the practical application of study, research, knowledge and intellectual property), whether alone or with others,

(b) the University may develop and provide cultural, sporting, professional, technical and vocational services to the community,

(c) the University has such general and ancillary functions as may be necessary or convenient for enabling or assisting the University to promote the object and interests of the University, or as may complement or be incidental to the promotion of the object and interests of the University,

(d) the University has such other functions as are conferred or imposed on it by or under this or any other Act.

(4) The functions of the University may be exercised within or outside the State, including outside Australia.

[3] Osborne and Gaebler suggest that governments should: 1) steer, not row (or as Mario Cuomo put it, “it is not government’s obligation to provide services, but to see that they’re provided”); 2) empower communities to solve their own problems rather than simply deliver services; 3) encourage competition rather than monopolies; 4) be driven by missions, rather than rules; 5) be results-oriented by funding outcomes rather than inputs; 6) meet the needs of the customer, not the bureaucracy; 7) concentrate on earning money rather than spending it; 8) invest in preventing problems rather than curing crises; 9) decentralize authority; and 10) solve problems by influencing market forces rather than creating public programs.

[4] Catherine Burnheim & Sue Willis, “Competing tensions of 40 Vs 20”, The Australian, 10 August 2013.

[5] “Temporary Boom, Permanent Waste”, The Australian 10-11 August, 2013.

[6] Observer Editorial, The Observer, 11 August 2013.

MG slide29

The Australian Higher Education Supplement 2 October 2013

High wiredThis is The Australian‘s own summary of lead items in its online edition. As this is a subscription service, you or your organisation will need to have a subscription to The Australian to view the full article.

Facebook offensive misses target
Bernard Lane UNIVERSITIES are dramatically increasing their use of social media, but a new survey suggests their efforts might be all in vain.
FedUni opens for business
Andrew Trounson FEDUNI, as Australia’s newest university is being tagged, was officially launched yesterday at Victoria’s parliament house.
Call to fell barriers to online uni
Bernard Lane THE Coalition government should clear obstacles to Australia’s first fully online university, says vice-chancellor Jim Barber.
Visa streamlining woes linger
John Ross THE Coalition could hit the same speed bumps as Labor as it moves to let colleges fast-track visas for international students.
Tertiary divide confuses industry
John Ross TRAINING providers are unsure how a splintered tertiary sector will work.

Click here for all headlines

Time for action from top
Toni Pearce UNPAID internships remain the greatest obstacle to graduates’ work prospects.
Rules of engagement fall short
Bret Stephenson STUDENTS want to improve their relationship with teaching staff.
More Opinion

 Grinston to be general counsel at UNSW
Glover gets the nod for Western Sydney
 Former UWA academic to lead UCD

What will Pyne do about jobs for BAs?
 No pressure applied: UNSW
 Immigration officials blind to TAFE
Better health outcomes ignores cause

LH Martin Institute Insights September 2013



Innovation Darwinism

by Doron Ben-Meir

CEO of Commercialisation Australia Doron Ben-Meir on factors that drive innovation.

University professional staff: enhancing student outcomes

by Carroll Graham

UTS’ Carroll Graham on the key factors team leaders or managers can foster to achieve positive student outcomes.

Can we better link education and work through ‘vocations’ and ‘human capabilities’?

by Dr Nick Fredman

Our Research Fellow Nick Fredman reviews the three-year Vocations project, which is wrapping up at the end of this year.

2014 postgraduate programs for tertiary education leaders and professionals, awarded by The University of Melbourne

Master of Tertiary Education Management

Apply by January 2014. Need more info? Take part in an upcoming online info session or go to our website.

Our two-year, part time Masters program is tailored to the needs of academic and professional leaders in tertiary education institutions. Students gain expert perspectives on tertiary education systems and practical skills for leading and managing successfully in the tertiary education context. Open to Australian and international students with five years relevant work experience and an undergraduate degree.

Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education Management

Apply by January 2014. Need more info? Take part in an upcoming online info session or go to our website.

A one-year, part time program for current and aspiring managers* in tertiary education institutions. Similar to the Masters, students gain expert perspectives on tertiary education systems and skills for managing successfully in the tertiary education context. Open to Australian and international students with two years relevant work experience and an undergraduate degree.

* Aspiring managers must have completed our Emerging Leaders and Managers Program to be eligible for this program.

Graduate Certificate in Quality Assurance

Apply by January 2014. Need more info? Take part in an upcoming online info session or go to our website.

A one-year, fully online program for quality assurance practitioners in tertiary education or staff of educational institutions that are establishing or improving their internal quality assurance systems. Consists of a comprehensive academic program addressing the evolving demands of quality assurance in the sector. Open to Australian and international students with at least two years relevant work experience and an undergraduate degree.

Upcoming forum, conference and public seminar

Managing Research and Innovation for Social and Economic Development

Register today! 30-31 October 2013, Canberra.

Where to for research and innovation under the new government in Australia? And will the role of tertiary education change? Speakers include Chief Scientist of Australia Prof. Ian Chubb and Chair of Universities Australia, Prof. Sandra Harding.

National Student Engagement Forum: Creating an Engaged Student Experience

21 October 2013, Melbourne; 23 October 2013, Sydney; 25 October 2013, Brisbane.

One-day forum on effective institutional practices for engaging students, including through the use of support partnerships and technology. Speakers include NUS President Jade Tyrrell and Director of the US National Survey of Student Engagement Prof. Alexander McCormick.

VET in Germany

23 October 2013, Melbourne and via webinar

This free seminar by Prof. Sandra Bohlinger from Osnabrueck University, Germany will discuss the core ideas and traditions of Germany’s VET system and how it has arisen to challenges, including demographic shifts and the recent global financial crisis.

Upcoming professional development programs

Emerging Leaders and Managers Program (eLAMP)

Start and finish anytime within a 12-month period; available as a self-paced program for individuals (ATEM members only) or for guided cohorts.

Program designed for new and aspiring managers in tertiary education and delivered through online modules and face-to-face workshops. Also provides a pathway into our Graduate Certificate programs above.

Study Mission to review apprenticeships in Germany and UK

11-21 November 2013. Register by 15 October 2013.

This provider and industry study mission will focus on critical issues affecting the Australian TVET system. It is jointly hosted by the LH Martin Institute and TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) and will visit Hamburg, Bremen and Bonn in Germany and London, Nottingham and Birmingham in the UK.

LH Martin Institute and community news

Dr Gavin Lind wins LH Martin Institute Award for Excellence in Leadership

Dr Gavin Lind from Minerals Council of Australia won the award for his innovative and strong leadership over a sustained period, which included working under political scrutiny and with a wide variety of stakeholders. The award was presented as part of the 2013 ATEM/Campus Review Best Practice Awards in Tertiary Education Management held on 16 September in Hobart.

Congratulations to our TEMC 2013 prize giveaway winners

Thank you to all who dropped by our stand at TEMC 2013 in Hobart. We were thrilled to see many old faces and say hello to new ones. Thank you also to those who participated in our prize giveaway. The winners were:

  • Jennie Connor from University of South Australia, who won a free module in our 2014 Tertiary Education Leadership program;
  • Manita Stokes from Deakin University, who won a free short course of her choice in 2014;
  • Ilse Hindle from The University of Auckland, Mark Medosh from Queensland University of Technology, and Sarah Gatenby-Clark from University of Tasmania who each won a copy of the 2013 book ‘Job Satisfaction around the Academic World’.

Brazilian ministerial delegation visits the LH Martin Institute

Representatives from the Brazillian Ministry of Education’s SERES unit met with LH Martin Institute representatives earlier this month to discuss higher education quality assurance.

OECD reports on research and innovation released

Two reports focusing on research and innovation have been released by the OECD. Both involved the work of LH Martin Institute staff and have been produced under the OECD’s Innovation, Higher Education and Research for Development (IHERD) banner. They will be used, among others, as a base for a workshop with participants from 10 different French speaking countries from West and Central Africa.

Dates for your diary

1 October 2013: Emerging Leaders and Managers Program (eLAMP)  workshop, Melbourne. *For current eLAMP participants only*

16 October 2013: Information sessions for prospective GCQA students, online.

18 October 2013: Information sessions for prospective MTEM/GCTEM students, online.

21 October 2013: National Student Engagement Forum: Creating an Engaged Student Experience, Melbourne.

23 October 2013: National Student Engagement Forum: Creating an Engaged Student Experience, Sydney.

23 October 2013: Free seminar: VET in Germany, Melbourne and via webinar.

25 October 2013: National Student Engagement Forum: Creating an Engaged Student Experience, Brisbane.

30-31 October 2013: Conference: Managing Research and Innovation for Social and Economic Development, Canberra.

11-21 November 2013: Study Mission to review apprenticeships in Germany and United Kingdom.

20 November 2013: Information sessions for prospective GCQA students, online.

22 November 2013: Information sessions for prospective MTEM/GCTEM students, online.

4 December 2013: Information sessions for prospective GCQA students, online.

6 December 2013: Information sessions for prospective MTEM/GCTEM students, online.

January 2014: Applications deadline for our Masters and Graduate Certificate programs.

Ongoing (register and start anytime): Emerging Leaders and Managers Program, online.

Around the world…

Astrophysicist Amaya Moro-Martín’s open letter to the Spanish prime minister asks for her dignity back as a researcher, The Guardian, 28 August.

The happiest universities to work for in the US are…not those that pay the most, Huffington Post, 29 August.

Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man responsible for the death of 77 and wounding of 232 people in a 2011 attack in Oslo, has been admitted to study political science modules at the University of Oslo. The University’s Rector explained the decision to grant Breivik access to the program, The Guardian, 13 September.

Two of mainland China’s largest universities, Peking and Tsinghua, will start offering free online courses in partnership with EdX, South China Morning Post, 19 September.

The Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University, currently available to students from the Commonwealth, the United States and Germany, could soon expand to students from China, Russia, Brazil and elsewhere thanks to a $120-million donation from a Canadian businessman, The Globe and Mail, 19 September.

Merger of Malaysia’s Education and Higher Education ministries will see ‘one education master plan‘ for the country with particular attention paid to public university autonomy, The Malaysian Insider, 20 September.

Engineering is the preferred undergraduate degree of higher education students in the Middle East according to a recent survey, Gulf News, 25 September.

LH Martin Institute in the media

Research Fellow Dr Nick Fredman wrote about effectiveness of mid-level qualifications in ‘Where the middle road leads‘, Campus Review, 16 September.

Comments and contributions

Please send your comments and suggestions for this newsletter to Marisa Simanjuntak Saeter.

Banner image

The banner image in this edition is of former ASX Chief Investment Analyst Prof. Zoltan Matolcsy teaching in our recent Budgeting & Financial Management for Tertiary Education Managers workshop in Melbourne.

The Australian Higher Education Supplement 18 September 2013

High wiredThis is The Australian‘s own summary of lead items in its online edition. As this is a subscription service, you or your organisation will need to have a subscription to The Australian to view the full article.

Coalition spreads workload
John Ross TONY Abbott has structured his government for a hands-off approach to tertiary education and research.
Student protest over Taib plaza
Kylar Loussikian STUDENTS at the University of Adelaide will agitate for the renaming of a plaza that honours one of Malaysia’s most controversial politicians.
Scientific research looking for minister
John Ross NOBEL laureate Brian Schmidt was alarmed when Tony Abbott’s ministry lacked any mention of science or research.
Right time for fully online university
Bernard Lane THE Coalition government should clear away obstacles to Australia’s first fully online university, says vice-chancellor Jim Barber.
Gap year can give students edge: study
Kylar Loussikian STUDENTS who take gap years between high school and university often perform better, according to a study.

Click here for all headlines

Back to drawing board on bureaucracy
Paul Collits WE should abolish and rethink the edifice of research funding.
Reverse Colombo needs cash
Michael Spence THE groundwork must be done if the plan is to succeed.
More Opinion

 Grinston to be general counsel at UNSW
Glover gets the nod for Western Sydney
 Former UWA academic to lead UCD

 Immigration officials blind to TAFE
Better health outcomes ignores cause
Time to burst the uni-centric bubble

A collage of Coalition policies

8 September 2013

This wasn’t an election in which education was a key issue and tertiary education hardly figured at all.  Here’s a collage of Scan articles over the past year or so touching on the Coalition’s approach to tertiary education, which provide a sort of compass to the horizon.

The 7 pillars of Coalition HE policy

28 February 2013Seven pillars2

  1. Stability.
  2. Protect the academic standing of universities.
  3. Expand the international higher education market.
  4. The New  Colombo Plan.
  5. Ensure research work is world class, effectively delivered and well-targeted.
  6. Reduce the regulatory and compliance burden.
  7. Assist universities to take advantage of the growth in online learning.

Abbott’s vision: be happy with what you’ve got

28 February 2013

Tony AbbottLate last year, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott wrote to university vice-chancellors to let them know that

Governments shouldn’t promise one thing and then do another.  The Coalition will not over-promise and under-deliver.

That’s a commitment that a Coalition government will have little trouble meeting.  In his keynote address to the UA Conference,  Abbott virtually told his audience that “there will be no new higher education spending under a government I lead.”

Coalition to target “ridiculous research”Ridiculous

6 September 2013

A Coalition proposal to take $103 million from “ridiculous” projects in the humanities and redirect the money to medical research, has raised the ire of the research community.

Robb bags “wasteful research”

9 November 2012

We should be focusing on research that produces innovation, that will help drive growth and productivity and genuine medical and scientific advances. We should be backing our strengths says Andrew Robb.

Red tape 2Cut research red tape and break the “nexus” : Pyne

30 April 2013

A future  Coalition government could cull the number of researchers assessed for grant money by whittling down the thousands of applicants early in the process in bid cut red tape, according to Christopher Pyne.

Coalition to protect and streamline medical researchresearch4

25 August 2013

The Coalition says it  will protect the future funding of health and medical research in Australia and simplify and streamline the medical research grant making process.  The Coalition commits to protecting existing NHMRC funding over the forward estimates and enhance medical research through a number of other measures to bolster the health and medical sector by drawing upon some key recommendations of the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research (the McKeon Review).

Opposition push to lift O/S student numbers

22 August 2013

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).

The New Colombo Plan

30 August 2013

The Coalition has announced details of its New Colombo Plan to foster closer ties between Australia and the region and develop Colombo Planstronger people-to-people links. The original Colombo Plan saw some 40,000 students from Asia come to Australia from the 1950s to the mid-1980s. The New Colombo Plan will be different the original, in adding an outward-bound component to the original one-way street.   Once operative it will provide financial support for up to 300 young Australians studying in the region every year.

Libs to introduce apprentice loans schemeTrades

25 August 2013

The Coalition has promised to establish Trade Support Loans from 1 July  next year to provide apprentices with interest free loans of up to $20,000 over four years.  The loans will be capped at a total of $20,000 and will be repaid at the same thresholds as loans for university students.  The policy is slated to cost $85 million to the federal budget four years.


Nationals plan for tertiary education in regional AustraliaNationals

2 September 2013

Initiatives proposed by the Nationals  ”to encourage and support universities to deliver services in regional communities” include the establishment of a new medical school at CSU and additional income support for regional students.  In vocational education and training, the Nationals propose funding traineeships in the agricultural sector

The thing about feesAussie dollars

7 February 2013

The Opposition has ruled out fiddling with both fees and caps.  We expect that this position on fees and caps will persist until some time in the afternoon of Sunday 15 September, when the Treasury briefs the incoming Prime Minister, particularly if the briefing is coming from the Blue Book  (David Cameron made soothing noises about fees, too- and promptly trebled them).

The Scan | #135 | 30 August 2013


Go8 dumps minimum ATAR proposal

Go8 Equity scalesThe elite Group of Eight (Go8) universities have stepped back from a controversial proposal to dump the uncapped, demand driven system, a proposition it has been pushing for the best part of a year. The Group has argued that savings of $750m over 4 years that would flow from the introduction of a minimum ATAR of 60 for university entry could offset higher education cuts of nearly $4b announced since last October, including $2.8b earlier this year.   But Fred Hilmer, Go8 chair and vice-chancellor of UNSW, now says that using an ATAR minimum to “regulate quality” is “too blunt an instrument” because of the impact it would have on the ability of disadvantaged students to access university….[ READ MORE ]….

ACPET lashes “gold plated regulation”Claire Field

Claire Field, chief executive of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) has launched a scathing attack on the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC), the agency responsible for setting training standards, saying armchair experts are wrecking the sector.  Speaking at ACPET’s national conference, she said  that non-practitioners with a “predominantly classroom-based” view of training were setting unreasonable and unworkable standards….[ READ MORE ]….

Libs to introduce apprentice loans scheme

TradesThe Coalition has promised to establish Trade Support Loans from 1 July  next year to provide apprentices with interest free loans of up to $20,000 over four years.  The loans will be capped at a total of $20,000 and will be repaid at the same thresholds as loans for university students.  The policy is slated to cost $85 million to the federal budget four years.  They will be available to apprentices training for a Certificate III or IV qualification that leads to an occupation on the National Skills Needs List, which includes nearly 70 trades….[ READ MORE ]….

Libs announce new Colombo Plan detailsColombo Plan

The Coalition has announced details of its New Colombo Plan to foster closer ties between Australia and the region and develop stronger people-to-people links.  The original Colombo Plan saw some 40,000 students from Asia come to Australia from the 1950s to the mid-1980s.  The New Colombo Plan will be different the original, in adding an outward-bound component to the original one-way street.   Once operative it will provide financial support for up to 300 young Australians studying in the region every year….[ READ MORE ]….



Leesa Wheelahan and Gavin Moodie head to Canada

LeesaLeesa Wheelahan is leaving the University of Melbourne at the end of the year to take up the William G Davis Chair of Community College Leadership at the University of Toronto.  At the University of Toronto,  Leesa will join the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  OISE was established in 1965 to promote educational research and graduate Gavin Moodiestudies.   In 1996 OISE merged with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education which was established in 1906.

Leesa will be accompanied by her partner Gavin Moodie who will maintain adjunct positions with the University of Queensland and his current employer, RMIT.  Gavin will continue his public commentary (most notably his regular comment pieces in The Australian) and his research, which currently is investigating the implications of MOOCs by examining the effects on higher education of an earlier information revolution: Gutenberg’s invention of printing in 1450.


Comment & analysis

The idea of fees and the Australian university

Glyn DavisThis is a transcript of the 2013 Newman Lecture delivered on Wednesday 21 August 2013 at Monash University’s Mannix College.  It’s an interesting account of the development of the Australian university system, drawing from mainly English traditions but also Scottish, European and American.  But  this is not just an historical survey.   In the week in which UNSW v-c  Fred Hilmer stepped back a little from his strident calls for caps on enrolments, Davis makes the case that  “markets ” lead to innovation and diversity. It’s a relatively long and interesting piece in itself  but scroll to the end for the point.  With the election of an Abbott government almost certain, the argument within the university sector moves on from the merits or otherwise of the demand driven system to the merits or otherwise of fee deregulation.

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

For 20 years, Australian universities have worked simultaneously in two worlds – one public, highly regulated, and deeply Uni cloisterconstrained, the other international and more like a private market. The first is the world of domestic undergraduates, where Canberra sets strict rules about price and entry. The second is the market for international students, where universities can make choices about where to recruit, what to charge, whether to operate within Australia or set up offshore.

Not surprisingly, the world of domestic students remains largely undifferentiated. Australian universities offer a very similar array of programs to domestic students, with no price competition allowed. Only in the global market has real and important difference emerged.

Required to make independent strategic choices, universities differ greatly in their approach. A number prefer large offshore operations, as teaching programs or with an overseas campus that reproduces the ambiance and values of the home institution.

Others run an on-shore strategy, working with feeder schools, international agencies, foundation colleges and other players to build significant international revenue. A few universities have changed their entire curriculum in an effort to orientate themselves toward graduate education for Australian and global students.

Pressures for change necessitate urgent reflection on the role and purpose of a university.  Professor Gaita has expressed eloquently his concerns about the trajectory of Australian institutions.  His call to 10 argument is timely. For though the Australian tradition has endured with little change to date, stately progression along a deep path may halt abruptly under commercial pressures.

Markets end the incentives to uniformity. They require diversity, since not every institution can occupy the same niche. Markets reward innovation and punish the slow-moving. They destroy and build simultaneously.

On current Commonwealth funding rates no Australian public university can survive without a strong international cohort. As a result, innovation is transforming the singular Australia idea of a university. As the market approaches, the familiar road comes to an end.



What really matters in education

There’s been a lot of discussion about how much money is needed in schools, but very little about how those funds should be administered, teacher standards or student outcomes.  In this video, former ABC journalist and Rudd Government Parliamentary Secretary Maxine McKew talks to education analyst Professor John Hattie about the issues that are missing from current discourse.  (Click here to read a transcript of their discussion)


2013_election_logo (2)The Election Page

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



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.





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


It’s free….no hidden costs… absolutely gratis